Damon Albarn brought the Gorillaz to Coachella 2023 for both weekends. In between his festival performances in front of 125,000 people, I sat in a crowd of less than 100 and watched his act from 20 feet away without paying a dime.
Three days prior, I was made aware by a friend of mine that tickets for the Gorillaz show at Jimmy Kimmel Live! could be requested using an online fan forum. I submitted a request for two tickets and sure enough, within 24 hours I was gifted with two tickets to the show, completely free of charge.
Upon arriving at El Capitan Entertainment Center on Hollywood Boulevard, my guest and I waited in line until we were shepherded into a small studio with a capacity of around 80-90 people. Our seats were chosen for us, but I doubt I’d choose any differently had I been given the opportunity. We were placed three rows back and right in the center of the row.
Once everyone was seated, a promoter announced that security would be removing anyone who took photos or videos during the show. Everyone in the audience promptly turned their devices off as per order and patiently awaited the talent.
Not 10 minutes after taking my seat, the crowd gave a warm welcome to Damon Albarn and his ensemble, which included his guest artist Beck. Damon and Beck produced a stunning rendition of “Possession Island”, the finishing track from The Gorillaz’ most recent album Cracker Island.
Gorillaz ft. Beck – Possession Island
Damon performed the vocals and played the piano along with two guitarists, a keyboardist, a drummer, a shaker, and two trumpeters. Beck awaited his verse in the song before arriving on stage with the band.
Much like the studio recording of the track, the star of this live performance was the vocal harmonies between Damon and Beck. Their chemistry on this song is borne out of their soft, understated, yet powerful vocal melodies. It’s a testament to the versatility of both artists considering their 2020 hit collaboration “The Valley of the Pagans”, which is an upbeat, alternative pop-rock song. It’s hard not to admire their ability to produce beautiful pieces of art on opposing sides of the musical spectrum.
Each background instrument was placed perfectly. The quiet acoustic guitar, the background keys, and the steady rhythm set up by the drums and shaker all mimicked the instrumentals of the song in a manner that allowed the stars of the show to capture the emotional essence of the track without overshadowing the other. And of course, the triumphant horn section towards the back end of the song sounded incredible too.
The crowd applauded the performers, Damon Albarn and Beck took a few photos together, and that was it. We arrived around 1:50 P.M., were admitted into the venue around 2:10, and exited no later than 2:30. It was extremely short but overwhelmingly sweet. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want more, but it’s impossible not to feel incredibly grateful to have witnessed such a surreal, intimate performance, from a musical icon at no cost. Calling this experience a bargain would be an understatement, to say the least.