‘So gorgeous I started crying’

Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn embraces Beck after Beck’s surprise appearance at Gorillaz’s concert at Los Angeles’ Forum on Sept. 23, 2022. (Photo: YouTube)

“Oh, we’re going to keep going! This is a one-off!” Gorillaz mastermind Damon Albarn told the roaring audience at Los Angeles’s Forum Friday, right after ScHoolboy Q had appeared onstage for the thrilling debut live performance of their 2020 Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez collab, “Pac-Man.”

The LA rapper was just one of the high-concept cartoon band’s many famous friends who made surprise appearances during Friday’s more than two-hour show. Jazz/alt-R&B bass ace Thundercat came out for a groovy rendition of the title track from Gorillaz’s forthcoming eighth studio album, Cracker Islandwhile founding/former Pharcyde member Bootie Brown and Kevin Parker of Australian psych-rock band Tame Impala joined in for another rousing track from that record, “New Gold.”

But the highlight of the night was actually a mellower moment, when Albarn and local hero Beck world-premiered their sweet new Cracker Island duet.

Beck had already appeared earlier in the evening to sing his funky Strange Timez party-starter “The Valley of the Pagans,” and he returned 16 songs later for the decidedly quieter “Possession Island,” which began with Albarn playing piano while Beck sat on a step by Albarn’s feet. When Beck harmonized on sentimental lines about pearly gates and how “we’re all in this together till the end,” the adoration between the two ’90s indie-rock trailblazers was evident, and the crowd at the 17,000-capacity venue held their illuminated cell phones aloft for a true goosebump moment. The two hugged it out at the end, and a commenter on the since-uploaded YouTube clip of the performance wrote, “This song is so gorgeous I started crying.”

Friday’s star-studded Forum show ended on a more rambunctious note, with Bay Area hip-hop legend Del the Funky Homosapien coming out for the second-ever live performance of 2001’s “Rock the House” and the extended remix/hidden-track version of Gorillaz’s debut single “Clint Eastwood” featuring another surprise guest, British reggae star Sweetie Irie. De La Soul of course made an appearance for the always crowd-pleasing “Feel Good Inc.,” and other special guests included Malian singer-songwriter Fatoumata Diawara and Atlanta hip-hop duo Earthgang on their respective Strange Timez collaborations.

Cracker Island comes out Feb. 24, 2023, and it will be another all-star affair, featuring the above-mentioned Beck, Thundercat, and Tame Impala/Bootie Brown collaborations plus appearances by Stevie Nicks, Bad Bunny, and Adeleye Omotayo. Meanwhile, Albarn, who told the Forum crowd he has really come to love Los Angeles, has been spending a lot of time in the city lately, working on a feature-length animated Gorillaz movie that is reportedly still in development. Gorillaz will play another LA show Sunday at the YouTube Theater.

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