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Live Review: Damon Albarn

17 December 2014 | 2:52 pm | Helen Lear

Damon Albarn at the Sydney Opera House was a show no one will ever forget.

Huge queues snaked around the Sydney Opera House (SOH) for Tuesday night’s rescheduled gig that was to be the first of two that evening by England’s Britpop poster boy, Damon Albarn, in light of Monday’s tragic events.

Once inside the concert hall the mood was far from dampened, the crowd screaming and cheering the second he walked on stage with new band, The Heavy Seas and the SOH string quartet. Albarn immediately made everyone stand up, which stayed that way for most of the gig.

Gorillaz track Spitting Out The Demons started things off with a bang, Albarn moving around the stage with great presence, flanked by the impossibly cool Seye and modishly styled Jeff Wootton on bass and guitar. Beautiful ballad Lonely Press Play from new album Everyday Robots showed his voice can be both powerful and gentle, before moving into the title track from the album with the help of the string quartet.

A Gorillaz trio followed with classics Tomorrow Comes Today, Slow Country and Kids With Guns, Albarn getting more and more enigmatic with each track, throwing water and high-fiving the crowd before joining Seye and Wootton for an epic guitar trio to finish.

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Acknowledging this was his first back-to-back gig since Hollywood’s Whisky A Go Go in 1990 and admitting that perhaps he wasn’t pacing himself properly, he picked up an acoustic guitar for Hostiles before a beautiful piano solo for Photographs and You & Me.

Tasmania’s Southern Gospel Choir came on stage for a great rendition of El Manana and Don’t Get Lost In Heaven, adding soaring vocals that really filled the concert hall. Of course, it wouldn’t be an Albarn performance without a couple of Blur numbers, so when he sat down at the piano for a solo performance of Out Of Time, there wasn’t a person in the house not singing along.

All Your Life and End Of A Century followed, perhaps not the big hits you would expect, but played beautifully on the piano with Icelandic trumpet player Kaktus, despite a minor lyrical mishap! The pace picked up again for the upbeat Mr Tembo before rapper Remi joined the band on stage for a fantastic version of Clint Eastwood, the pair bouncing around and looking like they were having the time of their life.

A special guest appearance from De La Soul prompted whoops and hollering from the crowd as they smashed out Feel Good Inc. with great gusto, chuffed to be one of the few acts to bring hip hop to the SOH. Heavy Seas Of Love finished the set before the group gathered for a big theatre-style bow to finish the set.

A performance that no one will forget any time soon for so many reasons.