What do you get when you take a handful of bona-fide rock legends on tour, add a couple dozen other musicians and put them in front of an eye-popping, hi-fi visual production? Probably not much in the way of profit.
At least in the case of Sunday's modestly under-attended Gorillaz concert at Target Center, ringleader Damon Albarn's admirably ambitious plan to bring his ultra-peculiar animated electro-pop band to life probably fell short of financial expectations. But for a guy whose expendable income has been bumped up by his old band Blur's "Song 2" becoming a sports anthem, money seemed beside the point.
Disengaged toward the end of Blur, Albarn was all smiles Sunday night. So were the 5,000-plus fans who ate the $50 to $100 prices for seats they rarely used. The two-hour spectacle was visually dizzying, rhythmically intoxicating and generally just fascinating.
Started out as a small musical animation project in 1998 (with an impressive 15 million albums sold since), Gorillaz became larger than life on its first real tour -- big in name and size. Among the names were Mick Jones and Paul Simonon of the Clash, R&B legend Bobby Womack and hip-hop heroes De La Soul. Among the girth were a string septet, brass octet and a Syrian music ensemble. The musicians just kept coming.
The show stayed on a rock-steady track, even with such extraneous doodads as a pre-recorded Snoop Dogg appearance in the opening song "Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach" and a cartoon kids choir singing along to "Dirty Harry."
Having explored similar electronic/dub/hip-hop avenues with the Clash, Jones and Simonon were a steadying force here, especially in the mid-show highlights "Kids With Guns" and "El Mañana." De La Soul easily got the crowd pumped for "Superfast Jelly," and had an easier time in the encore with the mega-hit "Feel Good Inc." Womack kicked off the encore with a seated, moving delivery of "Cloud of Unknowing."
As for Albarn, he was all over the place, moving excitedly among keyboards, guitar and coy gestures to fans. "It's been a very long time since I've been here, and I always played the other side of the road," he said, referring to First Avenue.
No one could have guessed Albarn would wind up playing arenas the way he did Sunday, but it's easy to predict no show like his odd masterpiece will ever pass through town again.
Gorillaz's set list is at startribune.com/artcetera. Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658