Gorillaz leave cartoons behind to perform live

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Albarn and his collaborators have chosen the Manchester Opera House - usually a venue for ballet, opera and musicals - to make their first and only three-dimensional appearance.

Although Gorillaz have played live before, the musicians were obscured by a screen featuring the four cartoon characters who are the public face of the band.

During the first five days of November, the group will perform the whole of their hit album Demon Days and selected tracks from their first album.

They will be accompanied by guest artists from the album, including the Happy Mondays front man Shaun Ryder, and Roots Manuva, the British hip hop artist.

Talks are also underway with other well-known names featured on the album to appear, including Neneh Cherry, Ike Turner and De La Soul.

The event has been organised to promote the inaugural Manchester International Festival, a celebration of new music and contemporary ideas taking place in June and July 2007.

Jamie Hewlett, the co-creator of Gorillaz who designed the animated band, will be responsible for the visual side of the evening.

Albarn said: "Manchester is the centre of Britain. We're only ever going to do this once, so it makes sense to do it somewhere in the middle of the country. London gets all the gigs. It's time to do something a bit different and redress that balance."

The Blur front man created Gorillaz as a humorous response to the increasing amount of manufactured pop music - taking the phenomenon to its logical conclusion and creating an entirely manufactured band.

But the project, which is the work of real musicians, has gone on to be a huge success. Demon Days has sold three million copies and Gorillaz feature on the new War Child charity album, Help: A Day in the Life.

While the event could probably sell out a stadium, the organisers deliberately chose an intimate venue that seats only 1,900 people.

Alex Poots, the director of the Manchester festival, said: "It's in a dusty old theatre, which fits quite well with their image in that its not a shiny place and the Gorillaz are not shiny characters. The acoustics are brilliant and for the music to take centre stage, they want somewhere people can sit down and hear music in a comfortable and intimate space."

He added that the concerts would reflect the tone of the festival. "It's the opposite of [the] Edinburgh [festival]. We're going to have about 10 major commissions that run for 10 nights each and everything will be very directed, developed and nurtured."

An announcement about when tickets go on sale will be made on 26 September.