Gorillaz: Demon Days Live, Manchester Opera House, Manchester

No joke: Gorillaz have become pop's biggest draw

This live presentation of Gorillaz' multimillion-selling Demon Days album was the kind of labour-intensive exercise that would test the mettle of a seasoned logistician, let alone an Essex pop star.

As well as the musicians permanently on stage - drummer, percussionist, bassist, two guitarists, keyboardist, five backing singers, and a sizable string section - there are a series of guest vocalists to be shuttled on and off, and no fewer than two complete choirs of around two dozen voices apiece. And that's not even considering the sophisticated visual element that Albarn's co-gorilla, cartoonist Jamie Hewlett, has devised for the show.

The show opens in a light-hearted fashion, with two of the Gorillaz appearing in a balcony overlooking the stage, like the Muppets' Statler and Waldorf.

Finally, the curtain rises to reveal the huge retinue spread across the stage, visible only as silhouettes against a series of light-boxes whose colour changes depending on the song - red, black and white for "Kids with Guns", gorgeous blue and white for "El Manana", flashing white for "White Light". Above the panels, a video screen posts a series of fast-cut images illustrating the songs' themes.

Albarn is immediately recognisable as the pianist in profile just right of centre stage, though he remains modestly silhouetted whilst a succession of guests do their turns front and centre. A stick-thin Neneh Cherry does a curious bow-legs dance in "Kids with Guns'', but greater acclaim is bestowed on the children's choir that does a loose formation dance during "Dirty Harry" the show's most satisfying blend of hip-hop, techno, rock and strings. Trugoy and Posdnuos from De La Soul lift spirits further when they bounce on for "Feel Good Inc'', before Ike Turner continues his reputation rehabilitation on the Echo-Song "Every Planet We Reach Is Dead", donning a sparkly cream jacket to tickle the ivories in one of the evening's stand-out performances. Roots Manuva and Martina Topley-Bird are less ebullient on "All Alone'', but local home boy Shaun Ryder gets a hero's welcome when he slopes on in dark glasses and leather jacket to wiggle his behind at the audience during "DARE''.

The album's dazzling three-song climax is brilliantly effected here, with the Manchester Community Choir helping bring proceedings to a suitably lifting conclusion on "Demon Days'' itself. For the first time, Albarn stands to face the audience to deliver his falsetto finale, the song's moving impact undercut by the irreverent backdrop of stained-glass Gorillaz on which the curtain falls.

As if that weren't more than enough for one night, Albarn's War Child benefit song "Hong Kong", featuring the Chinese zither of Zeng Zhen, all but steals the evening's thunder as an encore, leaving one to ponder the irony of how such a jokey solo project diversion should come to assume such massive importance as pop's most singular multi-media enterprise.

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