It's hard to compete with an Outkast reunion, and there's no question that the Atlanta hip-hop duo were the main draw for the masses that flooded New York's Randall's Island Friday evening. But the enthusiastic throng of Anglophiles crowded around Damon Albarn's stage across the Governors Ball didn't wind up short, as they were also treated to an outstanding day-ending set that was worth the wait.
Backed by a three-piece band, as well as a four-piece string section, Albarn delved into his deep catalog and delivered a set that highlighted the diverse musical entities he's embodied during his 23-year career.
Haunting gems like "Lonely Press Play" and "Everyday Robots" from his recently released solo album were paired a sprinkling of tunes from The Good, the Bad & the Queen and several genre-bending Gorillaz hits -- including explosive versions "Feel Good Inc.," featuring two-thirds of New York hip-hop legends De La Soul, and "Clint Eastwood," which brought out Chicago MC Vic Mensa.
Of course, the set wouldn't have been complete without a nod to his days in iconic Britpop band Blur. But rather than busting out a frantic festival version of "Song 2" (which was suggested by one hopeful audience member) Albarn sat at a piano and crooned a fragile rendition of "Out of Time," which coupled much better with the moodier fair of his musical present.
It may not have been the most kinetic show of his career, but the wiser and more restrained version of Albarn still seemed to suit his faithful fans just fine.