Childish Gambino resumed his "This Is America" tour with final shows in L.A. Sunday and Monday night.
Childish Gambino has become a force to be reckoned with. The Donald Glover we bear witness to today does not seem like the same seemingly nervous kid who crafted Camp. Glover’s early days of wearing his emotions on his sleeve, as an outsider, was considered music for the underbelly of hip-hop. Gambino’s music was probably played more amongst gamers, sci-fi fanatics, and comic book aficionados than in clubs or on the radio. In the seven years since Camp dropped, ‘Bino has metamorphosed into the culture itself. He’s no longer relegated simply to the underground or the backpacker. He’s evolved to a point where he’s influencing pop culture, but he isn’t even making typical pop music. Think “This Is America” or “Red Bone” -- neither which have a sound that's prone to radio play in our current era. Seeing this force in action, live, was akin to watching James Brown, Beyonce, and Elvis all spiraled into one.
Childish Gambino was scheduled to take his "This Is America" tour to Los Angeles months ago. Unfortunately, ‘Bino suffered a broken foot, bringing what was billed as his last tour as Childish Gambino to a crashing halt. Fans were worried they wouldn’t get to experience the multi-talented phenom’s final act, but he healed up and bounced back. On a chilly Sunday night, a sold-out audience packed into The Forum. The former Los Angeles Laker arena is big enough to pack in 17,500 people, but intimate enough to give the large crowd a personable experience. When ‘Bino stepped on stage, a massive screen behind him bathed the audience in light. The enormous prop was shaped like a massive rectangle, a billboard turned vertically. Somewhere between the first two songs, one of which is a new song called“Algorythm,” the screen split and pushed away from each other to broadcast separate images to each side of the theater. A song or two later, the same screen revolved backward to reveal an arrangement of lights on its backside. The eye-popping laser lights accompanied singles like “The Worst Guys” and “Worldstar.” Yes, ‘Bino did start with some rap tracks to get the crowd hype, but just a handful of singles later he dove into Awaken My Love!
The most defining thing about the show was ‘Bino’s vocal strength. It was riveting to hear him hit insane notes that sounded like controlled screams. The ghost of James Brown was in the building that night. Even ‘Bino’s dance moves looked like the King Of Soul music-- he shuffled around the stage in a vigorous and erotic manner. The most potent example of his vocal strength was displayed on “Terrified.” Much like he did at the Grammys, ‘Bino showed off his powerful controlled screams that reverberated around the theater.
Crowd interaction was impeccable throughout the entire concert. Gambino left the stage three times, and opted for a more personal experience than crowd surfing. He disappeared backstage while being followed by a cameraman and security. ‘Bino walked through a hallway and reaches the main lobby, all the while, being broadcasted to the screens inside the theater. The entire audience was paralyzed with excitement, anxious for him to walk from the lobby down into one of their aisles. After a brief stroll, that’s exactly what he did. Up in the second tier of seating, he stood in the center of a packed aisle and sang “Standing Tall.”
The Atlanta creator used a similar method for his encore segment. He walked backstage, left the theater and walked to his trailer. His friends met him outside, and they began talking together, although we couldn't hear exactly what was being said. All this was broadcasted live to the screens in the theater. The crowd proceeded to get rowdy, and began chanting for ‘Bino to return. He lifted his hand to his ear to signal the fans to get louder, and after several back and forths, he returned to the stage.
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Childish promised the crowd that he was going to take us to church, and he did. Before the conclusion of the night, 'Bino pulled out another new song called “Human Sacrifice” which he only recently began performing while on tour. It was the highlight of the evening (even over “This Is America,” which was insane) because of the energy. The crowd was so pleased to be treated to a new song that they illuminated the theater with energy that ‘Bino harnessed and went wild. He mixed pop and electronic elements during the first three-quarters of the song, but converted to a Lion King-sounding tribal anthem by the finale.
Time moved far too quickly by the show's conclusion. ‘Bino performed for an hour, but it seemed like he was on and off in mere minutes. The entire experience was like a rush of adrenaline. From the school kid dancers on “This Is America” killing it, to the live band channeling the soul of funk, everything was on point. Childish Gambino had the best concert I’ve witnesses since Yeezus, and hopefully, his retirement from touring is just a momentary lapse in judgment. A performance on this level will surely be missed.