Needing no warm up Donald Glover arrived on stage as his hip-hip alter ego Childish Gambino, a casual 15 minutes late, at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire. Bounding onto the stage and straight into ‘Crawl’ from his latest record (and multi-media package) Because the Internet, his energy was met by screams from the doting crowd at the sold out show. Glover appeared overwhelmed at times by the insane amount of energy from the London crowd, however, this didn’t phase him as he delivered a stunning performance.
I feel incredibly old and probably sound like my mum when I say this, but I assumed this would be a generic ‘rap show’. However, it was much more than that, with Glover’s vocals taking centre stage, especially in songs such as ‘Heartbeat’ and ‘Pink Toes’, the former of which leading to a mass sing-along from the crowd, a favourite from debut record Camp. Clearly a talented vocalist, these moments led me to make comparisons to the likes of Drake in his style.
Gambino demonstrates an acute self awareness of his craft. As a young, middle-class, black man working on acting projects that gently mock this sort of lifestyle, he notices how he is perceived and addresses questions of authenticity in his musical work. He is in complete control of his craft, which is something to admire. Because the Internet flaunts a style that Childish Gambino wanted to create, not one destined for commercial success or fitting the mould that hip-hop artists have carved for him. He even created a 72 page script to go with the album. This is his creative project, and the crowd respected this beyond the doors of the venue.
When Glover interacts with the crowd he does so in an endearing and humble manner. Without the Kanye-esque arrogance we are so used to in the hip-hop world, he took selfies with the front row, and thanked everyone for coming out to the shows that he wanted to do, eager to show fans what he has been working on. One element that made this show extra special was when the computers failed leading Glover to enact in some freestyle, and further into the show he even succumb to the request of an a cappella performance in the encore. This was a show for the fans.
Surprisingly Gambino got one of his most anticipated tracks out of the way earlier on, in a medley from Camp, of course, beginning with ‘Freaks and Geeks’ and leading into ‘Fire Fly’ and ‘Bonfire’. The high energy set didn’t stop, with Gambino’s four piece band adding even more to the set. One drum kit is seemingly not enough for Gambino as the bassist also had a few drums to thrash on during the more intense parts of the set. ‘3005’ was also an amazing moment from the gig with it being his latest and most commercial single thus far. Glover hardly had to sing on some of the chorus’ as the crowd at Shepherds Bush Empire sang it back to him.
Surrendering to the chants of the crowd he performed ‘WORLDSTAR’ from Because the Internet transforming the crowd into a mash of dancing bodies. I couldn’t take my eyes of two guys up in the stalls who had created enough room around them to dance how they wanted to for the entire set, making Vine videos in the process. It was elements like this that made me feel so lucky to have bought tickets for this show. As such a sought after name in the entirety of American entertainment it was a pleasure to see Donald Glover, as Childish Gambino, for what will always be remembered as a very special gig.