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At Madison Square Garden, Childish Gambino’s “last tour” felt more like a new beginning

We talk about Donald Glover as an actor, a comedian, a director and a rapper, but I’d argue there’s more than that.

Each of Donald Glover’s skills has levels and layers. Childish Gambino today isn’t the hoodie-wearing Childish Gambino from 2011 when the simple, slowly-zooming video for “Freaks and Geeks” felt like a pioneering act. Childish Gambino today isn’t Childish Gambino from the 2014 Deep Web Tour where the rapper put a transparent screen in front of him on stage maybe to compensate for a less than developed stage presence.

At Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, Childish Gambino felt like something entirely new. He rapped and he sang but he was also a true performer, for the first time in the four times now that I’ve seen him live. His stage truly felt more like a runway, and Childish Gambino wasn’t there as a musician but as something greater. Maybe a tastemaker? Maybe a conductor.

(Photo credit: Greg Noire for MSG)

The show felt like wading in the ocean, with light waves before a strong riptide pulls you in. We dipped our toes in to a new song, “Algorythm,” and then put our head fully underwater to “Summertime Magic.” “I. The Worst Guys” and “II. Worldstar” were slower and less complicated beats let us float to a surprising moment where a live video showed Childish Gambino walked through the back of Madison Square Garden until he appeared in the lower bowl for “Stand Tall.”

At that point, we were deep in the show and fully invested. “Boogieman” and later “Feels Like Summer” hit hard and then of course, “This Is America” to end the set fully engulfed the diverse crowd into a feeling that was equal parts church and college basketball game. It was loud, energetic and celebratory.

Before the encore, another live-video showed Childish Gambino backstage, putting a hand to his ear taunting the crowd to cheer louder, as if he wasn’t planning to return to the stage. The show felt spontaneous and loose, but of course Childish Gambino – or maybe Donald Glover – had the whole thing planned out. Donald Glover let the audience know that this is “the last Childish Gambino tour ever,” but viewing it as a goodbye tour or even the the end of Donald Glover performing as a musician forgets that it probably just means he is ready to pull off another layer.

As “Redbone” slowly pushed us back to shore, it was hard not to think about what comes next. In a way, Donald Glover seemed to enjoy being on stage in front of thousands of people singing to him more than five years ago when he seemed to prefer rapping more than having to be on stage. EVen this show felt like Donald was trying his best to make Madison Square Garden feel as small as possible.

I believe that this might be the last Childish Gambino tour, but it’s not the last Donald Glover show. He’ll probably pop up in a tiny venue this winter, or on a rooftop next summer. He’s just too good at this to let it go.

(Photo credit: Greg Noire for MSG)

Set List
“Algorythm”
“Summertime Magic”
“I. The Worst Guys”
“II. Worldstar”
“Late Night in Kauai”
“Stand Tall”
“Boogieman”
“Have Some Love”
“Riot”
“Terrified”
“Feels Like Summer”
“Spirits”
“This Is America”

Encore:
“Sober”
“V. 3005”
“IV. Sweatpants”
“Redbone”

Brian Benton
Brian is the founder and editor of Respect Your Youngers. He currently lives in New York City, and previously lived in St. Louis and San Francisco. He enjoys public transportation and coffee, and can be found online at brianfbenton.com

At Madison Square Garden, Childish Gambino’s “last tour” felt more like a new beginning

We talk about Donald Glover as an actor, a comedian, a director and a rapper, but I’d argue there’s more than that.

Each of Donald Glover’s skills has levels and layers. Childish Gambino today isn’t the hoodie-wearing Childish Gambino from 2011 when the simple, slowly-zooming video for “Freaks and Geeks” felt like a pioneering act. Childish Gambino today isn’t Childish Gambino from the 2014 Deep Web Tour where the rapper put a transparent screen in front of him on stage maybe to compensate for a less than developed stage presence.

At Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, Childish Gambino felt like something entirely new. He rapped and he sang but he was also a true performer, for the first time in the four times now that I’ve seen him live. His stage truly felt more like a runway, and Childish Gambino wasn’t there as a musician but as something greater. Maybe a tastemaker? Maybe a conductor.

(Photo credit: Greg Noire for MSG)

The show felt like wading in the ocean, with light waves before a strong riptide pulls you in. We dipped our toes in to a new song, “Algorythm,” and then put our head fully underwater to “Summertime Magic.” “I. The Worst Guys” and “II. Worldstar” were slower and less complicated beats let us float to a surprising moment where a live video showed Childish Gambino walked through the back of Madison Square Garden until he appeared in the lower bowl for “Stand Tall.”

At that point, we were deep in the show and fully invested. “Boogieman” and later “Feels Like Summer” hit hard and then of course, “This Is America” to end the set fully engulfed the diverse crowd into a feeling that was equal parts church and college basketball game. It was loud, energetic and celebratory.

Before the encore, another live-video showed Childish Gambino backstage, putting a hand to his ear taunting the crowd to cheer louder, as if he wasn’t planning to return to the stage. The show felt spontaneous and loose, but of course Childish Gambino – or maybe Donald Glover – had the whole thing planned out. Donald Glover let the audience know that this is “the last Childish Gambino tour ever,” but viewing it as a goodbye tour or even the the end of Donald Glover performing as a musician forgets that it probably just means he is ready to pull off another layer.

As “Redbone” slowly pushed us back to shore, it was hard not to think about what comes next. In a way, Donald Glover seemed to enjoy being on stage in front of thousands of people singing to him more than five years ago when he seemed to prefer rapping more than having to be on stage. EVen this show felt like Donald was trying his best to make Madison Square Garden feel as small as possible.

I believe that this might be the last Childish Gambino tour, but it’s not the last Donald Glover show. He’ll probably pop up in a tiny venue this winter, or on a rooftop next summer. He’s just too good at this to let it go.

(Photo credit: Greg Noire for MSG)

Set List
“Algorythm”
“Summertime Magic”
“I. The Worst Guys”
“II. Worldstar”
“Late Night in Kauai”
“Stand Tall”
“Boogieman”
“Have Some Love”
“Riot”
“Terrified”
“Feels Like Summer”
“Spirits”
“This Is America”

Encore:
“Sober”
“V. 3005”
“IV. Sweatpants”
“Redbone”

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