Gambino’s got the game locked

By Frankey

The modern artist is no longer confined to a single art form.

Performed at Rod Laver Arena

17 July 2019

In the digital era, the aural realm must more readily meet tangentially with the visual. Music videos have power. Fashion influences politics. And in these influential pursuits, Donald Glover is an exemplar, proving that it’s not just about the music, stretching the gamut of the creative spectrum.

He is perhaps, known predominantly for his ability to portray iconic on-screen characters. From the affable Troy Barnes in NBC’s Community to the impressionable Earnest Marks in HBO’s Atlanta, Glover’s always pushing himself. Now, with his most recent portrayal of Simba alongside fellow musician Beyoncé in Disney’s The Lion King, Glover’s actively demonstrating his talents are as multi-faceted as his growing demographic cohort.

But tonight is not about any of those characters. It’s about the one portrayal fans associate most intimately with Glover’s persona: none other than our boy, Childish Gambino.

This is, by all accounts, a redemption tour. It’s been eight months since Glover cancelled his Sidney Myer Music Bowl appearance, citing a foot injury. It’s also been a while since he’s released any new music. His latest album, Awaken, My Love! dropped no less than three years ago in 2016. Meanwhile, his latest chart singles, Feels like Simmer and Summertime Magic have been available on Spotify for over a year.

Throughout this prolonged period, Glover’s honed the culmination of his Gambino façade into a topless powerhouse of energy. Live in person, it turns out to be one of the best concerts I’ve experienced in a long time.

On opening act, Channel Tres

Long have the opening acts of big name headliners struggled to inspire as much of the excitement and draw as their ensuing counterparts. That’s certainly not the case here. Considered by Elton John as his favourite new artist of 2018, Channel Tres embodies a lot of the magic of his hometown of Compton, flavoured by a smooth West Coast vibe. Coming a long way from producing beats for Kehlani and Duckwrth, Channel Tres well and truly earns his stripes tonight. Pushing what he describes as “self-empowerment that makes you move your ass”, Channel Tres fulfills the memo of turning up an audience in advance of the ‘main event’ and should be on every patron’s Spotify follow list after this groove-saturated performance.

Delivering the ultimate Gambino experience

The lights fade to black against a sudden hush. The crowd crescendoes into a screaming frenzy. And the aroma of the devil’s lettuce floats seductively across the mosh pit.

Gambino’s topless figure and glorious beard manifest into view as he jumps the flight of stairs that land him square onto centre-stage. A heavenly spotlight beams down onto his statued pose. His eyes are closed. He’s drinking in the crowd’s adoration. Time lingers as the non-verbal exchange reaches its climax, the music drops right in and the stadium comes alive, jumping collectively into the Gambino experience Glover has so masterfully created.

Gambino takes every chance to ramp up the set as it goes along, not once subsiding in energy. It proves the tenacity and strength of his discography. That he has hit after hit, groove after groove, and beat after beat ready to go is a testament to his hard work and ability. And just when you think there’s only so much further he can take the show, what we end up is, in my view, one of the greatest encores in concert history.

Without going into the specifics of the set list, it’s safe to say Gambino satisfies every corner of the fan base, performing at least one song from every album as well as one alleged work-in-progress track that is exceptionally fire. 

Hats off to the incredibly pliable and on-point live band, who are subservient to Gambino’s needs in what is undoubtedly a successful symbiotic relationship, in which we as the crowd reap the rewards. Audio visuals are likewise commendable, with Gambino incorporating a live camera element to the side screens whenever he’s off stage, allowing the audience to track his movements throughout the show. It’s a cheeky play on the real-time demands of our current society in the Instagram era. But it gives the crowd what it wants and makes for a much more enjoyable ‘encore’ demand when you can see Gambino behind closed doors requesting a louder response to corral him back on stage.  

At 35, Glover’s adamant that this tour season will be among his final public stints as Childish Gambino, choosing instead to pursue future endeavours as himself. If this is the end for Gambino, then we as the collective crowd who have had the privilege to witness such glory can safely mourn now in good company. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favour and catch him while you still can. Whether it be sneaking your way into Splendour or following him back home to the States for his final run of shows for the year, you’ll be glad you attended a session at the Church of Gambino. 

Photography by Frankey with his Google Pixel 3

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