On the 12th of February Childish Gambino aka Donald Glover came to Amsterdam as part of The Deep Web Tour. Interestingly, Glover revealed his world tour via a method that would make any viral marketer jump with joy – by tweeting a link to a fake sex cam site. The site features a chat window where if you type in the word ‘tickets’, you’ll be redirected to the tour’s proper site. Not only was the marketing genius for his latest album Because of the Internet, but so was the concept for the album itself. The amazingly intelligent album follows a 75-page script that depicts a clear yet abstract narrative. However, it is not surprising that Glover chose to combine music and script writing. The 30 year-old has a history in TV, having won an emmy for his work on 30 Rock. As a result of his TV & Comedy background there is a huge issue on whether he has an honest hip-hop persona, especially as musically, his mixtapes are all very different from one another.
With all this in mind, I was intrigued to see how a live performance would go down. So here’s my review… on the Internet!
The set kicked off with the disjointed and eerie ‘Crawl’, the first full song on the album, to which he slowly took center stage in shorts and a jumper. The jumper quickly flew off for the trap sounding ‘World Star’ which got the entire crowd jumping. Straying from Because of the Internet, Gambino went in hard with classics like ‘Freak and Geeks’, ‘Bonfire’ and ‘Heartbeat’, all of which went down swimmingly with his eager and adorning fans. Switching it up he sat cross-legged on the floor, giving us a taste of the vulnerable Gambino fans had grown to know and love. He then sang the short, soulful and Frank Ocean sounding ‘Urn’. Utilising this trough in the performance he asked the crowd ‘Are you guys having a good time?’ In his pseudo-reflective sounding voice, ‘Are you guys high in here? It’s crazy that you can just go somewhere and buy it!’
Later came one of my favorites from the album, ‘Telegraph ave.’ a re-edit of Lloyd’s ‘Oakland’. Compliments must be paid to the four-piece band; the electric guitar was enhanced by drums and some great synth. Unfortunately, the gorgeous Jhene Aiko did not come on stage for ‘Pink toes’. Nevertheless, Gambino proved his skill by flawlessly switching from R’n’B style to rap to his renowned self-reflective talking persona. The most hyped by far was the heavy based and reverb synth ‘Sweat Pants’ which incited the crowd into a euphoric mosh pit! At the end of the song he just dropped the mic and walked off stage.
Of course the crowd wanted an encore and they spent five minutes chanting ‘Worldstar’ until their hero was hailed back on stage. ‘Should we play some shit with some bass in it?’ Gambino asked. Then as the lights flickered on and off, the slow starting “Zealots of Stockholm” echoed through the speakers. At about the 1 minute 20 mark there was a sudden crack in the track and the song switches genres into a heavy almost dubstep track; something that Kanye tried to do on Yeezus but failed. Everyone went mental, inviting skanks left, right and center. It has for a long time been my favorite of the album. Joining him on stage, Steve G. Lover, Gambino’s brother sung the songs ‘Eat your vegetables’, ‘One up’ and ‘Unnecessary’. The duo also, at the request of an enthralled front stage fan, entered into a back-to-back freestyle where Donald spat part of a cypher he did for Tim Westwood. The multi-talented musician even beat boxed for his brother. After this array of excitement, the performance came to an emphatic end with the penultimate song of the end ‘Earth: the oldest computer (the last night)’.
Donald Glover is a genius, no doubt about it. I loved his albums and I love the concepts behind them. But for me there was something missing from his performance. His stage presence was great. He was hyped and a great dancer. He got the crowd going but I was still left confused. Where was the vulnerability that we are so used to in his songs? His performance was confident, too confident and that disappointed me. From such a clever guy I expected something different, something more than just a good act. I wanted something more from him, something genuine. It would have been cool to have some personal anecdotes about some of the underlying themes of Because of the Internet. Or even some visuals and short films from the script. Ultimately, I love and respect him as an artist but expected more from him, not as a performer but as an entertainer!