United Center // Chicago, IL // September 8, 2018
Donald Glover is at the top of his career, yet he’s retiring the Childish Gambino persona.
September 8th was a big night of music in Chicago. Wu-Tang Clan held their 1-day festival in the suburbs, while Fall Out Boy played a massive hometown show at Wrigley Field. For those who were at the United Center, however, they got to witness a part of history: Donald Glover played his last set in Chicago as the iconic wordsmith Childish Gambino. The actor/rapper has been making music since 2008 and released his first album in 2011, but it wasn’t until the release of Awaken, My Love! in 2016 that the world took notice. Blending hip-hop, soul, and R&B, it’s almost unfair how flawless Gambino’s voice sounds in person. How can Donald Glover be such a funny comedian, powerful dramatic actor, and powerhouse musician?
“If you came to hear your favorite song, go home”, Gambino said after his second song of the night, “Summertime Magic“. “This is not a concert, this is church.” Mostly playing songs off of Awaken, My Love! and Because the Internet, Gambino enlisted a full band, backup dancers, and stunning visuals on towering rotating panels. He frequently asked people to put away their cell phones or stop talking in order to really enjoy the experience, which nearly everyone did. Gambino dedicated his song “Riot” to Mac Miller who had died just the day before. He asked members of the audience and press not to tape his speech, as he did not want to “commodify” the experience. Ironically, the day after the concert, many music outlets had video of this speech, negating the entire purpose of Gambino’s message.
Gambino did play some of the crowd’s favorites, including his notorious new hit, “This is America”. The music video has been analyzed back and forth for it’s political and social commentary, but seeing it live gave it a new, welcome dimension: it’s a fucking jam. All of the United Center jumped up and down to shout the chorus alongside Gambino, who maintained an insane amount of energy the entire show. For his encore, he played two of his best rap songs, “3005” and “IV. Sweatpants” before ending the night with his most famous hit, “Redbone”. He hit every single high note with ease and made the song feel brand new again. Despite saying that he wasn’t going to play everyone’s favorite songs, everyone left Gambino’s Chicago show feeling amazing. It was a bittersweet performance, one that will never be replicated. Thank you, Donald Glover, for your ultimate Chicago show.