Childish Gambino at Epic, 5/10/12

Categories: Concert Review
Childish_Gambino.jpg
Childish Gambino
Epic Nightclub, Minneapolis
May 10, 2012

Donald Glover is clearly a trained performer, holding the titles comedian, actor and rapper under his belt. Last night he came as the latter, playing to a packed house that seemed to know his every word and hang on every movement the man made. Complete with full live band in tow, including more than one violinist, Childish Gambino was the only set through the whole night, which began promptly at 9:30 and was over before 11. Pushed back from March, this show was originally going to include Detroit rapper Danny Brown, but Gambino's foot injury delayed the show to last night and left him with no opener. The primarily white crowd crammed in early to see the rapper's set and seemed genuinely excited by his mere presence.


The show suffered from sound issues, as Gambino's microphone garbled much of his vocals and made it difficult to pick up his lines. Frankly, this was to his advantage, as most of his lyrics are poor at best and questionably tasteless at worst. The audience got to feel his vibe onstage and rap along with him at crucial moments, making for an entertaining show from a crowd perspective, but much of the performance left me cold. The hashtag raps and terrible one-liners got a lot more leeway than most people who built their name through rap alone would receive, and it really made me wonder how a vanity project like this could gain such impressive traction. 

Gambino's sophomore album Camp was infamously panned by Pitchfork in a review that pulled no punches and seemed spot on, but the drove of fans at Epic seemed to have been followers since his debut Culdesac. Not being terribly familiar with the work prior to the show, I didn't get a real sense of who the man was through his rhymes. I could tell he liked Asian girls and making allusions to popular television programs, but for someone with as unique an experience as he has, I didn't glean any of it from his rapping.

With a live band and video projections backing him up, Childish Gambino managed to put on a strong show that legitimately grabbed the audience, but it left me wanting more. I had heard Glover occasionally throws stand-up into his set, combining his dual stage roles into a single performance, which intrigued me to see how the sides would play off each other. Instead, last night was solely rap, which the man, while competent enough, proved was not his strong point. The audience certainly ate it up and must have connected on a level I couldn't (a celebrity presence still seems enough to engage people these days), but the show simply fell flat for me.

Critic's Bias: I was here to see Danny Brown, who sadly didn't come when the show was rescheduled.

Overheard in the crowd: "Yeah, he's on that show Community!" 

Random Notebook Dump: Bummed as I was about the lack of openers, the early wrap time meant I got to catch the bus this time, which is often not the case coming back from downtown

The crowd: Young and white.

Setlist:

Outside
Firefly the
Freaks and Geeks
So Fly
I'm On It
Rolling In The Deep
All The Shine
L.E.S.
Heartbeat
You See Me (UCLA)
Bonfire
Sunrise

Encore:

Tru Dudes
Make 'Em Mad
Lights Turned On


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18 comments
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Jack Spencer
Jack Spencer

This was admittedly not my best written review (invoking the lightning rod that is Pitchfork was a mistake; too much personal bias/involvement; etc) and I sacrificed some journalistic integrity in order to get a couple hours of sleep. But even if this had been a well-written piece, the sentiment would be the same, as would the comments section. Fans and reviewers alike tend to go to shows they want to see, and I was maybe the only person in the room who was not a raving supporter. I was in attendance and had to write something, this was my impression. It's honest if a bit sloppy, but you would've all been mad anyway.

Nate Brennan
Nate Brennan

"Overall Reaction: He was a great performer but I don't think I'm supposed to like him so he sucks.

Critic's Bias: I read the Pitchfork review first and made up my mind that he's bad based on that they don't think he's cool and because I'm a rapper and I believe his path to success was too easy because nobody knows who I am." Dude, the music (which he produces) is good, his lyrics do address race relations/ideologies and his background (a lot, actually, just intermingled with stuff about liking Asian girls <--kind of like every rapper ever who isn't the Beastie Boys) and has had a pretty rough past. Danny Brown's XXX mixtape is pretty cool, but it has just as many pitfalls as Gambino's rapping about hot girls, and he doesn't produce it either. But I guess talking repetitively sometimes about eating girls out and drugs with a nasally yell comes off cooler than talking repetitively sometimes about a proclivity for hot Asian girls (unless your Rivers Cuomo, I guess). I get the Gambino hate from "music journalists," but mostly it's just bullshit elitist whining over him not being a "real rapper" because he became known as a comedian first, isn't shy to address the psychology behind the hipster label, and is perceived to be a suburban rapper, even though he's been making music for a long time and came from nothing in a racist Atlanta exurb to parents who ran a foster home in his house (not to mention the palpable irony of university-liberal-arts-educated white guys calling out the street credibility of others). Jay-Z likes him, Danny Brown likes him, and even the hard-to-please Das Racist likes him (or at least Heems, who put him on his Nehru Jackets mixtape).I'm not sure why you're City Pages' go-to reviewer for all hip-hop shows in the area, but I'm going to assume it's solely because you're a young kid who is rap fan/wannabe rapper who is willing to go to a bunch of shows and write about them for little-to-no-pay. Maybe it's unreasonable for me to expect a Brandon Soderberg-like hip-hop reviewer (who also  at an alt-weekly with such a small amount of money and an even lesser amount of open-mindedness.

Reed Fischer
Reed Fischer

 Hit me up if you want to do reviews, Nate.

58th
58th

I think it's fair to say that the "Critic's bias:" title would fit better at the beginning of the article. For a concert review, I'm not seeing a lot of concert criticism. I mean, if you filter out the author's obvious dislike for Gambino's lyrics and lack of real background info on the rapper, you only get a slight idea of what the show was actually like. Instead of discussing the energy he brought to a packed venue, we get to hear about how you couldn't really get to know him. That would be a solid autobiography review but come on... the setlist is the only part of this article that has any value to an unbiased reader. A lot of people had a lot of fun at that show and Donald Glover seemed to be one of them. I'm sorry the author wasn't.

RasinLung
RasinLung

Calm down white people. Go back to Woodbury and don't be late to your hosting shift at Buffalo Wild Wings. Axe Body spray. Butt-gulping Smirnoff...

sickboiforlife
sickboiforlife

Hey man, if you were hoping for some stand-up, you're too late.  He's not doing his Iamdonald tour anymore, he's just rapping.  And if you're not a fan of the lyrics, don't go to the show.  Watch Community, listen to his stand-up, and if you can't appreciate the other stuff, don't bash it, just praise what you do like.

Cbats
Cbats

Great review. Too bad Danny Brown couldn't make it cause that guy puts on an awesome show.

#criticalmedia
#criticalmedia

Yeah, some of this isn't even fact-checked. Okay, I don't know who this Jack Spencer guy is but Boo to half of what was said in the article. The opener was super horrible, had no real flow or identity on stage and the sound was horrible for him. Personally, I think the show shouldn't have been at Epic it's not a venue, it's a nightclub. And I think a lot of what he said about lyrical content has to do with being unable to love something and critique it at the same time. In the end, Gambino does say a lot of problematic things, but I think he is discredited mostly because he isn't the "typical" rap figure. He can talk about the intersections of race, class, and gender but he's not perfect and he's by far more authentic than most rappers around. And of course the audience was mostly white we live in the 13th whitest state, the 2nd whitest metropolitan area in the country and white kids buy the concert tickets. And that isn't just Minnesota that's world-wide. Either way, my baby Gambino sounded fantastic, and vocally he was super on point and his freestyle was genius. And that's all I gotta say about that! 

Gambino Fan
Gambino Fan

It's obvious that whoever wrote this article didn't like the show because they don't like Gambino's lyrics. I was at the show and the people there enjoyed it so much because they like his music, including the lyrics. If you want to give a negative review of his lyrics, review his album not his live show. Coming from someone who was also at the show, it was great and Glover had an awesome stage presence. 

Open Minded
Open Minded

Let's see, "Most of his lyrics are poor at best and questionably tasteless at worst," followed by "not being terribly familiar with the work prior to the show" and then ending with how excited you are to leave on a bus...  The review doesn't hold much water after that, sorry.

Cbats
Cbats

Yeah, fuck everyone who takes public transit!

Eohito01
Eohito01

A true fan! I loved the show. If you have followed his journey from Derrick Comedy to NBC meanwhile developing an musical outlet, you would understand why so many fans admire this guy. Im sorry but it wasn't Donald's show that was horrible, its this misguided reviewer who doesn't no good music from Ke$ha. In conclusion: Fuck you, you're the type of hater that just fuels Gambino and his fans. (middle finger raised high)

Bianca
Bianca

 I was with you till you said "no good music."

Then again, I could really care less about this show. I'm just a comment troll.

Research
Research

Damn.  I'd go if it wasn't at Epic.

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