Hometown performances typically carry added pressure to deliver for friends, family and fans that have championed an artist’s cause from the start. When Donald Glover’s rap project Childish Gambino announced a March show at the Tabernacle, it wasn’t a surprise that the show quickly sold out. Unfortunately, a fractured foot would postpone the highly anticipated Atlanta show a few months. No one would fault the rising emcee if increased pressure would affect him, but Childish Gambino overcame early nerves/excitement and dispatched a fiery performance on Sunday night.
When Glover dressed in a blue-violet hoodie took the stage with band members in tow, fans were already jumping and ready to mimic his every move. A giant video screen served as a backdrop that visualized scenes appropriately themed to align with Childish Gambino’s debut album Camp. He kicked off the night greeting Atlanta fans with cinematic offerings “Outside” and “Firefly” in what sounded more like excited shouting than performing. After taking a moment to catch his breath, Glover proclaimed true Gambino fans would know his next cut as the intro to “Freaks and Geeks” was cued. Glover rapidly delivered every line with authority and dismissed any early jitters.
As the set moved on and the heat in the Tabernacle escalated, Glover quickly dropped his hoodie in favor of A Tribe Called Quest “Marauders” t-shirt that surely met the approval of hip-hop heads in the crowd. For the rest of the night, Glover was clearly more comfortable and performed everything from mixtape hits, new songs and favorites from Camp. Glover’s memorable bars from his remix of “Rolling In The Deep” were punctuated by each band member commanding a drumstick and hand claps by fans. While a live tuba would have been appreciated, the buzzing brass on “You See Me” amplified the energy of Glover and the crowd. Smirks and laughs were peppered throughout the crowd as each punchline and metaphor was displayed on the screen. Highlight of the night came when fans bounced to the Daft Punk-inspired bass line of “Heartbeat”. A beating pulse line on the screen above glowed red in sync with thundering bass while Childish Gambino interspersed rapping succinct bars with singing the moody hook.
Chants of “Gambino” gave Glover quick reason to return to the stage for an encore performance draped with a sweat drenched towel and t-shirt sleeves rolled up. Sans the backing band, Childish Gambino expertly flowed and mock-scratched over the beat to hip-hop anthem “Rack City” before launching into new material from his soon to be released mixtape. While Camp’s tracks have a more universal appeal, much of the new tracks Glover worked out on stage had a guttery, bass heavy sound that delve deeper into hip-hop’s current low BPM trend. Anyone who wasn’t as familiar with new songs was easily pleased as Glover closed with the synth-tinged “Lights Turned On” and the entire building shook. Donald Glover proclaimed “I love you A-Town with all my heart” and apparently A-Town felt the same about their hometown hero.