Donald Glover is probably having a mixed week. Saturday, he played a show that people who are Donald Glover would have to consider a major success. The show was good, and I’ll get to that in a moment. The rapper/comedian/actor sold out the Nokia Theater at LA Live, while doing only the first of those three things under his Childish Gambino moniker. Tuesday marks the release of Camp, his first full-length album, the future of which looks promising given the small-sample response that was this show. Today, though, NBC announced that the third season of Glover’s show, Community, would be shelved indefinitely at midseason. NBC has promised all 22 episodes of the show’s third season will be filmed and air at some point, but still, this is not great news for the critically acclaimed and audiencely unwatched series. I can’t say I feel bad for Glover in particular – dude figures to be OK – but that has to put something of a damper on an otherwise celebratory occasion. Anyway, Saturday’s show.

 

As I said above, it was good. The show opened with a DJ set that would have been too long under the best circumstances, and this felt like watching someone from an American Apparel billboard play DJ Hero for an hour plus. It was a whole lot of, “It was all a dream!”, wicky-wicky-scratch, ad boredom. Yeah, bad opening acts have been around since there have been headliners to open for, but this was about on par with a human beatbox and an iPod. It was a test of patience, made possible by gin and tonic and viewers like you.

 

Happily, that patience paid off once Glover took the stage. First and foremost the guy is clearly influenced by current era Kanye West. He plays with a backing band (led by collaborator and Community composer Ludwig Goransson) whose strings and choir chants give the affair a theatricality that mimics Kanye and Drake, both of whom get name checked in Glover’s lyrics. Glover even threw in a cover of West’s “All of the Lights”, a highlight of the show. All the orchestration and chanting can feel overdone on record, but in concert it provided just the right amount of bombast to match Glover’s engrossing stage presence, all snarls and chest pounding days away from the self-deprecating world of standup.

 

In fact, if the show had a theme it was how much better Childish Gambino is as a live act than a studio artist. All of Glover’s strongest attributes came to the forefront, and his weaknesses were far less noticeable. Glover has a gift for punchlines, which shouldn’t come as a surprise, and not unlike seeing a comedian on stage versus on record, those lines hit harder coming from a live person to a packed crowd than through stereo speakers. Childish Gambino may not have a ton of experience as a rapper just yet, but Donald Glover has spent plenty of time onstage and it shows. The man knows how to engage an audience. His commitment to keeping the energy level high had the side effect of keeping the uninteresting ballads to a minimum: you shouldn’t try to make My Dark Twisted Fantasy before you’ve made The College Dropout.

 

The show ended with a bunch of Glover’s Community cast-mates joining him on stage, along with Blake Griffin because, hey, whatever. The latter was especially fun to see, but probably only because I like to imagine that pro athletes all live at whatever stadium they play in, so I assume Blake Griffin walked to the show. Hopefully sometime soon Griffin will be playing basketball and Donald Glover will be filming more episodes of Community, but if not, maybe they can hang out?

 

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