Donald Glover is a man of many talents. On television, he is “Community’s” Troy Barnes, on the big screen he has produced, written and acted in “Mystery Team” as well as worked on “30 Rock.” But on Friday, he entered the Thunderdome as rapper Childish Gambino.
Promoting his latest album Because the Internet, Gambino planned to kick off “The Deep Web” tour in Oakland but canceled the show due to technical difficulties. Luckily for us, this meant that Gambino’s stop at UCSB was his tour starter.
Although doors were scheduled to open at 6:30 p.m., A.S. Program Board pushed entry back an hour in order to make sure all technical issues were settled to avoid another cancellation. Naturally, the line outside the Thunderdome (which almost resembled the insanely long line at last year’s Extravaganza) became very antsy.
When we were finally allowed to enter the arena, excited fans rushed to the front of the stage while a DJ played popular rap and hip-hop tracks. However, Gambino didn’t show face for another hour and a half so the crowd entertained themselves by chanting “Worldstar, worldstar” or “Ole, ole, ole … Gauchos, Gauchos.” There was also a smartphone app which allowed attendees to draw and tweet things straight to an onstage screen, which quickly disintegrated into dick pics, fraternity bashing and jokes that Gambino’s delayed arrival was due to diarrhea.
At 9 p.m., the lights finally dimmed and an ominous, electronic voice began the show by reciting a strange story (that can be found on Childish Gambino’s official website). The story ended with the words “Be Aware,” which flashed on the screen. The backdrop then transformed from glowing fractals to what looked like a cathedral. Gambino finally arrived on stage with a bang, literally, accompanied by a rock band, and started the show off with hits from his latest album such as “I. The Crawl,” “I. The Worst Guys” and “II. Worldstar.”
Unfortunately for those in the crowd or anywhere near the crowd, pushing was the chosen dance move of the night and it was impossible to enjoy the first few songs. Nevertheless, I didn’t really feel the need to be up close and personal; I already had the luck of being at the very front of Gambino’s set at Coachella back in 2012. So I headed to the back, thankful that the show was put on in the Thunderdome (and not the Hub) as the bleachers provided both comfort and a great view of the stage.
Whereas the crowd and the long wait could have easily ruined the show, the production was absolutely phenomenal. There were curtains of rain, great visuals, amazing acoustics and Gambino’s energy was a spectacle in itself. Towards the end of the show, the music and lights stopped and Gambino showed off his skill by performing an a capella, freestyle rap.
He then announced that he would play songs off his previous album titled Camp, and that’s when the fun really began.
Instead of rapping each song individually as he did for Because the Internet, Gambino created a mash-up of “Bonfire,” “Fire Fly” and “Heartbeat.” To my — and, I’m guessing, many others’ — disappointment, he did not play “You See Me.”
Overall, the night was definitely a memorable one. Despite the delays and rowdy crowds, people were still getting down and dirty and really feeling the show. I even saw a human centipede of grinding on the bleachers. Despite the rocky start to his tour, I’m sure he’ll amaze crowds at all the future venues of the genuinely amazing “Deep Web” tour.
Photo by Kenneth Song / Daily Nexus
A version of this story appeared on page 9 of Thursday, March 6, 2014’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
[Edit: The original article stated that Glover had appeared in “The Mystery Show” instead of “Mystery Team.” Changes have been made to the online version.]