The rain could dampen the grounds of New York’s Central Park Summerstage, but it wasn’t enough to dampen the spirits of a sold-out crowd for Childish Gambino on Monday night (June 25). The slight delay from the rain certainly put the attendees a little on-edge — before the openers took the stage, shouts for the show to start could be heard from all edges of the Central Park venue.
Following Danny Brown and ScHoolboy Q‘s shortened sets due to the earlier storm, Gambino took the stage and began dominating the outdoor area with hits from “Camp,” cuts from his earlier EPs and songs from his forthcoming mixtape, to be released July 4.
Childish Gambino (also known as comedian Donald Glover, of “Community” fame) moved seamlessly in between soulful R&B and energetic rap throughout the night. Nothing showcased this dichotomy better than “Camp” single “Heartbeat,” in which Gambino went from restrained crooning about love to nearly out-of-control rhymes. As Gambino blew through his small discography, including tracks like “Firefly,” “Difference” and “You See Me,” he never tripped up or missed a beat; he even warned the audience at one point to “watch his mouth” while he spat out rhymes.
Meanwhile, the rapper’s backing band, consisting of several drummers, a guitarist, bassist and even a violinist, created a wave of sound that was more full than any of Gambino’s recorded material. “I want to see every one of you move. This isn’t a rap concert, this is a rock ‘n’ roll concert!” the MC ordered before launching into a freestyle rap over Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep.”
Childish Gambino has hypnotized huge crowds before, but the former NYU studen seemed genuinely humbled and surprised in front of the New York audience. “I got my start rapping here, and I never thought this could happen. Thank you,” he said in between songs. After Gambino’s hour-long set, he returned for a six-song encore, which mainly consisted of new material from his upcoming mixtape “Royalty.” There was also an impressive, extended freestyle with Brown and ScHoolboy Q onstage before Gambino closed out the night with “Lights Turned On.”