Review: Childish Gambino supported by Channel Tres at Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, July 17th, 2019

Back in 2018, Aussie music fans were ecstatic to learn that Childish Gambino (that is, the musical persona of Donald Glover) would be making a return to Aussie shores for the first time since 2016.

As we now know, these shows didn’t happen thanks to the man himself suffering a foot injury. Of course, rescheduling prospects weren’t looking good either, with Gambino nearing the end of the project’s life cycle and relentless touring meaning he might not make it back to our shores.

Thankfully, this year’s Splendour In The Grass lineup meant that Gambino would indeed be keeping his promises to his Australian fans, with a run of sideshows following.

As you could expect, with a year of chart-topping appearances behind him, and the end of his musical project on the horizon, Donald Glover was determined to ensure his Australian fans got their money’s worth when they hit up Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday night.

Check out Childish Gambino’s ‘This Is America’:

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While it was clear that everyone at the venue was there to let Childish Gambino take them to church, the Wednesday worship session would have to wait a bit, with Compton rapper Channel Tres helping to warm up the crowd.

With a solitary EP to his name (and another one on the way), Channel Tres made sure that his second visit to Australia within nine months was one that fans would remember, ripping through a run of exceptional tracks.

Delivering tunes like the exceptional ‘Black Moses’ and ‘Top Down’, the young musician was joined by a pair of dancers who helped complement his lyrics by dropping devastating moves at every turn, recruiting Channel Tres into the fold to help make the minimal setup all the more exciting.

With a gorgeously deep voice, a smooth flow, funky, bass-laden tracks, and an uncanny ability to throw down some of the slickest rhymes you’ll hear anywhere, Channel Tres undoubtedly left the crowd wanting so much more than his all-too short timeslot would allow.

Nevertheless, with his Black Moses EP set for release in just a couple of weeks, you can be sure that these newfound fans will be giving that one a spin when it drops, and will welcome him back to Australia with open arms.

Check out ‘Top Down’ by Channel Tres:

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With the crowd undoubtedly feeling nice and loose following Channel Tres’ set, the excitement in the air was almost palpable. After all, what could the evening’s set consist of? Would we be hearing nothing but classics all night? Deep cuts from Camp? Or would we be scoring a set of all new tunes from his forthcoming – and supposedly final – album?

Thankfully, we didn’t have too long to wait, with an 8:30pm kick-off seeing the lights turn down before deafening applause soundtracked the appearance of a shirtless, bearded figure on the main walkway leading into the audience. This figure was Donald Glover, and he was here to let fans worship at the altar of Childish Gambino.

Kicking things off with a pair of new tracks, the smooth nature of ‘Atavista’ and ‘Algorythm’ helped get fans get into the mood, spouting out his ferocious lyrics with ease, and backing up his mesmerising control of the crowd with effortless dance moves and enviable energy.

Feeling like the start of the wildest party you’ve ever been to, the energy wasn’t going down a single notch, with a five-piece choir complementing a six-piece band as the beats, melodies, and resounding grooves were delivered with authority.

“This is church, motherfucker,” Gambino reminded the crowd, “and if you came here to have an experience, you’re in the right place.” Truly it felt like a holy experience, with the man of the hour soon laying down tracks from 2013’s Because The Internet as if they were new tracks he was excited to showcase for us.

Dipping into a rendition of ‘The Worst Guys’ with a blistering guitar solo, the atmosphere soon switched to near-apocalyptic, with the dizzying mix of spitfire lyrics, samples, lights, and chants of “WORLDSTAR” turning the song of the same name into one of the evening’s highlights.

Check out Childish Gambino’s ‘WORLDSTAR’:

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By now though, it was time for things to start feeling a little bit more soulful. After leaving the stage, the video screens showed Childish Gambino heading into the depths of the arena, only to loop around and re-enter near the top of the stalls.

Kicking things back off with some band introductions and vocal flourishes from the crowd, Gambino soon made his way back to the stage to deliver a five-song sampler of tracks from 2016’s “Awaken, My Love!”.

Powering through gorgeous versions of ‘Me And Your Mama’, ‘Boogieman’, ‘Have Some Love’, ‘Riot’, and ‘Terrified’, the hip-hop side of Childish Gambino gave way to the funky, R&B styles that his audience have come to know and love him for.

With the tracks almost blending together into a seamless medley at times, it was obvious that Donald Glover was one of the hardest-working musicians in the game, with his dedication, ability, and sheer brilliance shining through at every turn.

Before we knew it though, we were on our way to the end of the main set. Dishing out ‘Feels Like Summer’, fans were treated to a new song named ‘Human Sacrifice’, before a four-piece group of dancers helped accentuate the message behind ‘This Is America’.

Despite the geographically-incorrect statement that the title spouted, the meaning was as clear as ever, with fans bouncing like the floors were trampolines, chanting back the socially-conscious lyrics, and watching in awe as these young dancers left us feeling as though our own moves were woefully inadequate.

Check out Childish Gambino’s ‘Sweatpants’:

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After a brief trip backstage, Childish Gambino returned to do the one thing he does better than any artist on the scene today: the encore.

With ‘Sober’ being ironically punctuated by Glover’s acknowledgement of the audience smoking weed, Because The Internet got another look-in, with the crowd-pleasing duo of ‘3005’ and ‘Sweatpants’ undoubtedly providing some of the biggest singalongs, and most exceptional lyrical deliveries, of the night.

While fans were visibly lamenting the impending conclusion of the evening, things did happen to take a hopeful lean, with Glover promising that despite the supposed end of his Childish Gambino project on the way, he would indeed see us again next time.

As excited glances were exchanged between fans, the funky masterpiece that is ‘Redbone’ soon found itself entering our ears, undoubtedly helping to close out one of the biggest musical events many fans would see this year.

With Glover pushing himself to extreme vocal levels, and dancing and moving around like a man possessed, it was clear that if he wanted to, he could’ve gone on for another few hours – a notion that would’ve been well received from the eager crowd.

Undoubtedly though, Childish Gambino is one of those rare performers who gives back to his crowd exactly what he would want to receive. As that footage of him at a Beastie Boys concert shows, he’s a performer who doubles as a fan, and ensures that he gives only the phenomenal performance he too would expect from his musical idols.

With shows that are as immersive, interactive, and mesmerising as they are entertaining, these performances undoubtedly herald the end of an era for many fans. If Childish Gambino does indeed keep his promise and retire this moniker after his next album, the world of music – and Aussie concert stages – will undoubtedly feel the loss.

At least we’ll have the holy experience that is a Childish Gambino headline show to look back on with fond memories.

Check out Childish Gambino’s ‘Feels Like Summer’:

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Childish Gambino @ Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne 17/7/19 Setlist

‘Atavista’
‘Algorythm’
‘Summertime Magic’
‘I. The Worst Guys’
‘II. Worldstar’
‘Me And Your Mama’
‘Boogieman’
‘Have Some Love’
‘Riot’
‘Terrified’
‘Feels Like Summer’
‘Human Sacrifice’
‘This Is America’

Encore:

‘Sober’
‘V. 3005’
‘IV. Sweatpants’
‘Redbone’

Childish Gambino Australian Tour 2019

(Remaining Dates)

Friday, July 19th
Spin Off Festival, Adelaide, SA

Saturday, July 20th
Splendour In The Grass, Byron Bay, NSW

Wednesday, July 24th
With Channel Tres
Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney, NSW

Tickets on sale now through Live Nation