For quite some time now I had been marking Xs on my calendar as they do in movies, counting down the days until I could finally get to see Childish Gambino live in concert, right here at Berkeley’s very own Greek Theater. The day came quicker than I anticipated, and on October 17, 2014, the world stopped turning on its axis for a few unholy hours.
The air was thick with anticipation (along with the smell of a certain drug paraphernalia that is an integral part of Berkeley’s character) as the heavily packed crowd ditched their worries and sobriety, waiting for the man himself. The opening act was a group of backpack rappers under name the Overdose, who in an effort to pump up the crowd, ended up terrifying much of the audience by throwing lit blunts into the mass of people and jumping into the crowd. (Note that one member came in a yellow Hazmat suit and was a sporting a green beard). The weird experience that was Overdose only reassured the audience of Gambino’s rapping genius.
When he finally took the stage, it was like nothing else. There he was, Donald Glover, with all his witty and weird and entirely real lyrics, wearing a translucent white shirt and blue skinny pants, ready to take us all away. Every song flowed seamlessly into the other, and Gambino thrilled the crowd with his funky dance moves (at one point he body rolled on one of the main speakers) and high notes. Notable songs included the ever-popular “3005”, “Shadows,” Worldstar,” and “Worst Guys.” Gambino was clearly thrilled to be at such a special venue in a location that meant so much to him. Repeatedly throughout the concert he uttered the words “Oh my god,” and it was apparent that he was enjoying the show just as much as we were. It was also a very special night, as the presence of a string ensemble allowed for an amazing performance of “Letter Home.” Moreover, he performed songs from the new Kauai mix tape, including “The Palisades” and “Sober,” which caused an eruption of elation. Throughout the entire performance the entire audience was screaming lyrics at Gambino, and at one point Gambino slightly paused to fix one concert goer’s camera positioning much to the entertainment of everyone else.
Appropriately so, Gambino ended his performance with “a love letter [he] wrote for us” : a particularly excellent rendition of “Telegraph Ave.” which even now floods my memory every time I walk down Telegraph from class.
After Gambino, the atmosphere shifted to one to allow for Eyrkah Badu’s mesmerizing personality. Many attendees including myself were not familiar with a lot of her music, but her Billie Holiday-esque voice, eccentric tendencies (she poured herself a cup of tea on stage) fun dance moves, and empowering messages made everyone fall in love. Not only was her set amazing and her vocal range astounding, but her lyrics which were heavy on the idea of female empowerment, fitted nicely with Berkeley’s historically activist ties. By the end of the night people were in a haze: they had just had their minds blown once by Gambino, and yet once more by the powerhouse that was Ms. Baydu.
It was so interesting to see shy and weird Troy from Community come to life as a the iconic Childish Gambino, proving to us with his lyricism, free-styling abilities, and absolutely adorable dance moves that he is anything but childish (and in fact all grown up).