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Childish Gambino Wows Crowd at Centennial Park

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The performer brings over the top energy to his set opening for Outkast

The view from the cheap (free!) seats outside the show.

 

After walking around almost the whole perimeter of Centennial Olympic Park last Saturday, looking for a place where I was in decent ear shot of the happenings inside, I finally found the perfect spot in front of the Embassy Suites. Although I wasn’t able to obtain a press pass I was still determined to cover Outkast opening act Childish Gambino’s performance. Around me, there were other unlucky onlookers who had to settle for enjoying the show from afar. From our point of view, my fellow short people and I were lucky enough to see the top fourth of the two mega screens and the upper half of the stage. Promptly at 6:00 p.m., the filler music faded and there was a beat of silence before the ground started quaking from the sound emitting from the stage.

Hearing Childish Gambino perform live is a totally different experience than listening to him on Spotify or other music streaming platforms. On his most recent album, “Because the Internet,” he raps with an air of aloofness. The emotion is still there but it’s diluted, almost lost. At Centennial Olympic Park, Gambino’s voice came through the breezy autumn air hard and angry as he delivered his first song of the night, “I. Crawl.” From what I could barely see, Gambino couldn’t stay still. The performer, who grew up in Stone Mountain, was all over the stage, highly animated, like a child on a sugar high. His emotion and his energy on stage were contagious. The crowd was in sync, like a perfectly oiled machine, which created a kind of creepy effect, seeing thousands of people bouncing on their toes at the same time.

As he transitioned into “II. Worldstar” the intensity didn’t falter. I love when an artist can step away from the mic and let the audience fill in the sound. People from all directions around me screamed, “WORLDSTAR!,” maybe as an attempt to feel a part of the crowd inside the park or maybe as a desperate attempt for Gambino to hear them.

His third song, and one of my personal favorites on his new album, “I. The Worst Guys,” ended up being a bit of a disappointment when Chance the Rapper didn’t accompany Gambino on stage.

Somewhere between the end of “I. The Worst Guys” and the beginning of “II. Shadows” Gambino misplaced his shirt, which is understandable since he had been rocketing from one end of the stage to the other nonstop, only pausing for a moment or two between songs.

“IV. Sweatpants” was a hit with the spectators in and outside the venue. Gambino had the audience reciting every word, as if it were as easy as saying the alphabet. People really started getting into the song, letting loose and getting a little carried away with the music and Gambino’s sporadic energy.

One thing that pleasantly surprised me about Childish Gambino’s performance is that he incorporated singing into most of his set. His ability to hit high notes was eye opening to me. Although he didn’t perform a whole ballad, the crowd still appreciated the praise-worthy singing voice that Gambino doesn’t often exhibit. Even the handful of people around me were taken aback by his singing ability.

“III. Telegraph Ave. (Oakland by Lloyd)” was another minor letdown of the night. When performed live, Gambino blurred the lines between rapping and singing which started to make a mess of the song, until the end when he decided to stick with singing and executed the last chorus beautifully.

As Gambino moved into his older material, the crowd’s cheers roared louder. Gambino’s voice cut through the air sharper and clearer with every word of “Heartbeat” and “Fire Fly.” His body movements progressively got more extreme, sweat poured out of his body as he poured out his soul to his fans.

He even performed songs from his mixtapes. He performed “Black Faces” from “Royalty” and “Do Ya Like” from “Culdesac,” to name a few. The glimpses that I got of his face from the mega screen were full of passion. He has come a long way from being the disrespected rapper working his way up to the top to where he is now, opening for Outkast. Maybe that’s why he said “thank you” after almost every song and why the expression on his face was so powerful and fierce.

As the hour drew to an end, Gambino ended his set in the most badass way possible, going back to his “Camp” album to perform his last song of the night, “Bonfire.” The stage lights flashed and Gambino barked out the lyrics. And then, suddenly there was nothing, white noise for a half a second, until the mic hit the stage floor. The screens faded to black and the crowd inside the park sounded like a muffled stadium of cheers.

Outkast made a great decision to have Childish Gambino open for them in their Atlanta show. His over the top energy never faltered. He really warmed up the crowd for a good time. Not only did he perform fantastically but he also had a live band backing him. The live guitar solo in “I. The Worst Guys,” along with the drummer pounding away complemented the show well, without overpowering Gambino. If you weren’t able to go to the show last Saturday or would like to relive it, go on Instagram, type in #childishgambino, and flick through all the photos and videos others have posted.

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