Live review: Childish Gambino at Riviera Theatre


Finding the right words to describe the show I experienced Wednesday night has been difficult. So if I don’t make complete sense, forgive me. You see, Wednesday night, I went to see Danny Brown and Childish Gambino at the Riviera.

Detroit’s Danny Brown opened the show to a mixed reception. To my left were a handful of guys clearly there to see Brown, and to my right were some ignorant drunks who booed him the entire time. Brown did his set with just himself and his DJ and had my side of the crowd going bonkers. For the rest of the evening, you would hear chants of “SWAG, SWAG, SWAG” whenever there was a lull between sets. The amazing thing that Brown did, which I have rarely seen from any artist from any genre, is he didn’t just jump into the front of the crowd, he worked his way to the middle where I had been enjoying myself, and actually put his arm around the dick that had been booing him the loudest. Legendary. While performing “Radio Song,” he got the crowd to dance and cheer, but could switch to making everyone fear for their lives with his sheer passion.

Now, I think it is important to note an event that happened between Brown and Gambino’s sets. While waiting, I heard the familiar “Asshole” chant (for those who aren’t familiar it is a lovely chant for when someone, an asshole if you will, attempts to shove their way to the front of the stage), and knowing what it meant I didn’t really think about it. Unitl, I see that said “Asshole” is a very drunk female barreling through the crowd with a very embarrassed friend trailing behind her. She is ignoring the chant until she shoves a girl in a group of three. Said girl then grabs Asshole by the throat and says, “I don’t think so.” Now, here’s the thing, I did not want this to be a memory of Chicago for either Danny Brown or Childish Gambino, but, sometimes these things happen and Chicago is not a city for drunk girls to be dicks. So naturally Asshole’s friend turns and goes back through the crowd with a “You’re on your own” expression on her face.  The scuffle was broken up by other members of the crowd, and naturally throat grabbing girl was applauded.

That having been said, the tone of the crowd was a little uneasy now, as near-fights tend to make it. Then Childish Gambino stepped on stage, and a shift happened. Suddenly, the crowd was together. He opened with “Outside” and everybody became his disciples. Everyone knew every word to his songs. It seemed to even take him aback; throughout the show, feet may have accidentally been stepped or heads accidentally hit, but instead of glares and shoves, lyrics were delivered.

You could see Gambino feeding off the energy like it was his drug. When he sang, yes sang “Letter Home,” it brought tears to my eyes. That man can definitely sing as well as rap. When he performed “I Be On That,” he utilized the full band he had behind him, which includedCommunity composer Ludwig Goransson, and he did it in a punk style that really wowed. Towardthe tail end of his set, he even freestyled and I saw a lot of jaws on the floor.

What became clear by the end of the show is the passion Glover has for his alter ego. Waiting for the show, I remembered a lot of audience members wondering and hoping he would do some of his stand-up bits. But that’s not what the show was about. And I don’t think anyone was disappointed he didn’t. He was there as Gambino, proving that music matters to him, that he’s talented, and most importantly that it’s us, his fans, that make it worthwhile.

(cover image courtesy of Hypebeast)