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CHILDISH GAMBINO @ HBF Stadium gets 8/10


Childish Gambino @ HBF Stadium

Sunday, July 14, 2019

8/10

“I’d give you a 7.5-8, normally we’re around 9 by now,” Donald Glover teased on Sunday night, in one of many moments that got the crowd cheering wildly. After a pair of false starts and a downscale venue change from RAC Arena to HBF (formerly Challenge) Stadium, Childish Gambino‘s Glover finally made good on his promise to return to Perth.

In his first appearance here since headlining Listen Out in 2015, he squished a Coachella-sized production into the smaller surrounds of HBF’s 5,000 capacity venue, giving punters the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the most unique dancing and flexing on the planet.

The cult of personality surrounding the Atlanta, Star Wars and Community star is as much a drawcard as his songs, and experiencing one of the coolest people on the planet in such an intimate environment was undoubtedly the night’s highlight. A truly ‘Perth’ moment.

Now inseparable from his world-beating film clip of 2018 for This Is America, Glover appeared much as he does in that video: shirtless, bearded, in just light-coloured pants. Before long he was even sharing the weird facial expressions and contortions we’ve come to know and love, regularly making his way up and down what must be the first catwalk of its size in HBF Stadium. It was certainly spectacular from the outset, as the stage moved around to reveal a six-piece band plus gospel singers and dancers at various points.

“This is church,” said Glover, as he walked through the crowd early on. He explained there were two rules: “1. have a good time… 2. put your phones away”. We may have proven naughty church-goers half the night but a good time was had by all. Glover also apologised for it “taking a minute” to get to Perth and got all loved up about Tame Impala, telling us we “should be proud” (the quote “black people really fuck with Tame Impala” has been doing the rounds but to our ears he said “black people really fuck ‘to’ Tame Impala”).


Perhaps the first major highlight came with I. The Worst Guys which was completed with a mighty shred guitar solo (on a Flying V no less) from Ray Suen. Louder and more dynamic in concert than on his recordings, last album Awaken, My Love!” particularly benefited from a heavy-riffing, fuller sound reminiscent of Parliament and Funkadelic, as well as contemporaries such as Miguel.

To that end, Boogieman and Terrified were standouts, the latter complete with an epic gospel singing finale and underwater visuals on the big screens proving Glover still has the moves, even deep under the sea.

It all went too quickly in a hit-laden second half, which also featured a new song sure to be a future single called Human Sacrifice. It was a huge tribal highlight that saw Glover on the end of his catwalk ascend towards the heavens as the choir sang: “Holy Spirit… won’t you lift me up.” It was the perfect warm up for This Is America, an all-in celebration that marked the end of the main set with dancers in school uniforms delivering awesome moves including a backflip to which the lights cut and the audience went nuts.

Vision on the big screens of Glover backstage asking the crowd to cheer louder reminded us of a trick Dave Grohl has used in the past, and it worked a treat as even those in the seats got up for a killer four-song encore that included Sober, V. 3005, IV. Sweatpants and of course Redbone, closing the night. His falsetto on the latter was a particular highlight, and it became the song of the night when Glover leapt into the crowd at the end and got up in our faces, singing “I told you we were going to church… did you feel something Perth?”

It’s easy to imagine how electric this show might be headlining a festival or in a bigger venue, as some of the spectacle was perhaps lost in the smaller HBF Stadium and the abrupt finish left punters wanting more.

For those reasons only, maybe you’d give him a 7.5-8 like he did us… but we’ll round it up to an 8/10 for the opportunity to experience a truly world class performer in such intimate surrounds. For all the reports of Glover hanging up the Childish Gambino moniker soon, somehow it feels like he’s just getting started.

HARVEY RAE

Photos by Travis Hayto

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