Modern renaissance man Donald Glover made it clear his December 15 Gila River Arena appearance as Childish Gambino wasn’t a concert – it was church.
The singer, rapper, stand-up comedian, and actor with roles in Solo: A Star Wars Story and Community emphasized that point several times throughout the rescheduled event, which was originally set for October until he reportedly broke his foot. Vince Staples opened.
The evening was a song-and-dance affair. Glover balanced his diverse catalog of material, which ranges from hip-hop to soul, funk and R&B, all the while dancing and giving it his all. The performance was elaborate, with a live band supporting from the pit, and lights, screens, smoke and dancers queued throughout the evening.
Glover’s set began with alien-like sounds and beams emanating from the stage. Then, a light flashed and the curtain dropped. A lone Glover stood on a platform in the crowd, beam shooting straight up behind him as new, unreleased song “Atavista” played over the speakers. Glover then sprung into action with another new cut, “Algorythm,” which was followed by “Summertime Magic,” one of two summer-themed songs he released in July. The other, “Feels Like Summer,” came later in the set. It was followed by yet another unreleased song he has been performing on the tour, “Human Sacrifice.”
Though he teased plenty of new material ahead of what is reported to be his final studio album under the Childish Gambino moniker, Glover also appeased fans who have stuck with him over the years. He revisited 2013’s Because the Internet for “I. The Worst Guys” and “II. Worldstar,” followed by a string of songs from 2016’s “Awaken, My Love!” Exiting the stage after “II. Worldstar,” Glover was followed by a camera crew and security who led him down the aisle between sections 102 and 103. Surrounded by filming fans, he sang “Stand Tall” before returning to the stage for a portion of “Me and Your Mama.”
When his band eased into “Riot,” which is heavily based around Funkadelic’s “Good to Your Earhole,” Glover rated the crowd a 7.5 but said attendees still had time to get it up to an 11. A short song in its studio format, the live version was extended and featured a more jam-like structure.
The main portion of the evening ended with the tour’s namesake song, “This is America,” which went viral in May due to its evocative music video and social commentary. Though simple in composition, the dichotomy of the song’s melodic, Afrobeat-inspired hook and dark and ominous yet energetic verses served as a strong sendoff – at least for a moment.
Glover wasn’t done.
He kicked off a four-song encore with “Sober,” from the 2014 combined EP/mixtape STN MTN / Kauai, followed by a return to Because the Internet for “V. 3005” and “IV. Sweatpants.” During the former, Glover teased a snippet of “Bonfire,” from his 2011 debut album, Camp.
The true fitting conclusion came with the multiplatinum-selling “Redbone.” Glover took the song to the fans as he walked through the crowd one last time before returning to the stage to wrap it up and thank ticket holders. And if the cheering crowd was indicative of anything, it’s that fans left feeling satisfied.
Earlier in the evening, as fans filed into the Arizona Coyotes’ venue, Vince Staples kicked off his own set with the eerie “Norf Norf.” The Summertime ’06 track and others like Hell Can Wait’s squealing “Blue Suede” contrasted with much of Staples’ set, which was based around his bouncy new project, FM!
Staples performed eight of FM!’s eleven tracks, emitting only the interludes. Though released in October, the project exudes the vibe that Long Beach, California, Staples’ hometown, always feels like summer, which is reflected in the lyrics to the song of the same name. The radio-inspired project’s songs contrast weighty lyrics with a hyphy, Bay Area-inspired sound that carried over into Staples’ energetic performance.
Comparatively more simple than Glover’s set, Staples performed alone on stage with simple, black-and-white video feeds behind and to the sides. The crowd was enthusiastic, with some audience members expressing delight when Staples would perform recognizable songs. The audience cheered along as the California rapper repeatedly checked to make sure everyone was feeling good and having fun.
Aside from FM!, Staples also revisited four cuts from last year’s comparatively more experimental Big Fish Theory, ranging from the funky “745” to the Juicy J-featuring “Big Fish.” Perhaps saving the best for last, however, Staples closed out with “Yeah Right” — and the song proved to be even more massive in person. Forward-thinking PC Music affiliate SOPHIE’s and wonky beatmaker Flume’s bass-heavy, clanking production reverberated through the arena as Staples encouraged the crowd to echo his hook. Though the Kendrick Lamar feature was glossed over due to the Compton MC’s obvious absence, the song proved to be the perfect finale for Staples.
Setlist – Childish Gambino
I. The Worst Guys
Me and Your Mama
Have Some Love
Feels Like Summer
This is America
Setlist – Vince Staples
Don’t Get Chipped
Run the Bands
Rain Come Down
Feels Like Summer