The clock ticks on to 9, and the excruciating build-up is finally over. The music stops, and the lights go down. Raucous cheers go up from the assembled masses and the silhouetted figures of Gambino’s backing band come striding out. I’m stood on my tiptoes now, neck craned and… Yes. There he is. I let out an involuntary girlish shriek as Donald Glover emerges from the darkness. It’s a surreal feeling of excitement and it takes a second for me to properly realise that yes, Childish Gambino is indeed stood on the stage in front of me.
Beforehand I’d been harbouring ever so slight concerns about what this gig was going to be like. In the past, I’ve found live rap to be a bit hit and miss; Dizzee Rascal at Leeds Festival in 2010 put on a good show, but Odd Future on that same stage two years later were by all accounts utterly forgettable. It takes approximately thirty seconds for these feelings of trepidation to be assuaged, as Bino launches straight into I. Crawl from 2013’s new album Because The Internet. His enthusiasm is like nothing I’ve ever seen in a live show before as he leaps around the stage, barely staying still for more than a few seconds at a time as he implores the eager fans to bounce with him.
The crowd is loving every second as he leads into I. The Worst Guys and II. Shadows. His vocals are absolutely on point and the band are top-notch as well. The atmosphere inside the tiny sold-out Manchester venue is electric and we’re only ten minutes into the set. The three new tracks are followed up by a medley of older tunes, as Glover effortlessly rips through extracts from Freaks and Geeks and Fire Fly (taken from 2011’s debut full-length album Camp), before a brief freestyle (the first of two, but more on that later) that leads into fan favourite Bonfire. As soon as those siren sounds begin echoing throughout the room, the building practically takes off from the combined force of the jumping crowd.
Camp is represented once more in the 12 track set in the form of Heartbeat, with tracks from BTI filling out the rest of the spots with the exception of set-closer Lights Turned On (from 2011’s succintly-named EP). Glover and co. leave the stage but the sweaty, heaving masses assembled before him aren’t done yet. Chants of “Bino! Bino!” and “Wooooorldstaaaar!” resonate through the smoky enclave. Of course the show isn’t over yet, and in some respects Glover has saved the best for last. He returns to the stage minus the backing band to introduce a special guest; his brother Steve has joined him on the mic and the two reward the patient crowd with an excellent rendition of One Up from 2012’s bumper Royalty EP.
There are a couple more tracks belted out by the brothers Glover before the encore’s showpiece is bestowed upon the awestruck crowd. The two of them launch into a glorious 5 minute freestyle (see, I told you there’d be more on this later) that serves to properly demonstrate the wit and writing talents that they both possess in spades. However, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end and we’ve unfortunately reached that point in tonight’s proceedings. The finale of the generous 5 song encore is the penultimate track from BTI, II. Earth: The Oldest Computer (The Last Night). It’s a hauntingly beautiful performance that caps off a truly one of a kind show.
I generally believe that when it comes to reviews, scores of 10/10 are somewhat hollow – can anything really be that perfect? Well, for what I’m sure will be one of a very select few times, the answer to that question is yes. I can find literally no fault with what I witnessed at Gorilla on Wednesday night, and as sad as it may seem I genuinely believe I will never witness anything quite so special again.
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