Pomona College’s Bridges Auditorium welcomed Donald Glover, otherwise known as Childish Gambino, to the stage Saturday night.
The concert opened with DJ Xclusive, a Chicago native who has had his remixes featured on worldstarhiphop.com. He entertained the audience with several prerecorded “conversations” compiled from snippets of R&B songs. One of these was a Michael Jackson tribute. He also showed off some impressive vogue-style dance moves as his remixes blared.
Then, Childish Gambino took the stage for a high-energy, hour-long performance. Gambino performed hits from his successful 2011 album, Camp, with beats from his recently released mixtape, Royalty. In one of the highlights of the concert, he let loose a crisp freestyle that drew some of the loudest cheers of the night.
The rap artist gave several shout-outs to his dedicated fans, especially those familiar with Royalty and his other mixtapes. At the same time, Glover reached out to those audience members who might know him better as Troy Barnes on the sitcom Community, if at all. For some songs, the lyrics were projected onto a backdrop.
Gambino’s tracks are recognizable for the interesting variety of songs they sample, from Adele to the soundtracks of 1990s video games. Even fans less familiar with Gambino’s work were able to sing along to the riffs from songs like “Rolling in the Deep.”
Regardless of how well the majority of the audience knew Gambino’s music, concertgoers were mesmerized by the intensity of the performance he gave. Emotion engulfing his famously animated face, he prowled the stage, barely pausing to catch his breath between songs. His lyrics traversed from rap clichés to the poignantly confessional.
Gambino showed moments of vulnerability, rapping wistfully about childhood Saturday mornings in pajamas, alongside references to his struggles with substances: “God damn, man, there’s gotta be a better way than pill-poppin’ all these drugs so I can stay awake,” he rapped in “Not Going Back.” During his New York City tribute, “L.E.S.,” a video played on the screen depicting chic-looking twenty-somethings getting late-night fast food and kissing in the back of taxicabs.
His lyrics, thrown on top of a bass so deep it felt like it was resetting the audience’s heartbeats, drove attendees to congregate in the front and dance.
Before the audience knew it, Childish Gambino was walking backstage. Many students stuck around, expecting an encore, before making their way over to Alter Ego’s Freaks and Geeks after party. But what the concert lacked in duration, it made up for in energy.
At the beginning of his performance, Gambino declared, “Fuck seats,” and Claremont took heed. Security staff spent much of the concert trying to restrain people from blocking the aisles. Such rambunctious behavior is hardly common for audiences in Big Bridges, but Childish Gambino’s spellbinding mastery of lyricism and delivery turned the normally docile 5C students into a bunch of freaks and geeks.