Written by Emilee Lindner • Photography by Sachyn Mital • June 4, 2017
New York -- "With this album, I tried to speak from my soul and shit, but sometimes you want to turn up," Donald Glover cooed in the mic after opening his 2017 Governors Ball set with a few cuts off his lauded 2016 LP, Awaken, My Love!. "So let's do that," he continued as the funk of "The Palisades" bounced into his set and thousands of people let it wash over them.
That was the thesis of Childish Gambino's Gov Ball show on Saturday night (June 3) -- the soul and the turn-up. The set was Glover's only show of the year planned so far (which he later confimed at the end of his performance) and his first North American show since the release of his album. So, when festivalgoers chose to spend their time with him over co-headliner Phoenix that night, they knew they were getting something special and exclusive.
Throughout the show, fans got everything from angst (Glover spit onstage during "Worldstar") to sex anthems (his cover of Tamia's "So Into You" will make you want to cuddle up to your partner) to songs "to smoke weed to" ("I love good weed," Glover boasts before launching into the chill "California").
Although his Awaken, My Love! single "Redbone" may have surpassed the success of his previous releases, he made sure to take it back for his original fans as well. "I wanna play a few songs you should know if you want to be a true Gambino fan," he said. He dove into "Crawl," "Sweatpants" and the beloved "3005," all off 2013's Because The Internet. Preceding each track, he designated a level of fandom to each one -- if you knew "Crawl," you were an OG; if you knew "Sweatpants," you were a real fan; and if you knew "3005," well, everybody knows that song.
The set had super chill, sexy moments, as Awaken, My Love! allowed Glover to sink into a deeper, more R&B tone. He sings more than raps, yells, squeals and uses instrumentation in a way that he hadn't done before. Glover hosted horns and a killer guitarist onstage, along with the smoothest group of backup singers you've ever heard. The music benefited when those singers were mixed higher in the overall sound and you could hear them belting out gospel harmonies throughout all of Randall's Island. "The Palisades" gave way to "Riot," a rock-heavy tune highly reminiscent of Lenny Kravitz (if Lenny Kravitz slipped into psychedelics for a moment). A warbling organ seemed to swallow everything, but Glover slowly stripped down the performance as each instrument dropped out. "I need bass," he yelled, and the bassist fingered out an incredible solo, Glover singing along to double up on the notes. The guitar busted out a Hendrix-style "Star-Spangled Banner" to end the song.
Glover took his energy down to the audience too. And somewhere throughout the show his shirt went missing. When the "Free Information" segment of his "Zealots in Stockholm" blared through the speakers, he ran throught the crowd barriers, security workers hustling to keep up with him. "This needs to go to an 8," he yelled to the audience. "Feel free to go to a 10."
"You guys have been exactly what I needed," he said before leaving the stage, only to come out to play a five-song encore with everyone at a 10.
FIND TICKETS FOR
FIND TICKETS FOR