Donald Glover has showcased his talents across a diverse array of mediums since his graduation from NYU, and while his role on NBC’s “Community” is maybe his most notable, his longest standing and most controversial act has been his musical career, which he began under the stage name of Childish Gambino.
Performing at the Hammerstein Ballroom on Saturday night, Gambino drew quite a number of fans from a variety of demographics — all three balconies were packed. The moment Gambino took the stage for his set, it was easy to see why thousands of fans came out for the show.
On stage, Glover’s acting background shone through — he knows how to channel emotion when he performs. He jumped around, pounded the keys and got downright groovy with his moves. He hid nothing while owning both the stage and the crowd. He was wired.
At other times he seemed softer, as heard in the lyrics of “3005,” “I’ve lost all hope of a happy ending/Depending on whether or not it’s worth it, so insecure, no one’s perfect.”
Yet in the same set he showed his vigor. In a fit of rage during his song “The Party,” Gambino ordered several girls who were lounging on couches in the performance to get off the stage. He rapped a line about having multiple girlfriends, then stared wide eyed at the crowd, as if saying, “Yeah, I can’t believe I did it either.”
After working through the majority of his latest album “Because the Internet” and singing an exceptional version of “Urn,” Gambino exited the stage to the crescendo of “Earth: The Oldest Computer.”
Afterward, he returned for an encore, but he might as well have come on for another set.
Gambino went back to his “Culdesac” mixtape, rapping “Do Ya Like” over Adele’s looping croons and performing a mashup of “So Fly” and “I Got This Money.” Steve G. Lover, Gambino’s brother, also came out to perform “One Up.”
In total, 10 songs were performed during the encore. Gambino finished with a fiery rendition of “Bonfire” before spitting a freestyle and exiting the stage a second time.
As great as the set was, the real magic happened in the private after-show at The Cutting Room.
During the private set it seemed as if the rapper’s mask had been lifted. He was not Childish Gambino — long gone was the serious, wide-eyed, smirking persona that had electrified Hammerstein two hours ago. He was a smiling Donald. Perhaps it was the company he had invited. Glover invited rappers Ab-Soul and Joey Bada$$, as well as the singer Lion Babe, to the event. Each artist performed one of his tracks over a jazz backdrop before collaborating with Glover on other songs. The highlight of night was the cover of Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You,” which Glover sang with Lion Babe.
Yet, for most of the after-show, Glover sat against a pillar to the right of the stage, letting the others take the spotlight. A small smirk crept onto his face, growing into a full grin that the crowd could not help but mirror.
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, April 3 print edition. Adam Kargenian is a contributing writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.