Last Night: Donald Glover/Childish Gambino at South Side Music Hall

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Donald Glover/Childish Gambino
South Side Music Hall
May 2, 2011

Better than: open mic night at the Dallas Comedy House.

There's no doubting the popularity of actor/comedian Donald Glover and his maybe-not-moonlighting-gig as rapper Childish Gambino. The ticket sales for his Dallas show last night sure stand as a testament to that: After originally being slated to take place at the 400-or-so-capacity venue The Loft, this show, once having sold out that room, was moved to the much-larger-capacity (by about 1,100 people) venue of the South Side Music Hall. And there, too, this show sold out.

So, yes, the audience was quite large -- eager, too -- by the time Glover took to the stage last night.

And even thought cheering for Glover at this point is kind of like cheering for your likable high school class president to win his fourth straight election, the crowd rooted him along without pause over the course of his 90-minute, rather non-stop offerings.

Deservedly so, too, since there's no doubting Glover's broad talents. Maybe it isn't altogether surprising that a talented, irreverent stand-up act such as him would have some skill as a rapper given the way in which the genre has devolved in recent years to punchline rhymes and hashtag rap. But this much is: The guy can sing, too -- his falsetto especially impresses live -- and without the aide of Auto-Tune, either.

Before as crowded as South Side Music Hall as this reporter's ever seen, Glover took to the stage at just about nine o'clock last night, all by his lonesome. The night, as expected, began with a stand-up routine -- one that including riffs on Justin Bieber and Reggie Bush, and even a video came from LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy, who claimed he'd quit his band so he could hang out with Glover and catch up on old episodes of Louie.

This 25-minute start to the night soon ended, though, as Glover's routine was interrupted once more -- this time by "Future Donald," which essentially amounted to Glover in a fake moustache and wearing a hook where his right hand should be. Future Donald asked Actual Donald to leave the stage and meet him at a stage, so the two could discuss the dangers of a rapper pursuing a music career.

The five-minute video bit that followed was an exercise in fate -- a second Future Donald (this one with two hook hands) eventually showed, as well.

It was an elaborate routine, all aimed at setting the stage for Glover to come out and perform his Childish Gambino material, which, much like this video bit, centers around Glover's struggles as a rapper who isn't taken seriously because he's not hard enough.

And yet the crowd at the South Side Music Hall sure took him seriously, pogoing in time with the beats provided by his four-piece, live backing band like he was indeed a buzzing rap act and not a buzzing comedian/rapper.

It all, essentially, boils down to this lyric from his song "My Shine": "Fuck rap cool."

And over the course of his hourlong set as Childish Gambino, which included a video cameo from fellow alt-comedian/musician Reggie Watts, as well as a sample of John Legend performing Adele's "Rolling in the Deep," his point was hammered home. And the crowd ate it up: When Glover's rap set ended -- complete with a stage dive and all -- and he vacated the stage, the crowd didn't chant his name in hopes of getting an encore; instead, they chanted "Gambino!" over and over again.

Glover's point had been made. If you're talented like he is, you can have your cake and you can eat it, too.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
Glover's a hilarious guy and his work on Community alongside fellow actor Danny Pudi is especially riotous. But, c'mon, a comedian who raps, and not in a joking manner? It's fun, sure. But does it have legs? Last night's performance and its reception would indicate that it does. But I'm still not sure.

Random Note: Some of Childish Gambino's lyrics are pretty funny, which kind of goes against the whole take-me-seriously-as-a-rapper bit. Best of them all? The Alf joke in his "Put It In My Video" song.

By The Way: Ladies Love Cool Donald.

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