You can definitely not say, Childish Gambino, didn’t engage with his crowd and give one of the best shows and an experience like no other when he took the T-Mobile stage on Friday night as a headliner in Chicago’s famed Grant Park for Lollapalooza. Most of the estimated 100,000 people in attendance seemed to be front, center and everywhere in between for the rapper, actor, comedian and writers set. That had everyone virtually limb to limb together during a good portion of his headlining set and even before, when most of the crowd stayed and waited to try to be front row.
Coming out standing shirtless amongst the throngs of people from a makeshift tower in the middle of the crowd, as a single spotlight put Gambino in dramatic silhouette. Everyone in the crowd kept looking for him as he started his set with the powerful track, Atavista, before everyone started to notice as he eventually came down and made his way towards the stage. The packed crowd going nuts as they rapped and sang along.
Gambino let people know from the very beginning that, “This will be some church s***” and encouraged fans to put their phones away and be part of the experience. Adding, “If you just came here to do your favorite song go home and do that.” During his set also asking, “It gets really cold here in Chicago in the Winter, right? But it’s Summer now, right?” Perfectly seguing into him performing Summertime Magic.
Singing, rapping, testifying and everything in between, Gambino embodied his songs throughout his stellar set. His heavy beard with his bare chest and the sweat dripping down throughout a good portion adding even more visual raw humanistic appeal that made the crowd appreciate it even more. As they continued to rap and sing along with great passion with Gambino, as he went through everything from the rapid-fire rapping of 11. Worldstar to Me and Your Mama, as well as the soulfully raspy wailing of, Have Some Love. Not to mention the sensual serenade of his hit single, Feels Like Summer.
You know Gambino couldn’t do a performance without doing controversial societal comeuppance, This Is America, which was just as riveting live as the unforgettable video treatment, with angelic choirs and child-like dancing drastically contrasted with abrasive trap beats and his huge, unshakeable, unsettling smile. He even performed a new record, Human Sacrifice, for the first time, which the crowd really got into as he told them to bounce at certain points of it when the beat dropped. You know artists always like to use big festival settings like Lolla to test new records and if they get a very good reception like, Human Sacrifices, did for Gambino, then the artist usually ends up being satisfied.
The crowd was probably just as satisfied with Gambino too. As he even went into the security chute area several times to take “Ellen at the Oscars”-esque selfies. Even giving the crowd on a scale of 1-to-10 being the highest for how engaged and amazing he felt the crowd was a 16. Even being that high he said he wanted them to get a 20 by the end of his performance cause he didn’t like grading on a curve.
Fireworks going off 25 minutes into his very engaging and amazing headlining set, Gambino’s performance had a little bit of everything, ranging from an excellent live backing band to a backing choir that sounded like angels from the heavens in the flesh to a stage setup that felt like it was a pure exhibitionist art piece. Part theater, part concert and part experiential adventure, it at times felt like it was almost too much for a setting like Lollapalooza, even though he himself said he liked playing it in a setting like a festival like this.
The multi-faceted entertainer was able to make it work out for the most part though and twist and belly dance his way into the good graces of the packed crowd when he performed Sober and Redbone during his encore part of his set to actually close out day two of the festival. Also as we reach the midway point of the festival what’s easily one of the top performances so far.