The O2, London
In a magnetic solo show, the polymath superstar looks anything but a man on the cusp of goodbye
It is hard to remember a time, not long ago, when Donald Glover was a promising young comedy actor with an obligatory hip-hop sideline. Fans of noughties NBC hit 30 Rock first encountered the fresh-faced comedian in his cameos; his actual job was behind the scenes of the TV show.
In his spare time, Glover put out mixtapes, reputedly taking the soubriquet Childish Gambino from a Wu–Tang Clan rap name generator. “Man, why does every black actor gotta rap some?” he groaned knowingly on 2011’s acerbic Bonfire, a song that provides a verse or two of the encore of this bravura performance tonight.
That budding comedy actor, 35, now has a big shock of grey in his beard – testament, perhaps, to the pressures of being a polymath superstar who can now do little wrong. For more than an hour and a half, Glover – the producer, writer and actor of the award-winning Netflix series Atlanta; the young Lando Calrissian in Solo: A Star Wars Story; the forthcoming voice of Simba in the remake of The Lion King, to name just three of the other feathers in his cap – holds an arena rapt with that unpromising hip-hop sideline.
Underdog status is a very common hip-hop trope. Around the time of his debut album, 2011’s Camp, and its follow-up, 2013’s Because the Internet, Gambino often rapped about being ridiculed. As a comedy-loving African American who liked “white” things – like Radiohead – he felt judged for not being “black enough”. Camp itself was poorly reviewed, both in the US and here; the prescient and layered Because the Internet was not particularly warmlyreceived either.