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

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

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

Kevin Todora
More in Kevin's slide show, the many stage faces of Donald Glover

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.

Location Info


South Side Music Hall

1135 S. Lamar St., Dallas, TX

Category: Music

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I enjoyed the whole thing, but all ages, general admission, standing room only shows are a bit of a beat down. Call me an old man, but when the act comes on 1:30 after the doors open (and 30 minutes after the supposed starting time), you're stuck standing in a heap of adolescents attempting to out-cool each other. And the whole crowd smells like puberty. Not figuratively, I mean literally. Like that day that you realize you should wear an antiperspirant, not just a deodorant....

I've been listening to his last few releases for a couple of months now, so I was very familiar with the songs. That said, he definitely put some different spins on the deliveries and the backing band added some different touches as well - that's why we go see live music. He could have stood up there with a sound system and rapped/sang over it (ahem...Sleigh Bells, we're looking at you), but he brought solid energy to the whole thing. Well done, Mr. Gambino.


I would have liked to have seen more stand-up and less rap (or at least 50-50) but that's just me.


Future Donald wanted to meet at a cafe as they are outlawed in the future. The most surprising element of the show was the rock vibe the live band gives to Glover's Childish Gambino material. I am sure his musical ambitions have legs, a scan of his discography shows a lot of progression. The new EP is by far his best album musically and has gained him numerous fans, notably Questlove.


If you didn't realize that rap is his current obsession and ambition, I'm a tad bit confused as to how you ended up at this show.

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