Childish Gambino
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Music

What went down at Childish Gambino's Splendour set

When it came to headline slots, Donald Glover left nothing to chance.
By David James Young
Published on
When it's said that an artist is so groundbreaking they are changing the landscape, it's used as an expression. Much like that artist didn't actually “explode” out of their scene, or anything like that – it's just meant to add a bit of colour to the story. It's with this that the following can be said with all honesty: Childish Gambino literally changed the landscape of Splendour in the Grass for 2019.
The entire environment of the ampitheatre main stage of the festival was shifted to accommodate for the headliner's stage specs, including a huge light rigging, a catwalk and an elevated scaffolding platform. It's an unprecedented move for the festival, and its high risk is met with high reward – what follows is what can only be described as a game-changer for Australian festivals in terms of both scale and spectacle.
The weekend thus far has been a real mix of highs and lows in terms of hip-hop. The day prior, UK prodigy Dave packed out the Mix-Up tent with a big-business set, while locals like Kwame and Allday made their presence felt with performances that felt like real arrival moments. On the downside, fans learned just hours prior to Gambino's performance that his good friend Chance The Rapper would not be closing out the festival on the Sunday night due to an undisclosed illness. It's with this in mind that people seem to need Donald Glover's music more than ever.
The first thing you notice is the size of the audience. There is a police presence trying to contain the crowd from absolutely crushing into one another, putting up gates and blocking off entrances. Some fans have ripped through mesh covering a gate so they can get a view of the stage. Focusing back on the stage, the lavish production ensures that every last song is given a full-bodied live treatment – his long-serving live band still bring the heat, while guest choral singers add further spice and soul to Glover's more recent work.
Glover talks a lot about treating his performances like church. While that analogy may be hard to find in tracks like the rough-housing Worldstar or the six-minute wig-out Me and Your Mama it's easy to track when it comes to Glover's connection with his congregation. Even though trainspotters will know what we're getting is essentially the same set he's performed everywhere the last 18-odd months, there's a sense of singularity to this performance in particular.
Despite being at the height of his popularity, the story goes Glover is winding down his Childish Gambino project in order to focus on his film and television work – HBO's Atlanta, which he created, is showered in acclaim. Meanwhile, the Splendour appearance coincides with Disney's The Lion King remake dominating the global box office, with Glover starring as Simba . Knowing that this may be the last time we get to experience Gambino in this environment, the crowd goes along with everything Glover throws at them.