Concert Review: Journey through the Internet

 

Childish Gambino performed to a sold-out Houston crowd at the House of Blues on Saturday as part of the “Deep Web Tour v.1.0.1” following the release of his second album “Because the Internet,” which released in December. | Childish Gambino performed to a sold-out Houston crowd at the House of Blues on Saturday as part of the “Deep Web Tour v.1.0.1” following the release of his second album “Because the Internet,” which released in December. | Photo by Isaiah Pena
Childish Gambino performed to a sold-out Houston crowd at the House of Blues on Saturday as part of the “Deep Web Tour v.1.0.1” following the release of his second album “Because the Internet,” which released in December. | Photo by Isaiah Pena

More than music.

Those who have listened to Childish Gambino’s second album, Because the Internet, are probably familiar with the larger story that revolves around it: A 75-page screenplay about a spoiled rich kid who hangs out with his friends and trolls the Internet. The many attitudes found in the album range from upbeat to dark and even supernatural, and this show is no different. Telling a different side of the experience he wants his listeners to follow, Gambino brought a full-on stage production to the House of Blues and showed his audience the deep, dark, and hilarious areas of the Internet.

gambino
Photo by Isaiah Pena

Setup

Gambino truly kept the live performance as something interesting and fresh to witness. My fears of watching a cut, copy, and paste of his album were deleted thanks to a live band, clever production, and fabulous storytelling.

The experience began before the performance even started, as people who have downloaded Deep Web App were able to upload tweets and even drawings straight from their phones and onto the stage. All the penises, trolling (much like the main character of the screenplay), and even Community references were brightly projected on a wall  as people stood waiting for CB to grace the stage.

gambino
Photo by Isaiah Pena

Boot-up

At 9:30pm, the live feed was replaced with a loading bar for Deep Web to “boot-up.” As the loading bar reached 100%, the stage lit up, and the setting took center stage. A live band setup laid across large rugs and accompanied with furniture and couches where Gambino’s friends were found sitting and smoking, making themselves at home. Across the wall behind the stage, a projection of a large mansion living room provided the final touch to what was the actual mansion described in the story.

gambino
Photo by Isaiah Pena

Finally, Gambino himself, wearing nothing but a large sweater and a colorful pair of shorts, dragged himself across the stage rubbing his face as if he just got out of bed. He was in full character, portraying the story’s protagonist “The Boy” as he made his way to the grand piano. After a playing with it for awhile, the album’s first track, “Crawl” crept its way across the house of Blues, and Gambino, as if shot with adrenaline, shot up and began the performance.

gambino
Photo by Isaiah Pena

Performance

Musically, the concert follows the album almost to a tee, playing every track in order with the exception of leaving the album’s three singles, “Telegraph Ave.,” and “3005,” closer to the end of the performance. Gambino’s energy is out of control throughout the entire act, taking no breaks and moving from song to song. At first it seems as if he’s just playing to be done with it, but moving from song to song, helps the story from being distorted and keeps it together which is the bigger reward from watching him live. I wasn’t there for a concert; I was there for a show.

The narrative aspect of the show relates more with the actual “Internet” than it does the characters in the story. Gambino brings the Internet to the stage by giving us an entertaining view of what the far corners of cyberspace may very well be, which work perfectly with the soft, haunting, sounds of many of the songs on the album.

Much like our actions and experience with celebrity online, the performance is one-sided. Gambino spends no time talking to the audience and when he lets one shout-out to the crowd for a brief moment in a cleverly placed section in “Sweatpants.” The crowd explodes with excitement, finally being noticed by Gambino, but no reply is given afterwards for the rest of the show. A perfect and hilarious example of an illusion of communication online.

Around halfway through the show, a white curtain falls in front of the stage and is projected with a rain animation as Gambino is heard singing “Flight of the Navigator” from behind. The words “Error” pop up over the curtain, and his silhouette “Glitches” in various directions with the help of clever stage lighting. The curtain makes its way down after the song, and Gambino is brought back to full-on crazy for rest of the albums track list. Throughout the show, more easter eggs are found linking the tour’s storyline with the screenplay’s as Gambino brings the experience full circle with his music.

gambino
Photo by Isaiah Pena

Post-credits

As Because the Internet concludes, which closes out with a pre-recorded voice narrating various points of the story, Gambino leaves the stage with his friends and bandmates. When the voice ceases, Gambino returns as if he leapt out of character and can now speak directly with the crowd. The mansion background faded away and was replaced with an outdoor woods lit by a bonfire. What followed was an extra 30-minute set of “classic concert” as Gambino performed songs from Camp, his EPs, and even freestyled for the crowd.

Final Word

Seeing Childish Gambino perform his second album, Because the Internet  at the House of Blues is a definite understatement to the production, storytelling, and music brought on stage. It was one of the coolest shows to hit Houston. The unexpected show was a gift to fans, and as the pre-recorded voice puts it around halfway through the performance, “Love is the greatest gift we have.”

Isaiah Pena is the host of Cinema Forte, which airs Wednesdays from 7-9pm.

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