It’s the beginning of the end for Childish Gambino, as Donald Glover played his final show under his hip-hop alter ego at Madison Square Garden Friday night.
“This is not a concert. This is church,” the rapper declared to his fans at the start of a show that saw him leap off the stage and strut through the crowd and backstage while fans trailed him with their cameras. The show’s setlist mostly focused on material from his first two albums, “Because the Internet” and “Awaken, My Love!,” and was hailed by critics in attendance as a send-off to a part of his career than fans adore but which he is ready to move on from.
“As he moved through his setlist it was evident how constricting the idea of Gambino and his discography has become,” read Rolling Stone’s review. “The success of the ‘This Is America’ Tour lies in how persuasive it is to a wide audience that Childish Gambino deserves to be killed off — and hinting that there might be something better to find once he’s gone.”
At one point, Gambino took a moment to reflect on his career, and what Madison Square Garden has meant to him.
“I used to come to this place to see some of my favorite rap acts when I was going to NYU,” he said. “A lot of ‘em didn’t get to play stadiums this big. Y’all don’t remember these times, but rap it was like a small thing for a long time. Even when I was a kid people were like, ‘Yeah, that’s what kids do.’…Be yourself, cause dreams come true.”
The “This Is America” tour kicked off last week in Atlanta and will conclude in Nashville on Oct. 12. Watch a fan-filmed clip of Gambino performing “This Is America” in the video above.