Childish Gambino brought his rippling funk single “Redbone” to The Tonight Show on Wednesday. The song appears on his recently released Awaken, My Love! album, which debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 and caused the Roots’ drummer Questlove to pay tribute to the record in an admiring, much-quoted Instagram post.
The musician took the stage shirtless in shiny pants. “Redbone” contains multiple references to 1970s classics like Isaac Hayes’ version of “The Look of Love” and Bootsy Collins’ “I’d Rather Be With You.” To help recreate that era’s full-band glory, the singer brought plenty of extra firepower to The Tonight Show, playing with the help of six backup singers and a pair of percussionists.
Childish gusted through the verses of “Redbone” in a gaseous falsetto, but at several points, he punctured the track’s cool strut – created by prominent electric keyboards and lithe, squiggly bass – with unmistakably Prince-like screams. The performance came to a close with dueling solos from two guitars and a keytar as singer began to dance.