There’s no show like a Janelle show
It’s getting better and better. A year ago, I was raving about Janelle Monae’s London sweatbox show to mark the release of “The ArchAndroid”. That show was a huge leap on from the Monae spaceship which had landed at SXSW …
It’s getting better and better. A year ago, I was raving about Janelle Monae’s London sweatbox show to mark the release of “The ArchAndroid”. That show was a huge leap on from the Monae spaceship which had landed at SXSW 2009 because she’d figured out a ton of stuff about her material and the performance, had honed some of the more extra-terrestrial boomings and had written a bunch of fantastc songs. Last night, after a year on the live circuit doing festivals and clubs, Monae and her band hit the Tripod in Dublin and it was just something else entirely. We knew she was good, but this good?
Monae already had a big handle on imagination and ambition, but she’s added a huge dollop of fun to the proceedings over the last year. While that trademark fierce concentration on getting the whole shebang just right is still there, Monae now looks like she’s having a whale of a time with what’s going on around her. There’s a hell of a lot more musicians on that stage than were there a year ago, as Monae has augmented the live band with brass, strings and backing vocalists to embellish those tunes and the onstage dancing and prancing. There really is no show like a Janelle show.
It’s the songs from “The ArchAndroid” which benefit most from the band’s new shizzle. They’ve ran marathons, these songs, and they’re now proven bangers. “Tightrope” is as taut as you’d expect, “Cold War” socks it to you between the ears, “Faster” slays ‘em in the aisles and the closing “Come Alive” is just a wild old treat, stretched out into a venue-wide hokey-cokey. She throws a couple of covers into the mix – there may be a suspicion that those Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and Prince hat-tips are there to make up for the lack of new material, though this has to tempered with the fact that many here are seeing her for the first time – and the sketch-with-Monae bit during “Mushrooms & Roses” is brilliantly pitched, though some might say it was a lot of arse (as indeed, it was, a female butt with the word “Love” emblazoned across the bottom of the sketch).
In music terms, she’s still a young ‘un, but she’s already displaying traits which auger well for a long run like those idols she’s setting out to emulate. Of course, the game has changed entirely since Prince and James Brown and little Stevie was setting out. I’m not sure of the sales figures for “The ArchAndroid” – it’s probably had more critical than commercial love – but the word-of-mouth wows from her live show will, as is the case in music biz 4.0, have to make up for that. It will certainly be fascinating to see where she takes things on the next album out and how the shows over the last year will inform that record. No doubt, the imagination and ambiton and the funk and the soul will be there in full, but it’s what Monae has learned over the last year which will take her even higher. The next time she’s in town, do yourself a favour and check her out. She really is quite the star.