Monday, June 23, 2014

Janelle Monáe Captivates Audience At The Hollywood Bowl

Image by Tony Felgueiras at flickr
Janelle Monáe mixed a little bit of the old with the new during her Sunday night concert at the Hollywood Bowl on June 22. In addition to performing tracks from her eclectic oeuvre, she gave a nod to some music legends who have influenced and inspired her.

Monáe kicked off her show with a bang, immediately bringing the audience to its feet with her dynamic entrance. Amid screams, shouts, cheers, howls and loud whistles, the diminutive singer/songwriter/performer was wheeled onto the stage wearing a straitjacket before launching into a mesmerizing performance of “Givin’ ‘Em What They Love,” a Prince collaboration from her latest album The Electric Lady. Monáe did just fine without the Purple One’s assistance Sunday night and completely owned the stage.  However, it would be cool to see the two perform the song together live one day.

Monáe’s set contained other tracks from The Electric Lady, including a show-stopping rendition of “Q.U.E.E.N.” and a high-energy performance of “Dance Apocalyptic.” She followed up “Dance Apocalyptic” with a  Michael Jackson/J5 tribute, performing “I Want You Back” and “ABC.” It was uncanny how much she sounded like a preteen MJ when she performed these two pop/soul classics, which had audience members singing right along with her.

And Monáe paid homage to another music legend with a galvanic performance of her song “Tightrope.” She channeled Mr. Dynamite himself, James Brown, during this performance, which included his trademark shuffles, glides and spins. She fittingly ended the performance with Brown’s legendary cape routine, in which someone from her band placed a black cape over her shoulders.  And the James Brown tribute didn’t end there.  Legendary music superstar and global ambassador Stevie Wonder joined Monáe onstage to perform Brown’s funk/soul classic “I Got You (I Feel Good).” Needless to say, the crowd went wild when they saw Stevie being escorted on stage. In addition to trading vocals with Monáe, Stevie went to work on the keyboards, dazzling the audience with some funky piano solos.

Other concert highlights included a powerful performance of “Cold War.” And the talented soul/funk/rock dynamo blew the doors off the hinges with a ripping, balls-to-the-wall performance of Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.” She also lit up the stage with a beautiful reading of “Sincerely, Jane.”

Monáe closed out the concert with the spooky punk/swing track “Come Alive (The War of the Roses).”  It was an inspired song choice for the finale, with each member of Monáe’s super-talented band performing a solo. The monster performance had audience members dancing in the aisles.

In addition to Monáe, the concert boasted two other topflight music acts: R&B/soul artist Roman GianArthur and Seun Kuti & Egypt 80. Seun is the youngest son of the late, great Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti. Egypt 80 was Fela’s final band.

Roman GianArthur delivered a stellar set, which showcased his considerable guitar-playing skills and impressive vocal talent. And Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 worked the audience into a frenzy with its soul-stirring Afrobeat sound and kinetic stage work.

With Sunday night’s concert, Monáe once again proved that she’s one of most talented, unique and charismatic young artist/performers on the music scene today, and that she’s here for the long haul. 

The Electric Lady album at Amazon

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