Seeing Janelle Monáe is quite the spectacle. From the theatrics that Monáe indulges in with her introduction down to the synchronised moves of her trumpet players as they hop around one another, every aspect of her live performance is a joy to watch. One could easily spend the entire concert following just one of the players from her incredible band, such is the energy and enjoyment being projected from all upon the stage.

Excitement levels skyrocket as Monáe’s band jump into her latest album’s opener ‘Suite IV Electric Overture’ before Monáe herself is wheeled out by her introducer, repressed by a strait jacket. As on record, this transitions into ‘Give ‘Em What They Love’ without missing a beat and while it is slightly disappointing once it’s clear that Prince isn’t going to suddenly appear – as he has been doing around London this year – to grace the song with his sultry vocals, Monáe later races through a rendition of the Purple One’s ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ to make up for it. It’s a testament to her ever-growing popularity that despite this and a mash-up of The Jackson 5’s ‘I Want You Back’ and ‘ABC’ that the songs that are greeted with the biggest reception are those of her own – ‘Tightrope’ and ‘Q.U.E.E.N.’ proving the biggest crowd-pleasers.

The fun is abruptly halted when Monáe returns from offstage holding cards with ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ (a reference to the 200+ girls that have been abducted in Nigeria) scrawled across them before an impassioned speech preaching equality which leads to a particularly emotionally-charged ‘Cold War’. It isn’t long however until order is restored/lost again: ‘Come Alive (War Of The Roses)’ sees Monáe eventually get the whole room to sit down until the song’s climax whereupon they spring up to partake in the type of pillow fight a teenager could only dream of. Monáe says it best herself when she ends her second encore with The Electric Lady’s closer ‘What An Experience’ before her faithful – many of whom dressed in the exclusively black and white of Monáe and her band – leave saying just that. What an experience indeed.

James Barlow


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