Erykah Badu at Marquee Theatre on 6/23/2010

On paper having

Erykah Badu


Janelle Monáe

on the same tour is an interesting pairing. On the one hand you have Badu, the experienced neo-soul songstress who has been making hits since the late '90s. On the other hand you have Monáe, the up and comer who has managed to not only appeal to R&B fans but has also earned her fair share of buzz on indie-hipster music blogs such as Pitchfork and Gorilla vs Bear.

While both artists share similar qualities it was their differences that were most evident during their performances last night at a nearly sould-out Marquee Theatre in Tempe. Much like the differences in the two artists' music Monáe's set was fast and full of energy while Badu's set was a lot more subdued and soulful.

And while both performances were pretty much the opposite of each other they were both equally enjoyable.

At the beginning of Janelle Monáe's set a man dressed in a tuxedo and top hat asked for the audiences full attention as they were about to embark on a "cinematic experience." Considering that Monáe's debut album The ArchAndroid is an 18-track sci-fi story about an android this seemed to make perfect sense. Though the extent of the cinematic experience was Monáe and her back up dancers taking the stage wearing hooded robes.

Several times throughout her set Monáe impressed the audience with her powerful voice. Equally impressive were the singers dance moves. During the song "Tight Rope" she looked like a female version of James Brown. Though, I doubt that James Brown ever crowd surfed as Monáe did at the close of her set.

While Janelle Monáe managed to hold her own it was clear that most people were there for Erykah Badu. Considering that Badu's set lasted just shy of two hours they definitely got their money's worth.

While a good portion of the songs Erykah Badu performed last night were from her latest album New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh she managed to give the audience a pretty good selection from all of her previous albums. Songs such as "On & On" and "Next Lifetime" off of Badu's classic 1997 debut Baduizm got the loudest reactions from the crowd.

Erykah Badu also managed to throw in a few cover songs into her set-list including a surprising performance of Snoop Dog's "Ain't No Fun," although she left it to the audience to provide all of the naughtier bits of that song.

Badu who has always been socially conscious and never one to shy away from controversy even addressed the SB 1070 issue during last night's performance but managed to do so without any lectures. During her encore she removed her jacket to show that she was wearing a white t-shire with the words "I'm An Immigrant" written on it.

Overall last night's performance was solid from both artists. The only real complaint to make here was the fact that Badu's performance went on a bit too long. Considering it was a Wednesday night and most people in attendance probably had to work the next morning it would have been fine to have just one encore. Though, considering that it was really the audience who kept wanting more it's hard to blame Badu for giving the crowd what they wanted. And the multiple encores did allow for that awesome cover of "Ain't No Fun." Leave it to Erykah Badu to be the only person on the planet who can make that song sound classy.

Critics Notebook:

Last Night: J*Davey, Janelle Monáe and Erykah Badu at Marquee Theatre

Better Than: Seeing this show at the Clubhouse

Personal Bias: I've been a long time fan of Badu since her debut Baduizm back in 1997. I've also been enjoying Janelle Monáe's album The ArchAndroid since it came out a few months back.

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