It's really a shame Janelle Monáe was ordered by doctors to postpone her November performance at the Crescent Ballroom late last year for "mandatory vocal rest."
If her performance would have been anything like the Saturday, January 11, concert at Marquee Theatre, it most certainly would have been on our list of the best shows of 2013. The R&B starlet and her band sure brought the goods.
As the lights went down, Monáe was rolled onto the stage on a moving dolly in a straitjacket. And from opener "Suite IV Electric Overture" on, Monáe and her band took the packed house on a soulful ride. As she dipped into "Givin Em What They Love" she was sharper than a razor, and no one really noticed Prince wasn't there to join her on vocal duties.
The retro dance track "Dance Apocalyptic" was a far cry from the dreary title, as the crowd danced joyfully. It was truly an all-ages show, with an eclectic mix who may not have had much in common outside of Monáe, but that didn't matter so long as tracks like the spunky "Q.U.E.E.N" were bringing them together.
What's really impressive is how well Monáe sings while dancing around like a mad scientist. She never really stopped moving throughout the 17-song performance.
Her band shined during covers like The Jackson Five's "I Want You Back" and Prince's "Let's Go Crazy." One of the highlights of the night was when she got the nearly standing-room sold-out crowd to sit on the ground during the encore, before crowd surfing during "What an Experience."
As great as some of tunes are on Monáe's records, seeing her live is what could win over new fans; recordings simply don't do her the justice she deserves. Another couple of national tours might be the final piece of the puzzle in terms of making her the household name she's long deserved to be.
Critics Notebook: What: Janelle Monáe at the Marquee Theatre. Personal Bias: I saw her at Coachella last year by chance and was blown away. Overheard: "What did you think of the show, it was pretty good right?" by the 20 something white guy outside the venue. The Crowd: A mix of everything.
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