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JANELLE MONAE at the Kool Haus, Saturday, October 19. Rating: NNNN In the seconds before Janelle Monae hit the Kool Haus.
JANELLE MONAE at the Kool Haus, Saturday, October 19. Rating: NNNN
In the seconds before Janelle Monae hit the Kool Haus stage, we were warned – by an “orderly” dressed in a white lab coat, like each of the singer’s seven-piece band (background vocalists not included) – that Monae was going to “funk us up.”
Over the course of an impeccably managed 95-minute set of R&B and soul jams, Monae manipulated every inch of the stage. Whether she was grooving her way through Electric Lady, shouting out our “mamas, grandmas, and aunties” on Ghetto Woman or mixing in a Jackson 5 I Want You Back cover, the crowd was in the palm of her bright-yellow-manicured hand.
It takes a special kind of performer to make Prince and Erykah Badu an afterthought. But as Monae performed Givin Em What They Love and Q.U.E.E.N., we forgot either track had ever featured anyone at all, let alone living legends.
Her orderly also told us that we would dance, or die. Watching Monae slide, slither and bounce across the stage – the emotion and ferocity in her voice reverberating through the venue – it was clear he hadn’t told the complete truth: Anyone able to resist the dance party was probably already dead inside.
In fact, if Monae would have said “jump,” we would have said “how high?” But just before finally closing out with her second encore – a moving performance of What An Experience – Monae asked us to “get low.” Literally. Hushing the room, motioning toward the ground and bringing the venue to its knees, Monae descended onto the floor. Stalking the crowd as if it were prey, she got up close and personal before remixing the traditional stage dive by calmly passing through the crowd upon its fingertips during an extended version of Come Alive.
We were alive. And completely funked up.