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JANELLE MONAE at Nathan Phillips Square, Friday, June 22. Rating: NNNNN
As we wait for the follow-up to Janelle Monáe's sprawling 2010 LP The ArchAndroid (she apparently has two albums on the way), the pompadour-ed Atlanta performer has surfaced to play a string of Canadian jazz festivals.
Her Toronto Jazz Festival headlining set seamlessly fused funk, R&B, folk - you name it - into an absolutely breathtaking experience that demanded the audience to work almost as hard as her 12-piece band.
When she took the stage in a hooded cape and proceeded to spit Dance Or Die's rapid-fire rap with her back to the crowd, it was instantly apparent that we wouldn't want for drama. She brought it for every song, ending with a triumphant encore of Come Alive (The War Of The Roses) that encompassed robot dancing, jazz scatting and an epic call-and-response routine.
Though she didn't do any new material, her covers of Prince's Take Me With U and The Jackson 5's I Want You Back served as a reminder that if anyone is poised to inherent the mantle of mainstream pop's most innovative act, it's Monae.