Fast-rising soul and R&B singer Janelle Monáe is surely destined to play arenas.
Though she thanked her fans profusely Wednesday night for filling Showbox SoDo to its 1,000-person capacity, she must have her sights set on larger stages.
The Kansas native with the voluminous pompadour and boundless energy is almost more than her tiny body – and any nightclub stage – can hold. She danced, strutted, moonwalked and even crowd-surfed her way through a more than 90-minute show that kept concertgoers in thrall. This was a standing-only show, but who could have sat through such a hyperkinetic performance?
Monáe is like a descendant of her longtime idol, Prince, and before that, perhaps Little Richard. Her explosive blend of soul, R&B, funk, rock, hip-hop and electronic dance music kept the crowd dancing, clapping and pumping its fists.
Arriving on stage in a straitjacket, Monáe appeared lifeless until stage hands in white lab coats (and black bow ties) zapped her into action for a show that portrayed her as an extraterrestrial with a special plan for her earth-bound fans. Like Lady Gaga, Monáe champions the outcasts, so the messianic narrative wasn’t really so far-fetched.
Her current tour is named for “The Electric Lady,” a stunning new album featuring collaborations with Prince, Erykah Badu, Miguel and other stars. It made its debut last month at No. 5 on The Billboard 200 album chart.
After the nine-piece band opened with “Suite IV Electric Overture,” Monáe kicked off her set with the high-stepping “Givin Em What They Love” (recorded with Prince for her new album), followed by the boisterous “Dance Apocalyptic” and the staccato “Sincerely, Jane.”
Monáe and her musical entourage, including a pair of horn players and two dancers, were dressed in black-and-white outfits. They performed on a stylish, fog-enhanced, black-and-white stage.
“Q.U.E.E.N.,” “Electric Lady,” “Victory” and “Ghetto Woman” kept the momentum going. “I Want You Back” by the Jackson Five was nostalgic and fun. The main set closed with the edgy “Cold War” and “Tightrope.”
Monáe’s first encore featured “PrimeTime,” Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy,” and a sensational, 10-minute version of “Come Alive (War of the Roses),” which featured robotic dance moves, chants, a chorus of la-la-las, a moonwalking segment and a dive into the audience for some skillfully executed crowd-surfing.
Monáe’s second encore featured the ballad, “What an Experience.” The title pretty much summed up the entire show.
Opening was suave R&B singer-guitarist Roman GianArthur, who played a few originals from his upcoming album, as well as a rocking version of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.”
Gene Stout: email@example.com