Janelle Monáe with Roman GianArthur
Uptown Theater, Kansas City
Friday, November 15, 2013
Let's get something straight: Janelle Monáe is a goddess.
Not a music goddess or an R&B goddess, or whatever. Monáe is not actually human, because it just isn't possible for someone to be so pretty and so talented and real
at the same time.
At least, that's how Monáe's show at the Uptown Friday night made her seem. R&B's newest Prince-approved diva was delivered to the stage in a straightjacket on a trolley by one of her stagehands dressed in a lab technician's coat.
She was quickly released from the garment, and as she assumed a position behind her candy-striped black-and-white microphone stand, Monáe stared out at her eager audience with a wide, crazy-eyed look as she launched into "Givin' 'Em What They Love." We remembered the introduction delivered by another stagehand - Monáe's "wrangler" - and his promise that Miss Monáe would "fuck us up."
No one was disappointed. Monáe was dressed for dancing in skintight white pants, a short-sleeved, crisp button-up, black suspenders and shiny black knee-high boots. She moved quickly through the first half of her set, pushing out her megahits "Dance Apocalyptic" and the Erykah Badu-collaboration "Q.U.E.E.N." with spasms of intense choreography - both on the part of Monáe and her two go-go-esque backup dancers/vocalists.
After "Electric Lady," the lady herself took a brief set break, and her immensely talented guitarist Kellindo Parker turned out a sizzling, bluesy solo. Monáe strutted back onstage in black pants and a black-and-white-striped jacket. With the crowd sufficiently broken in, Monáe addressed her fans:
"Sometimes we feel like we're never gonna make it to where we want to go, and I'm gonna tell you right now that is not true. It's just not true," said Monáe ahead of "Victory." With Kansas City (Kansas) being Monáe's birthplace, this statement had a significant weight to it.
Indeed, it was a pretty royal homecoming for Monáe, who had filled the balcony at the Uptown with family members and close friends. "It means the world to have a sold-out show in my hometown," she said proudly at one point, beaming out at the audience.
In between warding off advances from her "orderlies," she pulled off some remarkable full-body dance moves, paying homage to (and incorporating some trademarks of) R&B heroes like James Brown, Michael Jackson and, yes, Prince.
When it came to proving vocal talent, Monáe positively hung the audience up to dry. "Victory" became a warrior's anthem of survival; "Cold War" seemed to reach new heights; a rapturous cover of the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back" was eerily on-point. It seemed like with every song, Monáe somehow sounded better.
"Tonight, I'm celebrating all the ghetto women who come from places just like me," said Monáe as an introduction for "Ghetto Woman." She held her arms out and spun euphorically in a circle, shouting out dedications: "I dedicate this song to my auntie! To my auntie! To my auntie!"