Janelle Monáe: Live in Dublin

On a night when Santa would have been forgiven for a no show, Janelle Monáe and her ‘touring party’ arrived in Dublin for her first headline Irish gig. Our appetites were well whetted by her two performances at Electric Picnic earlier this year. Tonight’s gig started later than expected but understandably so given the logistical nightmare such severe weather brings. Her dapper band, suited and booted in their trademark tuxedos were first on stage, followed by her top hatted MC. To the sound of The ArchAndroid album opener Suite II Overture, Monáe was heralded onto the stage like the star that she is. However what emerged were three hooded and cloaked figures, like zombie nuns, who with their backs to the crowd, came alive as the urgency of Dance Or Die kicked in. But where was that voice coming from? And then..behold! Ms Janelle Monáe cast off her disguise and was finally revealed, six feet in front of us and five feet tall. Of course this playful tease was just that, as by now her stage entrance has been well documented. But I for one bought into the fantasy and so was still enthralled, for knowledge of a fantasy does not deplete its power.

Dance Or Die segued into Faster, and Faster into Locked Inside just as they do on record but live the effect was mesmerizing, almost disorientating, like a flurry of punches from a feather weight boxer. Monáe’s is a multi media assualt. At any one time there were up to ten people on stage, either dancing or playing, usually both, including ‘the funkiest horn section in Metropolis.’ But Monáe commands the attention on stage, like a pint sized female James Brown. Accompanied only by guitar, her rendition of the Charlie Chaplin standard ‘Smile’ displayed her powerful vocals to awe inspiring effect. This cover version and Sincerely Jane from 2008‘s Metropolis: Suite 1 (The Chase), that directly followed, were the only deviations from her current album showcase. The knock out combination of Cold War and Tightrope closed the show as balloons descended on the dancing grinning masses. Her MC then informed us that it was Janelle’s birthday and as the crowd sang to her, a real, unaffected joy appeared to light up her cherubic face. As an encore, Come Alive successfully pulled off the feat of following her massive hit single and tonight, trumping it. She even returned once again to send us home reeling to the gentle soulful sound of Oh, Maker.

The artistry and sheer star quality of Monáe cannot be overstated and her energy and enthusiasm are infectious. However even with the extra celebration tonight, she still only engaged with the crowd on her level. In fact when she climbed from the stage and into the crowd, 1200 adoring fans crouched down low for her. A wonderfully bizarre site in a near capacity Tripod tonight. Outside the venue a limo and driver awaited to whisk Janelle Monáe away. Given the stellar pop fantasy that had we just witnessed, a sleigh and reindeer would not have been out of place.

JM tears it up on Letterman

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