Part film, part theatre, part art, part dance. Oh, and there was plenty of music as well!
The show started with visuals that were projected to the screen behind the stage, much of it looking like old film style openings from the 70s era (one song later on had footage from an old Muhammad Ali fight!).The show continued with with the master of ceremony getting everyone amped up. Once the band (ArchOrchestra), made their way to the stage, three performers in cloaks, with their back to the crowd appeared (Janelle being the one in the middle). All this while “Suite II Overture” was playing. From one right to the next, they went into “Dance or Die”, and continued with “Faster” and “Locked Inside” without breaks.
For 60 minutes, she and her band played for what felt like 30, it was that good! And by no means were any songs cut short, the endings were much longer, masterfully done, to allow extra stage antics, and dancing from Janelle too (or an additional intro, as was the case for “Cold War,” building the excitement)! For instance, at one point, the two who were beside Janelle at the start, were on-stage, with plague doctor masks, wandering about, until Janelle ‘shot’ them down. Included with all her amazing dancing was the moonwalk on a couple of occasions!
During “Mushrooms & Roses,” she painted a picture, while singing! At the end of the show a lucky fan celebrating her birthday (with ID to prove the fact) was given the painting! And of course got to be on stage with her to receive it!
Covers during the show included Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile,” Prince’s “Take Me With U,” and Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.” Also in the set, she included two new songs, “Electric Lady”, and a jazz piece she wrote (she was indeed performing as part of the Jazz Festival!), “Dorothy Dandridge Eyes.”
“Come Alive (The War of Roses)” ended the two song, 25 minute encore, with a very elaborately drawn out version which had Janelle getting the audience involved. Also having all the band members playing dead, and the bass player kept playing, as with the drummer, who cannot as easily play dead and drum!
Her band/orchestra I might add was a full one! String section had cello, viola, and violin. There was a second percussionist, mostly on bongos, and other small percussion. Two backup singers, guitarist and bassist of course, and keyboard player with 5 different keyboards, and perhaps a sequencer or something (I could not tell from my angle).
Being front centre, three people in was something, I am not one to dance, but she had me and all around me getting our groove on!
After the encore was over, myself and probably everyone was hoping for a second encore (needed to hear “Many Moons” live!), however Janelle, et. al. returned to the stage for a few words, and the mic was passed for every band member introduced themselves. For her final nod to the crowd, the guys had people put their hands up, and Janelle stepped carefully onto the crowd holding her up, and thanked everyone.
And from my vantage point (a few feet away!), I might add, Ms. Monae looked very beautiful, in every way!