It’s a Tuesday – not a typical day for hedonism, but that’s not going to stop John from ordering his regular beer and G&T combo. Cuzomano, John, best friend Dots & Dashes, a disciple and a subordinate are gathered in the Wembley Arena to see Janelle Monáe perform standalone after being positively impressed by her Primavera performance. The PA begins to play Apollonia 6’s Sex Shooter – not the Originals version, mind – signalling Monáe’s imminent arrival on-stage. Expectation is running high.
We all expect Monáe to largely follow the same set she played in Barcelona, albeit extended. Whilst true, such a perfunctory perspective would wholly diminish the sensory power and auditory pleasure of the performance to come. Monáe’s show would prove to be much more than Primavera on steroids; it was a harbinger of future sell-out arena dates to come.
New album opener, Dirty Computer, kicked things off, with Monáe appearing on stage as a cadaver transitioning to autobot status, bathed in Brian Wilson’s sweet harmonisation as a prelude to single Screwed. With the stage hers alone, and performing for her fans, Monáe amps up the production, her dancers squirting water pistols into the crowd as she is visibly thrilled to be playing what she would later declare to be her first arena performance.
Monáe is a phenomenal performer – that she is able to bring the same energy, positivity and passion to a highly choreographed and demanding show night after night is testament to her professionalism, and her fans are ecstatic. To paraphrase her own cutting one-liner, let this vagina have its monologue for years to come.
The crowd is a grooving mass for Electric Lady, during which John decides it’s time to get down and boogie with a disciple, but the show is not without its faults. Monáe’s guitarist is unnecessarily hungry for the spotlight, yet again massacring the Purple Rain guitar solo during the costume change for Pynk – a song that John hates, but is not allowed to. It is during I Like That, however, that the atmosphere in the arena truly begins to change and we all begin nodding in agreement that this woman is well on the way to superstardom.
Monáe is a multi-talented artist, now beginning to draw on a repertoire that alternates between mainstream pop, swing, soul and touching ballads. Whilst there may be a few too many costume changes, Monáe’s command over her audience during Make Me Feel (including an expertly-handled false start) and Got The Juice is truly something to behold. As at Primavera, Monáe pulled members of the audience on-stage to prove that they did indeed ‘have the juice’. When it is her fanbase, however, it is a totally different ball game. All of these fans had so much juice we were worried she’d need more glasses. A surprise appearance from 12 Years A Slave actress Lupita Nyong’o yielded audible euphoric uproar from Monáe’s fans.
Following a well-received rights speech including the obligatory call to impeach the current, pathetic excuse for a leader of the free world, super-hit Tightrope closed the performance ahead of a spectacular, three-song encore that began with So Afraid, before Monae stripped down to her bodysuit to venture deep into the crowd.
Leaving the stage to rapturous applause, Monáe yelled “Janelle Monáe out!” before literally dropping the mic and disappearing from the stage. She will certainly be back soon, although your dear Snobs suspect the next venue will be the behemoth that is the O2 Arena – Monáe is more than ready.