April 14, 2013


Janelle Monae's Swingin' R&B Spectacle Super Charges Coachella

Karl Walter
Karl Walter

Atlanta's R&B lightening bolt Janelle Monae delivered an electrifying performance Saturday night at the Gobi Stage, rewarding fans who waited out the 20-minute delay (possibly caused by rising winds) with one of the weekend's best sets. This was an old school-style R&B show, one to make James Brown himself proud. 

It kicked off with a member of Monae's Wonderland Collective stoking the fire: "When I say Janelle, you say Monae!" And on the crowd's last roar, the lights dropped and the video screens played a 007-style intro in black, white, blue and reds, showing shadow representations of members of her ArchAndroid band doing their thang in the gun barrel circles onscreen. Then the tuxedo-clad band—strings, horns, backup singers and dancers, in addition to usual drums, bass, guitar and keys—rolled onstage and BAM, we're off.

Monae appeared first in secret, among three members clocked in black hoods, then exploded off the drum riser in white riding pants and boots to scat, sing and even rap while busting dance moves in warp speed. It'll all make ya feel incredibly out of shape. 

She performed the supercharged soul-fusion tracks from her breakout album, The Archandroid, and its upcoming followup, The Electric Lady, with star turns from her guitarist, a dead-ringer for OutKast's Andre 3000 in the "Hey Ya!" video. 

She was so rambunctious her quaffed hairdo came untied and flopped all over. She ditched her bow tie and crowd surfed, and delivered a motivational speech before "Cold War": "There was a time when I wasn't aware of my super powers," she said, strutting the stage. "I wrote this to remind myself that it's a cold war and you have to remember what you're fighting for." 

Another highlight was her spot-on cover of the Jackson 5’s "I Want You Back," which had the packed crowd wildin' out as she nailed every high note while playing to the crowd in the wings (again, everyone's out of shape in comparison).

It was all summed up in a eye-blink moment mid-song: Monae broke from her performer persona, relishing in the fun and the knowing fact that, yes, she was indeed killing it. She stuck her tongue out and bit the end, shaking her head wildly as her nose flared and eyes lit up. This is the face of perfection.