At first, the venue for Janelle Monae's VH1 Super Bowl Blitz concert might have seemed surprising: A modest but upscale student theater at Lehman College in the Bronx. But anyone who's heard her new LP, The Electric Lady—one of our favorites of 2013—knows it's chocked full of booty-poppin', shout-a-long, soul-stirring jams. Were these thin rows of theater seats going to get in the way of our twerking?!?
Minutes before Monae's live broadcast began, the room's excitement was high, cheering as the instrumentalists took the stage dressed in uniformed black and white outfits a la her "Dance Apocalyptic" vid. A complete backing band with...take a deep breath...keyboardist, guitarist, bassist, trumpeter, trombone player, two backup singers, two percussionists and four string players (all looking genuinely pumped) played the "Suite IV Electric Overture" as Monae was wheeled out on a hand cart to her mic stand in a straight jacket.
Throwing off the restraint garment, Monae revealed a sleek black-and-white suit and moved into "Give Em What They Love," an Electric Lady standout that features Prince on the album version. While we held our breath thinking that every cameraman popping out from backstage was the Purple One himself, it really didn't matter: The Electric Lady was in full control.
Throughout the hour-long set, the singer sprinted, spun and moonwalked across the entire stage. Monae peppered each performance with theatrical speeches to the crowd and choreography involving her entire band. As the show went on, it became clear the theater was actually the perfect venue for this concert. Wait ...concert? Nah, this was a full-on production. In fact, those theater seats came in handy when Monae commanded the entire audience to shimmy down to said seats while singing, "You can't get too high / No, you can't get too low!" during "Tightrope."
Monae jumped into the audience and crowd surfed during show closer "Come Alive (War of the Roses)," off of 2010's The ArchAndroid. It was 12:01 a.m., a minute after the broadcast should have ended, but Monae was still rocking with the audience. Did it matter she was overtime? Nope. Just like the Super Bowl, this was about a major TV moment and Monae, like the crowd, was too wrapped up in it to let anything like time restraints bring it down.
- Suite IV Electric Overture
- Give Em What They Love
- Dance Apocalyptic
- Sincerely, Jane.
- Electric Lady
- Cold War
- Come Alive (War of the Roses)
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