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Janelle Monae gig review and video

Lynda Moyo gets a brief but brilliant insight into the weird and wonderful world of Janelle Monae

Written by . Published on December 8th 2010.

Janelle Monae gig review and video

If you managed to catch Janelle Monae at the Academy last night, then well done; this may be the first and last time we’ll see the 25-year-old Kansas-born singer in this sort of light.

As hardcore fans will know, her album is the sung-out story of a messianic android sent back in time to free the citizens of Metropolis. New fans (ie. most people at the Academy) may just think she’s a fruit loop with a brilliant voice.

Monae has become an overnight success with her now Grammy-nominated first studio album ‘The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III)’, but it seems her current tour was booked well before the music industry had time to catch up with her undeniable talent.

The crowd at the Academy clearly knew this would be a gig worth seeing - despite many only seeming familiar with her two already-released singles ‘Tightrope’ and ‘Cold war’. So it was up to Monae along with her band, dancers and backing singers, to present her album with an animated display of theatrics, crazy costume and dazzling effects to keep the crowd well entertained.

And that they did, flooding the modest stage with their extrovert ArchAndroid antics.

Opening the show with ‘Dance or Die’, Monae displayed rap skills reminiscent of ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’. It would have actually been a safer bet for her to create a 2010 reincarnation of that revolutionary hip-hop soul album, but Monae is no safe player as her multi-genre, split personality, mystical stage presence reveals.

Her rendition of the Charlie Chaplin song ‘Smile’ (originally by Nat King Cole) was Monae broken down to her purest form – proving that the she has staying power on stage without the aid of the show itself. The highlight of the night, her voice trickled around the Academy like spring water; fresh, clear and crisp. The crowd lapped up every drop in complete silence until one fan (there’s always one), clearly unable to contain his admiration, shouted ‘You’re an angel’ in his loudest and proudest Manc accent. However, for once, it’s safe to say he spoke on behalf of everyone there.

Dressed in her trademark white blouse and cravat, Monae looked and sounded like she’d fallen straight from heaven and ‘Wondaland’ further asserted her gospel influences with the ‘Hallelujah’ ending. Yet the eccentric themes running through her album, brought to life in other parts of the show, suggested she’s as much in tune with the virtual world as she is the virtuous one.

Watch Janelle Monae sing 'Smile' at Manchester Academy 2 in the video below

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