Awestruck describes the experience Janelle Monae bestowed upon 1,500 starstruck fans at the Apollo Theater last night. You could feel the history, energy and anticipation in the room well before she was rolled on to the stage bound in a straight jacket. Unleashed she started ‘Givin Em What They Love’ off her new album The Electric Lady and her pop-punk juggernaut ‘Dance Apocalyptic.’
Janelle and I are daughters and sons of the great Midwest metropolis of Kansas City and long-time residents of Atlanta. Her musical style is as diverse as the people who packed the Apollo and nods to ’10s dance pop, ’90s soul, ’70s funk, ’50s jazz. Her personal style is androgynous, classic and 100 percent polished. ‘Sincerely Jane,’ ‘Q.U.E.E.N.’ ‘Ghetto Woman’ and ‘Electric Lady’ were each epic moments and elevated the energy to a point that the balcony was rocking. It scared two older electric ladies next to me so much they left, but Monae beckoned ‘I Want You Back’ by the Jackson 5 and her important anthem ‘Cold War’ which is about struggling with personal identity. She saddle-shoe danced her way through ‘Tightrope’ to end the main set.
Her encore featured four more bombastic moments: ‘Primetime’ and ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ featuring a Paisley Park-worthy guitar solo and an erupting cannon of confetti. No one has more energetic stamina than Janelle Monae. Her ability to command the room’s attention was so impressive as evidenced in ‘Come Alive (the War of the Roses).’ For a good 20 minutes she sang and danced her way through the orchestra section, stopping for fan selfies and making the room go quiet and ‘low’ before her apocalyptic climax of dance. The Apollo’s ghosts of electric ladies past must have been proud. She wound us down softly with a sweet song that sums up this post: ‘What an Experience.’