How do you top an impromptu birthday party in J. Cole’s adopted hometown? Bring an Electric Lady and all her friends to the BX for a night of retro soul. Janelle Monáe headlined Night 2 of VH1’s Super Bowl Blitz, live from Lehman College in the Bronx. Between being rolled out in a straightjacket and body surfing over her collection of screaming fans, the undersized R&B innovator more than exceeded our expectations.
With her 11-piece band helping to supply funky grooves (and dancing in their seats–we see you, strings section!) Janelle came in with bang, playing to the high-energy Q.U.E.E.Ns in the audience who couldn’t resist moving in the aisles. Electric Lady tracks like “Dance Apocalyptic” allowed her to show off her moonwalk (and twerking) skills and vintage cuts from 2010’s The ArchAndroid like “Tightrope” and “Cold War” had the entire house shouting every word.
Janelle slowed things down for current single “Primetime,” which led to a heartfelt sing-along, surprise confetti and, yes, couples swaying.
Yet somehow we didn’t even miss Miguel? (Yes, we’re as surprised as you are.) Janelle may only be five feet tall, but that voice can be heard for miles, and those air upper cuts pack a serious punch.
Before taking the stage, we got a feel for just how close Team Monae really is. Janelle led her band and backup singers in a group prayer, reflecting on all of the positives in their lives and letting go of the negative. Mid-set, Janelle introduced herself as a supporter of equality, whether it’s gender, age, sexuality or race. Such an entertaining and thoughtful show was indeed a celebration of the individual. There was also throwback feel to the night, as seen in Janelle’s guitar player’s Katt Williams-esque hair and the homage to the great King of Pop.
By blending genres and going H.A.M. on her dancers, seeing Janelle live makes the fact that she was ignored by this year’s Grammy Awards even more difficult to accept. (Shaking our fists at you forever, Recording Academy.) In a world where lip-synching does exist, and live acts can quickly go stale or get bloated by special effects, Janelle is a true performer that brings it every single night. She also stands for something that’s worth learning more about. There’s a purpose in her performance, which makes that final stage dive and confetti explosion all the more fulfilling.
Wanna be part of the fun? (And based on host Nick Cannon’s fresh footwear, how could you not?) We’re hosting Super Bowl Blitz shows across New York and New Jersey for the rest of the week, live on VH1 and VH1.com every night at 11 pm ET. Need more details? Check out the schedule below.
· Wednesday, January 29: Fall Out Boy – Brooklyn: Brooklyn Bowl
· Thursday, January 30: TLC – Manhattan: Beacon Theatre
· Friday, January 31: Goo Goo Dolls – Staten Island: St. George Theatre
· Saturday, February 1: Gavin DeGraw – New Jersey-: The Wellmont Theatre (Montclair, NJ)
[Photo Credit: VH1]