On Wednesday, a crowd of unassuming, suits stepped into the Edison Ballroom (a venue perfectly suited for a Lindsey Lohan birthday bash) expecting to experience some random concert to commemorate their Up In The Air-esque conference weekend. Instead, they were teleported from the darkened ballroom to Wondaland, a place where pixies dressed in black mod costumes dance around like fairies and a five-foot-nothing girl belts out notes that incite exclamation pointed gasps and screams from the once tie-glad, all business masses.
Janelle and crew played seven songs, a condensed version. The night was introduced by a tuxedo clad man in a top hat who promised "music of the soul." Hooded monks, crazy guitar licked dance breaks, and a giant jumbo-tron screen were just another night on a Monae stage. Monae herself was dressed in her usual regalia of a full tuxedo and pomador, while the band donned their own tuxes, wigs, sunglasses and pilot goggles. The set mirrored Janelle's varied and widely influenced sound. The top of the show started with a samba, yet jazzy "Dance or Die," to which the crowd realized they had to dance or they might die, and they dance hard. Next the band morphed easily into a sixties go-go "Faster" (of which the last 1:12 might be the best bars of music written and the concert hall erupted into a wildly-beated clap fest). Later, synthesized guitars led to a psychedelic and trippy "Mushroom and Roses," while the night was topped with a space age/futuristic dance party in "Cold War." It seems Janelle Monae's music takes you on a journey to a place you can't quite pinpoint, but understand it's a place few can go in 2010. Maybe ever.
You've heard her foot-tapping, knee-slapping "Tightrope" on the radio. You've seen her perform on So You Think You Can Dance. Maybe you saw the Prince (seen and artist-approved) tribute she killed at a recent awards show, but videos and radio play don't do Janelle Monae justice. While they are epic events in and of themselves, seeing her live is a completely different animal. Seeing her live changes your narrowed existence. She jumps outside the box, grabs you, and takes you off to Wondaland whether you want to go or not.
The bar has been set. Get ready to jump.