The flyer I picked up on the way in to the Academy showed Janelle with her finger to her lips. “Janelle Monae insists: After seeing the Electric Tour, please don’t tell your friends its shocking secrets…”

But I must! I have to tell you how amazing she is and what a great show it was. By the time you read this, her whirlwind tour, taking in Manchester, Birmingham and London, will have been and gone.

To begin at the beginning. I have admired Janelle Monae from the first time I saw her performing ‘Tightrope’ on a YouTube clip. As someone who grew up with pop package tours and soul and Tamla discos, I was intrigued to see a young female performer who combined the old and the new in R&B so successfully.

She’s beautiful with an androgynous style, sharp suits, black and white monochrome outfits and a pompadour hairdo. She can work a cloak like James Brown, move and shake like Otis Redding on the Stax tour, testify like James and Bobby Purify, and sing like Michael Jackson. She has the prettiness of Janet Jackson, but she doesn’t need to undress to impress. She’s worked with some amazing artists, including the wonderful Erykah Badu and Solange Knowles, and she is respected and recognised as the talented young performer she is.

Her early background in musical theatre shows in her performance. She’s electric, magnetic, irresistible on stage. Her talents as a songwriter and creative artist have allowed her to create her own reality, her fantasy of the Arch Android and Metropolis. Take a look at the videos that go with her songs. There’s a space age, futuristic, funkadelic twist to it all.

The Academy was full of people ready for a great night. Outside it was raining heavily, there was a crucial home football game and an incident on the Mancunian Way. Traffic was gridlocked round the city. Cody Chestnutt was on as support, with his own well deserved following in the audience. Once again, there was a wide mix of ages, reflecting Janelle Monae’s wide appeal, across at least three generations.

I have seen two of the most memorable performances in a lifetime of concert going at this venue, Patti Smith and more recently Prince.

I’m adding this performance to that list.

The band came on in white doctors’ outfits, to a white and black set. I have never seen someone wipe the microphones with steriwipes before, but it made sense. This was going to be totally infectious! To the sound of ‘Thus Spake Zarethustra’ Janelle Monae was wheeled on stage on a stand up trolley, wearing a straitjacket. So far, so space age. She and the band then launched in to their high energy soulful set. Dr Mervyn Mindbender lost control of his patient and we lost control of ourselves, getting higher and higher on the music, walking that tightrope, enjoying every minute of this prancing dancing star on stage, a Q.U.E.E.N. and an Electric Lady.

The stage set and lighting was fantastic. The band, the choreography and the backing singers were amazing. It was beautifully staged but at the same time appeared joyously spontaneous. Favourite songs including a medley of Jackson Five’s ‘I Want You Back’ and ‘ABC’. She’s the closest you are going to get to Michael Jackson’s charismatic youthful presence.

‘Tightrope’, ‘Cold War’, ‘Electric Lady’, ‘Dance Apocalyptic’, ‘Prime Time’, it was a great set.

The audience were mesmerised. The energy and joyfulness were life affirming. There’ll be babies made tonight, I thought.

I left at the first encore, Prince’s ‘Let’s Go Crazy’. Perfect. Only a few weeks before, I’d watched Prince sing the same song on the same stage. Janelle Monae is the inheritor, she’s royalty. She’s the sum of her influences and then some, a unique and talented young woman.

In a week when Manchester was celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Granada Blues and Soul Train, a long ago concert featuring Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Muddy Waters, it was fitting that the young inheritor of that tradition should appear in town.

On the way home I read The Ten Droid Commandments on the back of the flyer. They include a note about children conceived during or within forty eight hours of the show. They may be born with wings. You have been warned. Like all the best musicians and artists, Janelle Monae is a transformer.

















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