GIG REVIEW: Janelle Monae at Camden Roundhouse

WORTH A LOOK?: *****

WHERE?: Camden Roundhouse

WHEN?: 12/9/18

SETLIST: Dirty Computer; Crazy, Classic, Life; Take A Byte; Screwed; Django Jane; Q.U.E.E.N.; Electric Lady; Prime Time; Pynk; Yoga; I Like That; Don’t Judge Me; Make Me Feel; I Got the Juice; Cold War; Tightrope; So Afraid; Americans

When Monae encourages BAFTA-winning British actress and screenwriter Michaela Coel to join three audience members, including 1 in a wheelchair, on stage for a dance-off during an extended version of I Got The Juice (see 1h 16m in below), you know that you’re witnessing something extra special.

  • Read on for reasons including how this show opens with the 2001 Theme and, astonishingly, lives up to it

We shortlisted Monae’s Dirty Computer as 1 of our half dozen favourites of 2018 so far  but even we weren’t sure how she would shape up during the tour promoting it.

It’s an extraordinary album and the show is every inch one that would grace arenas around the globe yet here we are in the 1,700-capacity Camden Roundhouse and we can’t believe our ears – or eyes.

We knew that Monae was a Prince protégé but here she almost appears to have embodied his spirit, crotch-grabbing suggestively through much of the set, strapping a guitar on for the explicit Screwed and even thanking Him as the screens are awash with the colour he is most associated with and her guitarist riffs on Purple Rain midway through the set.

Elsewhere her film star career informs the facial impressions during much of the performance and if these occasionally look a little musical theatre it actually makes the words and the messages of the songs much easier to understand.

The military outfits at the show’s beginning owe a little to Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation era which might detract from the show if it wasn’t showcasing Monae’s most compelling album yet, arguably 2018’s best mix of rap, pop and dance we’ve yet heard.

Monae tells us she’s all about ‘self love, even if it makes others uncomfortable’ and there’s much to be said for a black female LGBTQ icon acting in such a positive way. The dancing is provocative, the band tight and Monae herself is in fine voice even at this point in what has been a lengthy tour.

Make Me Feel is 1 of our songs of 2018 and, by this point, we can’t believe that there’s anyone in this venue who hasn’t fallen head over heels in love with her.

By I Got The Juice the mood is so celebratory that it’s hard to believe this is 1 of only 3 UK gigs. Ms Monae, your UK Dirty Computers want you back on these shores and playing live for us – and very soon.

  • Picture via Facebook courtesy Janelle Monae. Tickets
  • Enjoyed this review? Follow its author on Twitter @NeilDurham, email neildurham3@gmail.com and check us out on Instagram and Facebook

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