Janelle Monae @ Vivid LIVE, Sydney Opera House
Janelle Monae, performing at Sydney Opera House, on my birthday. After shelling out for Good Vibrations tickets in 2011, only to have Ms Monae cancel due to Grammys commitments, the choice to trek up to Sydney for Vivid LIVE was a no-brainer.
Soon after being ushered to my prime third-from-the-front, dead centre seat, Janelle’s band took to the stage to command everyone to get up and dance, and having been stuck in the whole seated-standing limbo at The Palais for Erykah Badu earlier in the year, the initial commandment was pivotal and very much appreciated. As soon as everyone obliged with the order, I weaselled my way to the very front of the stage. A music journalist on their birthday equates to the world’s most entitled arsehole, apparently.
After an excitement-generating overture, the packed Opera House was instructed to Dance Or Die by a hooded figure at the top of an extravagant staircase. From the moment Janelle Monae twinkle-toed her way down to the front of the stage up until the final curtain call, the audience was a mere plaything in her hands.
Though rumours of her supporting Prince on his concurrent Australian tour were unfounded, a cover of the equally diminutive and dynamic pop icon’s Take Me With U was a display of hypnotic beauty. And having seen the man himself perform the track half a week later, I’ll make the call: Janelle did it better.
The night was permeated by the staunch Metropolis-inspired android mythology, one as equally rich as George Clinton’s sprawling P-Funk legacy. The night’s programme insists that we aren’t permitted to tell our friends “its shocking secrets”, but the performance was a goddamn tour de force regardless of such apparent superfluities.
Cold War vehemently blew the goddamn sails off the Opera House. Jaws dropped, goosebumps raised. It felt like we were watching history. Breakthrough single Tightrope followed for a powerhouse one-two punch, holding its own without Big Boi’s verse.
You Only Live Twice (or as the kids might call it these days, #YOLT) segued into Diamonds Are Forever for a Bond-themed first encore.
During the second encore of Come Alive, Janelle managed to elevate herself into the realm of quadruple-threat performer by busting out a canvas and whipping up an abstract painting of the female figure, emblazoned with the word “LUV”.
She’s only just begun, but Janelle Monae possesses all the hallmarks of the All-Time Greats.
Epilogue: After completely slaying the Opera House, Janelle asked if anyone in the audience was celebrating their birthday. Before I knew it, Janelle was handing me the aforementioned painting and wishing me a happy birthday. Then an ocean of well-wishers in attendance professed a similar sentiment as I made my way into the CBD for a karaoke bender. Feels good man.
BY LACHLAN KANONIUK
LOVED: That time Janelle Monae gave me a birthday kissy and a painting.
HATED: Negotiating the logistics of bringing a rather large canvas back on a budget airline.
DRANK: An incalculable multitude of birthday drinks.