Electric Lady No. 1 graced the House of Blues with an explosive cacophony of dancing, freedom and funk.
The audience bore witness to hours of endless flows of creativity, talent and style. Accompanied by the smoothest guitar, buffest brass, freaky dancers, solid drums and bodacious bass, Janelle Monáe, with the power of the Wondaland Arts Society, tore into Boston light on her feet and ready to let her message shine.
I guess that’s why a representative from Councilman Charles Yancey’s office decreed Wednesday as Janelle Monáe Day in Boston on the House of Blues stage, as Monáe wiped away tears amidst the applause.
Before the show, members of WAS passed out the 10 Droid Commandments. Number 10 warned that any child conceived within 48 hours of the concert might be born with wings, and the WAS held no responsibility.
To get a taste of the impending vitality of the concert, number two decreed:
“If you see your neighbor jamming harder than you, covet his or her jam.”
Then the House of Blues transformed into Metropolis. A doctor stepped on stage and quieted the crowd. He said, “Good evening,” but the crowd simply cheered. He repeated the words again, and then everyone started to pay attention to his monologue. And so the mind control began.
The band started to play. The two dancers hummed, the drums tingled and the guitarist lightly danced across the fret board. When the volume began to rise, two doctors wheeled out a woman in a straitjacket. The doctors stood Monáe up in front of the microphone. She opened her eyes, gently wrestled her way out of the straitjacket and subsequently started one of the most intense and lively concerts.
We were told to “get ready to be funked,” but really, nobody in the crowd knew what could happen. The way this woman performs is unlike any other artist, living or deceased. You could tell that Michael Jackson inspired her moves. But then again, she is distinctly Janelle Monáe. Her feet were never on the ground at the same time.
Janelle Monáe standing still? Impossible.
With every song came a new register, a new timber and more passion. About halfway through her set, she addressed the crowd directly with free verse, drawing attention to the voices of the repressed, suppressed and oppressed. People quieted down, transfixed by her cool demeanor. Then she sang her hit “Cold War” from her album Archandroid and the audience exploded.
The magic of Janelle Monáe and the WAS is not only in the music. Her songs give the ostracized the opportunity to spread their wings and be proud of their race, gender, sexuality and socioeconomic class. Her music inspires those historically repressed groups and unites them with the love for the freedom associated with following Electric Lady No. 1.
Sheria Caces, a 24-year-old graduate student at Tufts University, beamed as she talked about Janelle Monáe. She said her sexuality and vocabulary transcend most other artists today.
“She has redefined sex,” Caces said. “She exudes her sexuality without exploiting her body, and we don’t see that anymore.”
Her friend Michelle Weiss, a master’s student at Emerson College, commented on how important her music is in regard to discussing the intersection of marginalized groups.
“She is a huge influence in the queer community,” she said. “She is an icon without labeling herself that way. Her music is her identity.”
With the bass and the drums carrying the tune of “Cold War,” Monáe began to silence the crowd without saying a word. With her arms outstretched and palms out at the audience, she successfully got the crowd to sit on the ground and stay quiet.
She crawled into the audience, swimming through shocked faces and cellphones. She mainly stayed mobile, but stopped to put her arm around audience members who ignored the photo opportunity and chose to sing along with her. Not to gloat, but she stopped and put her glorious arm around me, because I refused to let my phone get between us and our moment.
Ms. Monáe, how are you so electric? How do you stay so humble when you are carrying the momentum of the Civil Rights movement through your music? You speak so softly, yet your message ruptures eardrums and makes your fans’ hearts race. Keep preaching to the world and keep collaborating with the best artists alive. You deserve Janelle Monáe Day, and the world deserves you.