Additional photos of Janelle Monae by Dustin Cordeiro:
I couldn’t think of a better artist to help kick off this year’s Jazz Festival than Janelle Monáe. And for her performance at Nathan Phillips Square, the eclectic jazz-pop songstress put all her talents on display.
Photos of Roman GianArthur by Brian Vendiola
Opener Roman GianArthur strutted onto the stage to applause and a number of “Prince!?” screams from the audience. With a silk scarf tied around his neck and a black top hat on his head, GianArthur’s on-stage persona clearly echoed such icons as Stevie Wonder and “The Purple One,” and his songs also seemed like throw-backs to some of yesterday’s best funk and soul music. One of the stand-outs of his six song set was a cover of the Isley Brothers’ “Who’s That Lady,” as well as a song he told the audience was written about Canadian women which had the line “I wanna fuck you” and “You’re so strange” repeated as the song’s chorus.
Monáe’s set opened with a dark and dramatic twist as three cloaked figures swayed with their backs to the crowd. The one in the middle was soon revealed to be Monáe when she began spitting the lines of her song “Dance or Die.” Many other theatrical moments were scattered throughout the set, like when Monáe donned a pair of white angular framed glasses between songs and began dancing like a robot, as well as her energetic cover of The Jackson 5 classic “I Want You Back”, and of course when Monáe slathered yellow and red paint across a large white canvas during her song “Mushrooms & Roses”. Bouts of laughter filled the audience when the painting turned out to be of a curvaceous backside and had the words “God is luv” written in blue paint.
The drama continued into the four-song-encore when Monáe threw on one of her signature white tuxedo jackets and played a medley of the James Bond songs “You Only Live Twice” and “Goldfinger”. Monáe then burst into one of her new songs, a long but extremely memorable 70’s-style funk number called “Electric Lady”, which shows promise for the next chapter of her musical career.
Monáe saved the best for last with a high-energy performance of “Come Alive”, one of the wildest tracks off her debut, The ArchAndroid. Monáe’s siren-like vocals suited the song’s skitzo-energy and helped the crowd come alive until she swayed the crowd to the ground and had them charmed into a scat-like call and response before again erupting into madness.
Before finishing, Monáe gave the canvas she painted on-stage to one lucky birthday girl; a warm finish to a set that was bursting at the seams with talent and pizzazz, and a strong launch to another one of the city’s great festivals.