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Review: Queen Janelle Monáe's electric Wembley set

ELECTRIC LADY: Janelle Monáe (Photo credit: Katja Ogrin/ EMPICS Entertainment)

THERE’S NO question Janelle Monáe is pop royalty and she made it clear once again with her stellar show at London’s Wembley Arena last night.

Tuesday gigs can sometimes feel a little awkward but Monae’s music made the packed out venue time travel to a funky Friday in true Dirty Computer style.

The singer, who is on the last leg of her Dirty Computer tour, opened with the album title song as fans erupted as she appeared on the stage.

“Young, black, wild and free”, sings Monáe on Crazy, Classic, Life and she embodied each characteristic through a bold and brilliant set.

Her show exhibits her range – vocally she can hit those high notes with ease and drop it low – and in terms of genre versatility – she speeds things up, slows them down, sings and raps, transitioning with ease. Fans are treated to everything from the smooth, RnB ballad Primetime, a killer track, to peppy pop tracks such as Pynk.

Throughout her set Monáe stuck mainly to her signature black, white and red when it came to costumes but she donned the famous vulva trousers for single Pynk.

A performer in the truest sense, her spirit and energy is both empowering and infectious but she supplements her visual and lyrical messaging with sincere commentary highlighting social issues.

Before showing off her vocals with So Afraid, Monáe shared with the audience that she struggled with her worst ever experience of anxiety and depression during the making of her Dirty Computer album. As she paused, seemingly holding back tears, concerned and supportive fans cheered her on in solidarity.

While she had some help from her friends on her third studio album, Monáe needs no assistance on stage. But she invited actress Lupita Nyong'o to briefly join her for a dance break during an extended version of I Got the Juice. Four fans also got their 15 minutes of fame and a chance to get up close and personal with the singer who hand-picked them during one of several direct interactions with the audience.

“Ain't no juice quite like yours. Ain't no juice quite like mine,” sang Monáe and whatever the juice is, she’s got it and she’s right, there’s no one quite like her.

Parting the standing crowd, Monáe walked among her fans, complimenting some of them as she passed them by, danced with them and in true funk style had them take part in a call in response segment.

In an extended speech, Monáe delivered a rallying speech urging fans to fight for marginalised groups including LGBT people, black people and women, and ended it with the words: “And finally, we must impeach Donald Trump”. It’s no surprise each statement received a raucous response from the crowd – Monáe’s music is unashamedly pro black and pro LGBT.

Tightrope, Monáe’s final song before an encore electrified the arena. It’s nine years old but the beauty of her sound means it still sounds fresh. Monáe frequently makes references to a time machine and it’s highly likely that her back catalogue will stand the test of time.

Prince’s influence on Monae and her adoration of him are teased every now and then and in Make Me Feel, the Purple Rain singer’s spirit shines through but so does Monáe’s. Comparisons will be drawn but Monáe is her own unique artist. Monáe, the electric lady, is the future.

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