September 27, 2023

Janelle Monáe played Radio City Music Hall

Janelle Monáe brought their lavish The Age of Pleasure Tour to Radio City Music Hall and proved they're one of the best in the game.

After taking some time away from music to star in some blockbuster films, Janelle Monáe returned this year with their new album, The Age of Pleasure and is now in the midst of a tour that is showcasing their spectacular stage presence and highlighting them as one of the top artists out there in music today. With a stage decked out in an extravagant set up, Janelle led their band through hit after hit and offered up a blockbuster show all their own, taking the lead and proving to everyone in attendance that they deserve every accolade that has come their way and then some. Segmenting the show into various acts, they began the night with Chapter 1: A Thousand Versions of the Self and descended from the top of the stage in a full flower gown while gracing the crowd with "Float," the first track off their latest record and one that set the scene of the epic night to follow. Careening the crowd along with their dances, they mixed sultry pleasure with stunning vibrance of sexual affirmation before toasting to themself on "Champagne Shit," adding some decadence to the mix and glamming things up early on in the set. "Phenomenal" and "Haute" continued the themes from their new album and provided self-declarations that they offered up to the masses. This was a night of celebration, freedom, and liberation and Janelle wasted no time in bringing their self reflecting joy to the sold out audience. The night started off loud and never wavered, the bass pounding and shaking the building to its core making for certainly the loudest show I have ever attended at the esteemed venue and while at first it felt a bit overwhelming and made the vocals difficult to hear, the mix loosened up as the night progressed and while the volume hovered at eleven, their vocals were eventually brought up in the mix and Janelle made sure everyone in the building was aware of their incredible range and control. While it's always been clear they are a performer, this tour is here to remind everyone that they are in fact the total package. Throughout the night they sang, rapped, danced, and led the crowd on an impeccable journey of their many illustrious talents that begs the question of how they're not in the same category as other legendary acts like Ms. Lauryn Hill or Queen Bey herself, two other artists known for their artistic ranges and their impact on the arts as a whole. "Electric Lady" was a knockout punch that had the entire audience rocking along with them, bouncing to the beat and shouting right back at them as Janelle screamed for pleasure and advocated for self love. It was a night that celebrated joy and the amazing power of belonging, creating safe spaces to welcome all those who can love oneself and revel in others doing the same and was another empowering musical experience that emphasized queerness as the root of its power. "Lipstick Lover" dabbled in Caribbean vibes, bringing bright riddims and buoyant melodies to the forefront and giving Black queerness a place to thrive, flourish, and be celebrated. For the fourth chapter, Monáe returned to the stage in silky pink pants with erotic femme details and a headpiece adorned with more vaginal imagery giving way to the lush and sexy performance of "Pynk," an evocative, yet again, empowering song that highlights the pleasure found within oneself before leading their dancers through some ballet inspired "Yoga" before a triumphant "I Like That" concluded the portion of the set to electric cheers from around the room. Returning once more in a Michael Jackson-inspire ensemble of sequenced black pants, suit jacket, hat, loafers, and white socks, Monáe strapped on a guitar to bust out the iconic riff to the radiant "Make Me Feel," a number that had the crowd besides themself as Janelle took things once again to another level of talent. Taking a moment to thank the crowd, Janelle wiped tears from their eyes as they expressed endless amounts of gratitude to all the have helped them reach this stage. "I went to performing arts school here and I used to pass this place all the time and wonder if I'd ever get to play here" they told the crowd through their tears and after a resounding applause they jumped into "Tightrope" to close out what seemed like the main set before they returned for one last surprise as they jumped into the aisles and ran into the crowd for one last hit. There have been so many career defining moments for Janelle Monáe, but seeing this performance really hit home just how talented and full of star power energy they truly are and easily escalated them onto a pedestal all their own. 

Set list:

Chapter I: A Thousand Versions of the Self
01 "Float"
02 "Champagne Shit"
03 "Black Sugar Beach"
04 "Phenomenal"
05 "Haute"
Chapter II: Now or Never
06 "Django Jane"
07 "Q.U.E.E.N."
08 "Electric Lady"
Chapter III: (T)high Vibrations
09 "Lipstick Lover"
10 "Water Slide"
11 "Know Better"
12 "Paid in Pleasure"
Chapter IV: Paradise Found
13 "Pynk"
14 "Yoga"
15 "Only Have Eyes 42"
16 "I Like That"
17 "Make Me Feel"
18 "Tightrope"
19 "Come Alive (The War of the Roses)"

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