FSU began a new term today, so this past weekend was full of parties. The one to be at Saturday night was Janelle Monáe’s set for Ogelsby Union’s “Last Call Before Fall.” Opening act The Blow didn’t need the clever name to deliver on its promise, but the Monáe show beginning a half hour later was the most put together four piece outfit Tallahassee has seen for a long time.
It takes only a brief look at Monáe & Leftfoot’s video with Big Boi to know that she’s about solid singing and precision dancing (James Brown comes to mind). Her live show is no different. From the white-gloved backup dancers with red tambourines to old-school R&B references all the way back to church with a quote from “All Creatures of Our God and King,” this is an artist who knows her audience and exactly what she wants to say to them.
She’s hired all the right musicians to help her say it, too. Her drummer flashed HSBCU-style stick tricks between gospel and marching tinged time keeping techniques. Her virtuoso guitarist helped her showcase impressive vocal clarity and range with their sophisticated harmonic imagining of Charlie Chaplin’s classic “Smile.” Her man on keys sported dork chic style while holding down both his own part and that of a bass player. All kept up with the tightly choreographed demands of a powerful one hour set.
I first heard about this artist in June, when she got a rave review over at BlackGrooves. I can think of no better artist to kick off FSU’s fall term with our not quite new university president than the fresh but clearly not green Janelle Monáe in her fashionably overstated tuxedo. Here’s wishing them both a good year.