TO Jazz Review: Janelle Monae, June 22, Toronto Star Stage

Janelle Monae is a great singer. Moreover, she’s a great all around performer backed up by a solid band. Put simply, this lady knows a thing or two about how to entertain a crowd. The Kansas born funk/soul singer’s star has been steadily on the rise for awhile now, Panic Manual having been turned on to her early on after a SXSW set a few years back and she definitely lives up to the hype.

Monae opened for Of Montreal awhile back and I can only assume the association had some impact on her stage show, which included fancy dress/odd costumes on her bandmates, Monae painting onstage during one song, and other shenanigans like Monae beating up two guys onstage who seemed to be right out of Eyes Wide Shut. A little bit of theatricality goes a long way in making for an entertaining show.

Along with a fantastic cover of The Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back,” Monae offered up a few cover versions this night, some of which seemed to be her concession to the fact that she was playing a jazz festival. These included Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile,” which was preceded by a ’60s style jazzy solo from her guitarist and a medley of “You Only Live Twice” and “Goldfinger.” I guess when you’ve got a band this good, with strings and horns included, why not tackle a medley of Bond Themes? And why not wear a Bond-esque white tuxedo jacket while you’re at it?

My only real quibble with this show would be the sound mix. The bass seemed too loud, which sort of drowned out the efforts of the rest of the band at times. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some loud bass, but not at the expense of everything else. That aside, this was an impressive performance on the part of Janelle Monae and band.

Posted on by Paul in Everything, Toronto Jazz Festival