October 29, 2010
@ The Warfield
Can we just start by saying that Janelle Monae is shitting mental? 'Cause she is. And her opening set tonight is just the start of an evening of bizarre amateur dramatics that feel very much like an acid trip, taken in the '70s, that repeats on you for years to come.
One bonus is that when Monae is being a freak, it's a joy to watch; when the members of Of Montreal are being freaks, it feels a little bit like coming home one day and finding your brother in the midst of a creepy orgy that (a) you don't want to take part in, and (b) you never wanted to know about in the first place.
So let's start with Monae's hour-long opening opus, and say that this set has everything. Seriously. Orchestral old-school Bond-movie moments, zombie monks in Phantom Of The Opera masks, dancing nuns, endless theatrics, sci-fi overtones, James Brown tributes, true and consistent showmanship, bone-rattlingly loud bass, bizarre painting-related outbursts, capes, and, above all, sweet, sweet soul music, fresh funk and a voice that could melt the heavens. We know this because at one point, during the end of "Smile," Monae lowers her microphone to her waist and her pitch-perfect vocal still echoes all the way up to the top of the dome of The Warfield.
Barnes comes off not as a sexy challenge, but rather that creepy guy on your Bart train home who won't leave you alone when you just want to listen to your music and relax. Sure they have bouncy, feel-good moments, and this sort of synth-pop dance mastery is a great soundtrack to the impromptu Halloween dance party that's happening tonight. But unsettling your audience to this degree means no one actually gets to absorb or enjoy any musical happenings on display. Aside from anything else, Of Montreal's set is simply too long -- an hour and forty-five minutes -- so by the end of it, it's not even shocking anymore -- merely played-out.
"Dude! This is ridiculous. I don't know what that woman's doing! ...But I do know that I like it!"
"I'm glad we're seeing her at The Warfield because this is definitely the smallest venue we're ever gonna see her in. I bet she'll be the new Lady Gaga in a couple of years."
"Man, this is going on for a really long time. I don't have a TV right now so I could use some sort of entertainment tonight, but I just don't want it to be... this."
"This is like an All Ages Exotic Erotic Ball. Or like a fucked up combination of Prince and Rocky Horror and Barney."