In just a few years Janelle Monae has gone from musician to actress to a leading icon of the LGBTQ community.
She and her Wondaland Collective have released a steady stream of music and videos that have pushed the boundaries of what is considered normal/mainstream. In return she has been rewarded with a diverse audience captivated by her message of acceptance, equality and freedom.
On Saturday night at San Francisco’s Masonic theater (during Pride week no less) she reiterated that message loud and clear. “No matter who you love, no matter how you love…you’re welcome here.” Even in a city known for it’s openness it was reassuring to hear this message said out loud and to hear that everyone in the audience was in agreement.
At the end of the evening strangers were literally hugging each other and wiping away tears. Social media following the show was full of similar sentiment. That may sound pretty heavy for a pop show on a Saturday night but Monae knows what she is doing. From the opening number onwards she and her incredibly tight backing band, cadre of dancers and seemingly endless precision choreography mesmerized an audience who for once seemed to keep their cell phones in their pockets. The show was a collision of Grace Jones gender politics, James Brown showmanship and an undefinable sound reminiscent of Prince who like Monae never fit neatly in the funk, soul or rock category.
That being said, Monae still managed to be herself and maintain a singular voice that while acknowledging those that went before her seems hellbent on forging a path of her own. At this point in time she is far and away the leading trailblazer in still unsettled territory of art, music, politics, and performance. Again, that sounds like an overstatement but according to the comments from the audience leaving the theater Saturday it is 100% truth.
Let’s hope more people follow her as she leads the way.
In addition to her almost 2 hour set, the crowd was treated to an impressive performance by fellow Wondaland label-mates St. Beauty who traded turns on the microphone while alternating between dancing, jumping and bass playing that started off a memorable evening. They are a band to watch. Their Running to the Sun album is out now.
Check out highlights from the evening below: