The Planner, Nov. 15: A review of Janelle Monáe at ACL Live, plus Old Settler’s tickets and fun with your dog
Keeping with the “Droid revolution” theme that frames her excellent 2013 release “Electric Lady,” Janelle Monáe’s entrance to the stage at ACL Live on Tuesday night was preceded by an introduction by a gentleman in a white lab coat who identified himself as Dr. Marlow Mindbender of the “Palace of the Dolls,” the keeper of Ms. Monáe’s model. He explained that her temporary release was a special occasion and issued an emphatic directive: “Dance or die.” He left and returned rolling Ms. Monáe, strapped to a Dolly and wearing a white straight jacket.
The near capacity crowd went wild.
Ms. Monáe removed the straight jacket and “came to life” as the “Electric Overture” intro music faded into “Givin’ ‘em What They Love,” the Prince-assisted lead track off “Electric Lady.” Clad in white stretch pants and a crisp button down white shirt with skinny suspenders, she launched into a performance that was anything but robotic. Backed by an insanely funky seven-piece ensemble and two backup singer/dancers, she wailed through an electrifying rendition of the song and set the bar high for a show that charged forward with so many climatic showstoppers it began to seem preposterously good.
Monáe didn’t dwell on the droid thing; she “shot” her handlers and triumphantly moonwalked across the stage two tracks in. Monáe is an artist who carries a strong sense of herself, her personal history, her mission and her power. She pours so much heart and soul into her music in a manner that’s sincere, strident and gloriously optimistic.
This was a show that made people dance, cry and testify.
When she left the stage an hour after her start time the crowd cheered furiously for almost five minutes until she returned. She played her uber-hit, the soaring heart love song “Prime Time,” then let her inner Prince go wild covering “Let’s Go Crazy.” Then she went into an epic extended jam of “Come Alive” in which she featured each musician, led a sing-along and persuaded the crowd on the floor to crouch low and be quiet so she could walk among them, before bringing the excitement back to fever pitch and crowd surfing through the ground level of the venue.
She exited once more, but only for a moment. Returning to the stage she explained to the audience how her career was launched by South by Southwest, where she started small a few years back, and she seemed sincerely moved declaring how much it meant to return to a packed house. She took it all out with an ecstasy-inducing rendition of “What an Experience.”
What an experience indeed.
Mega Mutt Monday. Dogs welcome for an evening of brews, sausages, activities and more. Austin Boxer Rescue will be there with adoptables. 5 p.m. 7 p.m. Monday (on the third Monday each month). Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden, 79 Rainey St. bangersaustin.com.
Tickets on sale. Old Settler’s Music Festival, with its idyllic Hill Country setting and lineup full of skilled musicians, is always an early highlight of the festival season. Discounted early-bird tickets go on sale Friday at oldsettlersmusicfest.org for the 2014 edition, which will be April 10-13. Early lineup announcements include Shovels & Rope, John Fullbright, Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys, Shinyribs and Bob Schneider.
Next week in Austin360
Jennifer Lawrence is back in “Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” plus our guide to the holiday movie season.