–by Sean Derrick
Janelle Monae stopped in Saint Louis Wednesday night on her “Age of Pleasure Tour” and turned Stifel Theatre into a safe space for fans of all orientations with a spectacular show and outpouring of love.
The multi-talented actress/singer is in the midst of her tour, which lasts until Mid October, and is pulling out all the stops in making this a tour to remember. She is doing so by bringing a big-time production to an intimate environment, and in doing so is avoiding the disconnect many encounter in a larger venue.
The 3,100 seat Stifel Theatre is the perfect size for Monae’s production in that it has the capacity to incorporate large stage productions while allowing the fans to feel a closeness to the artist.
Monae’s multi-tiered stage was flanked by a huge wall of speakers on stage right and her band on several tiers of stage left, backed by a very large video screen that made the already larger than life persona of Monae even more spectacular with video of the singer intertwined with vibrant imagery throughout the set that complimented her dynamic style. A style she showed off with numerous outfit changes throughout the night.
Entering the stage wearing a full body of flowers Monae immediately sent a message that the night was going to be a night filled with messages of love. Her style enveloped themes of confidence, pizzaz, sexiness, and business, with a splash of fun. All with a stylish touch of art and class.
The show was divided into five chapters/acts, each with a positive message displayed on the screen. This complimented well with the stage lighting of each act.
The set easily flowed through with each song getting the full treatment of choreographed dancing of her entourage, who were in top form coupled with the beautifully silky-smooth vocals from Monae herself.
More than half of the setlist comes from her latest album The Age of Pleasure, intertwined with songs from each of her prior albums, this is definitely an all-out immersion into the new album, and it works wonderfully.
The vibe from the show was that of acceptance, love, body positivity, self-worth, and LGBTQ rights. It had a vibe of community and family and closeness, something that in many areas today is sorely lacking.
Her encore was a nod to multiple performers, namely Michael Jackson, with a black sequin suit and reminiscent of Jackson’s “Billie Jean” jacket and hat complete with a group moonwalk during “Make Me Feel”, and James Brown. Very cool.
Monae made the night more intimate during a couple of times in particular. The first occurred during “Paid in Pleasure” when she chose ten members of the audience to join her onstage, asked their names and danced with each one after letting them dance as a group.
The other time was during the extended encore. She was scheduled to stop at Tightrope but said the electricity from the crowd lifted her up from a “shitty day” she was having. She decided to perform “Come Alive (The War of the Roses)” and extended it by making her way into the crowd to sing and dance with lucky members of the audience. That seemed a perfect sendoff to a top-notch production.
The only negative I could find in the show was the reverb from the bass occasionally overpowered everything, at times making it difficult to hear Monae’s spectacular vocal performance. Other than that, this show was just about perfect. It is certainly a tour not to miss.
Hip hop duo Flyana Boss opened the show with a solid set that included “You Wish”, “Nu Nu” and “Mammamia.”
Be sure to check out the rest of the gallery of photos after the setlist below.
Janelle Monae Setlist:
Black Sugar Beach
Paid in Pleasure
Only Have Eyes 42
I Like That
Make Me Feel
Come Alive (The War of the Roses)