New York City was the second stop on Wondaland’s The Eephus tour on Thursday night (Aug. 13) at the Highline Ballroom. The free concert, powered by Toyota, featured Janelle Monáe and her legion of uber-talented artists: Jidenna, St. Beauty, Deep Cotton, and Roman GianArthur. Here, the Electric Lady & Co. took spectators on a wild journey through their musical oasis of futuristic sounds and fist-pumping messages.
Kicking the night off was a red-clad Roman, who performed his song “Let’s Go Crazy” before bringing out the Queen of Wondaland, herself, Janelle Monáe.
“Welcome to Wondaland!,” she yelled to the crowd.
Next up was punk rock duo, Deep Cotton, who channeled their inner Prince with a performance of “Runaway Radio”. Fans did their best two-step when distinguished gentleman Jidenna in a white, three-piece suit, followed up with his rendition of “Knickers,” equipped with a highly animated dancer, who also wore a three-piece suit. After holding hands with several ladies in the audience, the debonaire singer shifted gears to his more militant self with “Long Live The Chief.”
Each of the artists’ sets were tailor made to their own musical style. Royal purple lighting help set the mood when St. Beauty performed “Never Be An Americlone.” The night’s stand-out, Roman Gianartur, offered a soul-stirring set, especially with his deep cut, “Breaking Me Down.” He was also well-versed in playing both frontman and background, as he added the fire for Deep Cotton’s high octane sets and bluesy soul to St. Beauty’s misty performance on guitar. Every act contributed to the other’s proving that in Wondaland, the spotlight isn’t hogged, but shared.
Not only did the secret show offer a platform to get more familiar with the entire roster but it served as a call for social justice. The closer was a special performance of their rebellious anthem, “Hell You Talmbout,” which serves as a battlecry for the victims of police brutality and hate crimes. Many raised their fists in unison, a sight that would inspire even the most timid to march out of the show as newly-anointed social activists.
Lastly, The Eephus tour also proved Janelle Monáe’s mastery as musical curator. While it served as a #message for Millennials of all creeds and colors to fight for change, there were also live performances of the jams dominating today’s radio rotation from “Classic Man” to “Yoga.” Monáe and Jidenna also kept it trill with a must-see rendition of Dr. Dre’s 1991 classic, “Nuthin But A G Thang” as Jidenna rapped, “Rolling with the electric lady, Wondaland is the label that pays me.” But the crew isn’t here for the dinero or the accolades. This is music with purpose.—Mark Braboy (@DRD_Poetry17)