Janelle Monáe Is Nothing Short Of Phenomenal at The Armory


There are no limits for actor, singer, rapper, and entertainer Janelle Monáe. Each new release creates a new world to draw from. The deep motifs and concepts always manifest on stage in the most stimulating ways. That said, when she comes to town it’s never a bad idea to go experience the world she’s made up for us this time; that’s at least what I understood going into the night. I was a first-timer. Not for lack of wanting to see Monáe, it just never timed out right for me. When I look at tour photos and reviews of her shows I am instantly envious of the people that were in the room. Last night was finally my night.

One quick elephant in the room to address before we get down to the evening: doors were delayed. However, the weather was absolutely gorgeous, and as I walked up to get in line I felt like I just had a really good opportunity to see everyone’s incredible outfits and say hi to friends. People seemed happy, chatty, and ready to get lost in a good time. I have come to understand that production delays were the cause. The Armory staff were as proactive as possible with getting everyone in as soon as they got the green light to open the doors, and the set changes ran pretty quickly to make up time. Trust me – the production was worth the wait.

Opener DJ Nana Kwabena was spinning on stage as the crowd walked into the venue. He had people dancing their way up to the barricade from the entrance in the back. It was like a rebirth for the evening. A way to say “Yes. We’ve made it. We’re here together and let’s not waste any time getting down.” Immaculate vibes. What else would you expect from someone who has worked with Kendrick Lamar, Rick Ross, John Legend, and Janelle Monáe herself?

Los Angeles duo Flyana Boss was up next. This is a pair of best friends making some pretty big moves in hip-hop on TikTok and beyond. Their clever and bold lyrics had me smiling ear to ear during their quick set. My jaw dropped a few times as well. The pair strutted from opposite sides of the stage throughout their set; stopping near each other to connect on a dance move or highlight each other. They worked the crowd together effortlessly. Balloons bounced up and down over the crowd. It truly was one of the most confident and fun opening sets I’ve seen.

Jidenna was our last opener of the evening. He graced the stage for one gorgeous piece and addressed the crowd to set the mood for “the Queen Janelle Monáe.” He expressed sincere gratitude and praise for the sacrifices and hard work of the touring crew. He then made his own sacrifice to relinquish the rest of his time to our headliner. A few moments later, the stage was clear, the lights dimmed, and the massive curtain hanging in front of the stage dropped.

A six-piece band entered through a sunrise-esque light from the back of a massive set of stairs. There was a mountain of decorative speakers on each side. Flowers were winding around the edges and up the walls. After a ceremonious entry by the band and dancers, Monáe’s silhouette appeared over the burst of light. The audience screamed as she broke into the light in a gorgeous gown made of colorful flowers and made her way down the stairs. Appropriately, she was singing “I don’t dance I just float.” Float she did!

She had the crowd repeat the call and response from the song as she did a toast with her dancers – then transitioned perfectly into “Champagne Shit”:

“To the lives we lead

To the dreams we chase

To the moments that we make

And the fucked up shit we can’t erase”

I felt the crowd let go and give in to what this night was for – The Age Of Pleasure. It was a vacation. A 20-song setlist that cruised along seamlessly through multiple outfit changes, chapters, and dance moves. The stage remained an anything-but-blank canvas to make the magic happen. “Django Jane”, “Water Slide” and “Phenomenal” were highlights from all over her career that had the audience vibing. Hearing “Tightrope” still making the set also made me happy – for me, that’s where it all began in college.

The most fun for me was to see her pay homage to her influences by moonwalking like Michael Jackson and a perfect cover of Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.” Prince is always cited as an influence, and it’s pretty known that he was a fan of hers as well. It felt really special to see her do such a celebratory song of his to finish off an absolutely incredible night of music, dance, and pleasure. She delivered a red-hot celebration and vacation vibes on a Monday night.