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Review: Janelle Monae at House of Blues

Posted 1:55pm on Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013

Janelle Monae began the night bound in a straitjacket.

She ended it bodysurfing atop the ecstatic crowd filling the main floor of the House of Blues.

The metaphor is almost too perfect: a rigid conceptualist whose music explodes with possibilities, at its best when threatening to careen out of control.

For roughly 100 minutes Saturday night, Monae, backed by a crisp, nine-piece band on a stage draped with white curtains, worked through a healthy chunk of her superb new record, The Electric Lady.

Making her debut headlining performance in North Texas, she breezed by a few other points in her catalog, briefly touching upon Metropolis and The ArchAndroid, and even stirred in a couple instructive covers (the Jackson 5’s I Want You Back and Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy).

But the focus was rightly put upon the extraordinarily confident and eclectic material found on Lady.

Despite getting no traction on radio, the nearly full house roared like Q.U.E.E.N., Dance Apocalyptic or PrimeTime were multi-platinum smashes — and Monae’s charisma, pitched at an arena level, made the House of Blues feel like it was about to split at the seams.

Some of that exuberance is expected — Monae is nothing if not a committed performer, perspiring visibly by the third song in — and some of the ebullience Saturday likely stemmed from a return to the stage after a week of physician-mandated vocal rest.

Or perhaps, it was just a loosening of that metaphorical straitjacket, a chance for Monae to let it all go, artistically speaking.

The 27-year-old singer-songwriter conceives and performs with a deceptive abandon, building a world a growing number of fans can’t help but lose themselves in.

As she sang to close to out the deliriously entertaining night, What an Experience.

Preston Jones, 817-390-7713 Twitter: @prestonjones

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