Janelle Monáe @ Roskilde Festival, Denmark, 6 Jul
Janelle Monáe brings the juice to Denmark's Roskilde festival, stealing the hearts of everyone in the process. It's unlikely there will be a better show this year
Janelle Monáe doesn’t just want to make you dance, she wants to make you think too. 2018’s Dirty Computer was a state of the nation address, touching on race, sexuality and freedom and delivered with the energy, verve and obsessive craft of the very best pop music. Alongside huge critical acclaim for her roles in Moonlight and Hidden Figures, high profile protests against police brutality, and kickstarting a national conversation with an interview in which she identified herself as pansexual, she’s captured the limelight in a way that few performers ever do.
With such a resumé, expectations are always going to be high. Fortunately the Kansas-born star is in town with a set so utterly brilliant, explosive and filler-free, it should probably come with its own health warning. You will seldom see a better live show.
Opening her Roskilde set from atop a white podium with the ridiculously enjoyable jam Crazy, Classic, Life, she delivers the tautest funk of the weekend, with every flicker of an eye deployed for maximum drama. Screwed is a joyous tribute to free expression and forgetting the consequences, while Django Jane demonstrates her ridiculous triple threat as one of the best singers, dancers and rappers around.
Changing from a black and white jumpsuit into sparkling silver trousers, she briefly dons a guitar for the ruthlessly danceable Make Me Feel, while Pynk sees her wearing those famous vagina trousers featured in the song's already iconic video. As rainbow flags wave, she hauls a trio of fans out of the crowd to dance to I Got the Juice, triggering tears of joy in one participant and enormous cheers from the crowd.
There’s time for a select few older tracks too; Q.U.E.E.N. snaps and pops like the true R'n'B classic it deserved to be, while her supremely funky band tease and hype the crowd through an extended rendition of Tightrope, rendered with the finesse of Prince.
A plea to do better by the LGBTQIA+ community, people of colour and people with disabilities is delivered with a passionate sincerity that reflects the remarkable energy this show must take to deliver. By the time she crawls across the stage belting Come Alive like the reincarnation of James Brown, the crowd are so utterly onside that it feels as if the stage could take off and no one would bat an eyelid. As she ascends the pyramid and casts a final glance over her shoulder she’s stolen every heart on the field.