Janelle Monáe At Glastonbury Review: A futurist-retro soul knock out

Appearing on the Pyramid Stage as Glastonbury draws to a close, Janelle Monáe beats the England vs Slovenia game on points

Janelle Monae Glastonbury 2024

by Danny Eccleston |
Updated on

Right now, England are playing Slovenia and Avril Lavigne is on the Other Stage. Consequently, the Pyramid debut of futurist-retro soul imagineer Janelle Monáe – who’s recently been supporting Coldplay in Europe - doesn’t draw as much of a crowd as it should have. While it’s impossible to see everything at Glastonbury, you feel that it’s those who didn’t make the effort who lose out.

After an intro tape including Rick James’ Superfreak and Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing, it starts with a piece for string and words on the screen, including the gnomic “we are even more than what the world told us we are.” A short pause later then the colour-coordinated, all-female-except-the-guitarist band come on to the mirror’d stage set in soul revue fashion that James Brown would approve of. Then, the singer arrives in a loopy pagan costume made out of flowers and for the next hour, the teeming contents of her mind and being are made manifest on the stage.

It's a quite dizzying experience. While leading with 2023’s reggae and Afrobeat-influenced LP The Age Of Pleasure, songs from her three other albums bring rap, funk, soul and beyond. Throughout, Monáe  is the centre of the action, delivering faultless bravura vocals while dancing: she also changes costumes regularly, implies jokes, emphasises gravity, embeds concepts, and remains experimental while delivering wild and inarguable entertainment.

She’s open about taking from the best, referencing Grace Jones, Parliament and Jimi Hendrix, and it all moves fast: last year’s Seun Kuti collaboration Float kicks things off in suncharged style, but by Django Jane, the rap militarism of Public Enemy has taken over. For Pynk, she sports the famed ‘vagina trousers’ last seen here at West Holts in 2019 and takes the track’s singsong minimalism into a rock crowd chant-along. Make Me Feel evokes Prince’s Kiss and includes Monáe ’s dance tribute to Michael Jackson.

Warning that “they’re gonna cut me off,” the show ends strong with 2010 Big Boi collaboration Tightrope, and extra fun comes with an extended farewell sequence where Monáe  ascends to ever-higher notes, and finally falls to her knees, all spent. After she blows a kiss, and the stage goes dark.There are also appeals for us to fight all forms of injustice, the importance of Pride month, and a shout-out to the “free ass motherfuckers” who’d come to see her. The pleasure was all ours.

SETLIST

Float

Champagne Shit

Django Jane

Q.U.E.E.N.

Electric Lady

Lipstick Lover

Pynk

Yoga

I Like That

Make Me Feel

Tightrope

Stay on MOJO4MUSIC for complete coverage of Glastonbury 2024’s best music including ColdplayIDLESSqueezePaul Heaton and Fatboy Slim's Housemartin's reunionDexysLCD SoundsystemPJ HarveyThe Last Dinner PartyMichael KiwanukaOrbital, James and more.

Picture: Leon Neal/Getty

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