Live Review: Janelle Monae & The Archandroid Orchestra - Sydney Opera House Concert Hall

28 May 2012 | 1:31 pm | Danielle O'Donohue

Janelle Monae and her ArchAndroid Orchestra were supposed to make their Australian live debut at the last Good Vibrations Festival, but had to cancel to perform at the Grammys. Thankfully the fans who have patiently waited another 15 months to see Monae were finally given one hell of a show at the Opera House.

Backed by a band who looked like they'd just stepped out of the coolest cartoon on the planet, thanks to the striking black and white colour scheme of their costumes, Monae offered up old-fashioned showmanship, a love of musical history and a supersized talent.

Beginning with the rapid-fire delivery of the Outkast-ish Dance Or Die, Monae barely took breath through the manic Faster and Locked Inside. While the breakneck pace of songs like Faster and hit single, Tightrope, gave Monae a chance to show off her fancy footwork and for the band to really let fly, surprisingly, on the night, the pint-sized singer's strength wasn't her off-the-wall songwriting but the power of her voice. In the age of Auto-Tune it's rare to come across a young performer who sounds so much better away from the studio, but on the beautifully understated cover of the old standard, Smile, Monae's voice had the room enchanted.

By performing covers such as Smile, Prince's Take Me With U, The Jackson 5's I Want You Back and Shirley Bassey's Goldfinger, Monae paid tribute to the artists and songwriters that have led this energetic dynamo to the stage and it was a telling mix. While it's easy to see the Prince and Michael Jackson influences in almost everything Monae does, there seemed more than a hint of Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Etta James in there as well. New song, Dorothy Dandridge's Eyes, named after a '50s singer and film star, was less Purple Rain, more Somewhere Over The Rainbow, a lush tribute to the golden era of movie musicals.

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After setting up an easel and canvas and painting a picture mid-song to give away after the show and dropping Cold War and Tightrope to rapturous applause, the wildest song of the night was always going to come last and an at least 15 minute version of Come Alive (The War Of The Roses) capped a remarkable debut for the young singer. While her album only hinted at the genius behind it, Janelle Monae's live show definitely delivered on her potential.