Wassup Rockers

Jamie Lidell, Janelle Monáe, etc @ Central Park SummerStage.

Fui a Central Park pa’ ver el concierto de Jamie Lidell, Janelle Monáe, Little Jackie, José James, y el “dejota” Gilles Peterson. The concert was really loud. I know I keep saying that about every concert or movie I attend, but it just stresses me out. I also hate seeing so many kids running around at these things without any earplugs or headphones on; they’re gonna ruin their hearing like that. For some reason it makes me want to punch their parents, which is a pretty unfair statement because it’s hard enough to be a parent without having some childless douchebag blogger talk shit about you on the internets cos you forgot to cover your kids ears’ at one measly loud show. ANYWAY.

Janelle Monáe totally stole the show today, no offense to el señor Lidell. I think the best non-musical part of her set was when she took the time to tuck her hair back in place. I don’t know how she gets her hair like that, but basically in pictures it always looks impeccable. During the first song I thought it might be frozen in place, but girlfriend shakes it like a Polaroid picture (yay for 5-year-old pop culture references) so her pretty hair got all messed up. Bee tee dubs, Janelle is mad flaquita, it’s true. Like when she would stand in profile she would disappear cos she was so skinny. Nah, nah, I’m just playin’.

I should really talk about her music, right? Okay, well, it was fucking awesome. It was my first time being exposed to her and I’m tellin’ y’all, I’ve caught the virus!! Especially cos you’re like, “Oh, she just crazy, doin’ moves she learned at the James Brown School of Rock, blah blah,” pero then she busts out Chaplin’s “Smile” and you’re like… “Oh, hi. I love you.” [In Oprah voice:] She can siiiiiiing, y’all!!! Monáe really stands out because production-wise, she’s not part of that retro female army that seems to have cropped up post-Amy Winehouse‘s success. Instead, she talks about robots and shit, and is more forward-sounding too. It’s like the “All is Full of Love” robots come to life and singing about their experiences.

Dude, her band was cool, too. What was up with the one dude who was dressed like he was ready to go golfing? He was just pushin’ buttons and shit, but he was so happy to be there, and he knew every word to her songs.

I was kinda offended cos Little Jackie went on after la señorita Monáe. I don’t mean to dis cos I’ve only heard their one single, “The World Should Revolve Around Me,” but come on, Monáe has been hyped so much and she is obviously (1) a fantastic performer and (2) a more interesting musician. Pffft. I held my final judgment until the set ended, but after seeing their set, I couldn’t take the band too seriously. On record, the single is flawed but catchy, but live, it was much more underwhelming. I feel sorry for them. If they’d been stuck with a more lackluster lineup, they might have had a greater effect on me. It’s not that the group didn’t try. The one thing they had was good stage presence. I liked that they had their whole act down, like how the backup vocalists pulled out a lot of girl group moves that were really charming. But if you think about it, there were like six or seven people on stage, and the performance was pretty mild compared to some other musical acts I’ve seen. At first everyone was enthusiastic and still reeling from that high of having witnessed Janelle Monáe do her thing, but as Little Jackie’s set continued, less people seemed invested in cheering on the group. It didn’t help that they have a song titled “LOL,” which had so much more potential to be hilarious, but they delivered it with straight faces.

Having heard the other groups, it was interesting to notice how hard Lidell’s band rocks. I mean, not when he was alone on stage buggin’ out and doing all the crazy electronic shit, but when he’s with the other four awesome dudes in his group, la música suena muy rocanrol. It makes an interesting counterpoint to the vocals which are so much more soul-based. The arrangements reminded me of early rock music. Am I making sense? Whatever.

So Lidell was dressed like mofuckin’ matador, the bassist/guitarist looked like a parachuting Elvis, the sax-y dude was in a robe, the drummer was dressed in all green which reminded me of Peter Pan, and the keyboardist… actually, the keyboardist looked like a regular civilian. It was nice to find out this music works well in sunshine. Just puts a smile to your face, y’know? Lidell’s voice was in tip-top shape. The performance was enthusiastic and fun, and people were very receptive, though I think he would have benefited from a smaller crowd. Even Lidell had to give props to Janelle. (Earlier, he actually watched her entire performance and he just had a goofy smile on the entire time. He was so tickled by her act.) I think the phrase he used was, “That’s the craziest shit I’ve seen in a long time,” but mind you, that’s no direct quote.

I did see the opener, Jose James, but it didn’t leave much of an impression on me. I’m sorry, I wasn’t paying too much attention. He seemed like he was all feel-good vibes yesterday. I don’t really get jazz, so I don’t know if he was “good” or “bad,” but part of me thinks that if he really stood out he would have caught my attention. Is this a fair statement?

And about the DJ, Gilles Peterson… it was a good set, although my music taste doesn’t jive too much with his. Biggest surprise: he mixed Violeta Parra‘s “Arauco tiene una pena” with some really hard techno beat. I was perplexed by the choice. Luckily, he redeemed himself by following the song with “A Message to You, Rudy.”


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  1. * coloredboy says:

    i was there as well. very fair assessment. i, too, thought Janelle Rocked the fucking stage. So tiny and full of life…energy…talent…whatever. Amazing.

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 2 months ago

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