Saturday, May 28, 2011

Hooligans in Wondaland

   Tonight's show was even more eagerly-anticipated than I expected. The doors opened at 7:00, with the show starting at 8:00. So I made my way over to the Independence Events Center (about a 45 minute drive), and arrived just after 7:00. The parking lot was already a madhouse, and the line of people started at the doors and trailed down the sidewalk. According to one of the parking attendants, people started arriving at 2:30 in the afternoon, and by 5:00 there was quite a crowd—lined up in the drizzly rain. Seemed like overkill to me, but it was great to see such a strong turnout!
   The doors didn't open on time, and the line was slow because they had to check inside purses and frisk everyone at the door. I was huddled under my umbrella, and held it up and out to also cover a woman and her Granddaughter who were in line behind me. The two were excited, friendly, and chatty, and I really enjoyed getting to know them in line. Grandmother Lupi had brought 9-year-old Elia to her very first concert. (Mine was John Cougar Mellencamp, all those years ago. Lupi said hers was Cameo.) They were Latina, and Elia had the most gorgeous complexion and  beautiful, dark curls that fell over her forehead. Both were bright and funny, and almost as excited to be there as I was. Almost. We talked until we entered the show and couldn't find 3 seats together in the stands, so we split up.
   I found a single and took it, glad to not have to be in the crowd on my feet for the whole show, hopping around and trying to see around taller people. General admission shows are not ideal for shorties, to say the least. My seat was next to Kenny, who had brought two 11-year olds named Megan, one being his daughter. They drove in from St. Louis for the holiday weekend and to catch the show. Kenny was friendly and bought me a beer. (And later, tried to pick me up. But enough about that.)
Thanks to MOG for the better photo (all others are mine)
   The show opened with Mayer Hawthorne & The County, who promptly blew the doors off the place. Their sound is pleasantly funky and bluesy and they did a great job prepping the crowd for the headliners. A group I'd definitely see again, given the chance.
   And then it was Janelle Monáe's turn to turn up the heat for the hometown crowd! A nearby screen helped me get a better view of the show. She had fun video clips and animation that enhanced her show, and her 11-piece orchestra, 2 dancers, and 4 "walking dead" were as solid as Janelle herself.
   Janelle's setlist included: "Smile," composed by Charlie Chaplin; "I Want You Back" by the Jackson 5; "The Walking Dead," "Tightrope," "Faster," "Cold War," and "Come Alive," for which she staged-dived and rode the wave of the crowd.
   She was seriously so enjoyable that she should be headlining any show she's in. Period. But tonight the main course was Mr. Bruno Mars, who took the stage with Janelle's same quiet confidence, charisma and swagger that made me love them both immediately. Bruno has great range and sufficient skill worthy of covering Michael Jackson.
Bruno planned the visual for "Billionaire" well for a Memorial Day weekend show
   Bruno's setlist included: "The Other Side," "Runaway Baby," "Marry You" (perhaps my favorite Bruno song), "Nothin' But You" (short a B.O.B. appearance, but still fantastic), and "Just the Way You Are." He did a rousing cover of "Money (That's What I Want)" composed by Barrett Strong, blended into "Billionaire" by Travie McCoy. And he closed with the poignant "Talking To the Moon."
   To catch a glimpse of the show, check out the videos in my next post. These performers are genuinely talented in every way: singing, dancing, and entertaining. I honestly can't imagine a more enjoyable show. The one thing that I found odd and disappointing was that Bruno and Janelle didn't take the opportunity to perform a song together, as they did for this year's Grammy awards. Cross-over performances are exactly what I love about popular rap and hip hop... combine forces to make a whole greater than the sum of its parts.
   After the show, I went out to purchase one of the posters and bumped into Elia and Lupi again, and we got a chance to talk about the show. We agreed that it exceeded all of our expectations.