Of Montreal at the Ogden Theatre, 10/24/10
Tom Murphy Of Montreal's Kevin Barnes
With Janelle Monae
10.24.10 | Ogden Theatre, Denver, CO
After seeing Janelle Monae perform on Saturday night, it's no wonder that she was picked by Erykah Badu to open her most recent tour. Monae isn't just a great soul singer; her songwriting and her band set her far apart from the average R&B artist we've seen in recent years. It's as though Monae fused soul with psychedelic rock and funk in a way that could only really come out of Atlanta. Monae's raw energy and dynamism was infectious, and the crowd seemed entirely taken with every song.
Tom Murphy Janelle Monae and Kevin Barnes
The sheer diversity of Monae's material, all of it strong, was also noteworthy, because too many bands and artists using their own names for the project are surprisingly of a piece. We haven't seen many artists like Monae since Prince was more actively touring and releasing music with a similar proclivity for mixing genres with the same degree of artistic vision.
This Of Montreal show wasn't a repeat of the previous tour, in which the band looked like it had crawled out of the early-'70s British glam and prog-rock scene. Instead, everyone seemed to wear white except for Kevin Barnes, who wore an outfit of cool colors, looking like a foppish prince from a kingdom out of fantasy fiction. But before Barnes took the stage, some creatures with fish heads came on with shotguns and playfully menaced the audience.
Opening with "I Feel Ya' Strutter," the band sounded for all the world as though it had mastered the art of pulling great sound ideas from James Brown, Parliament, Sly & the Family Stone, Prince and Michael Jackson -- particularly Barnes's fluid shift from falsetto to tenor -- and fused it with the art terrorism of Frank Zappa's more performance-art-oriented shows. Was it funk, R&B, pop or psychedelic? All of the above, and, in being so, something different.