Much fun. to be had during Janelle Monae’s ethereal Foellinger performance

When “I interviewed”: “Janelle Monae”: for The Daily Illini a few weeks ago, she declared outright that the origins of her sci-fi concept album epic “The ArchAndroid” were otherworldly:

“The concept came from God. That’s all I can say — our maker, our creator. A lot of the songs came to me in dreams.”

Much of Monae’s performance at Foellinger on Sunday was certainly dreamlike. But before she could make her grand entrance, we were treated to a few songs by self-described “punk prophets” Deep Cotton along with indie darling fun.

“Deep Cotton”:, a project off Monae’s music collaboration with the Wondaland Arts Society who were featured on her album track ““57821””:, made their first appearance on the Campus Consciousness Tour last night.

I can’t describe Nate “Rocket” Wonder’s voice as anything but velvety smooth; the opening number was both mellow and meaningful. Things were shaken up a bit after Chuck Lightning took the mic. It’s hard to describe his level of energy, but let me just say that the band ended its act with Lightning convulsing on stage and knocking over a mic stand.

“Fun.”: was great. I caught that several of the audience members had come almost exclusively for them. If not for the showstopping performance that Monae would proceed to give, I’d almost say that half the tickets had been sold just based on fun.’s performance. Nate Ruess’ vocals were pitch perfect — the Freddy Mercury comparisons are well deserved. So dedicated were fun.’s fans that I saw a handful take off right after the group left the stage — I can only hope they came back in time for Monae.

And speaking of Monae, let me just say that if you did not get the chance to check her out either at her Foellinger performance or at Pygmalion next year, find a ticket to her next show as soon as possible. A lot of performers rely on big theatrics, pomp and circumstance to supplement their shows. Monae’s act was not completely without its special effects — her multi-part ArchOrchestra, variety of props and lightning effects were certainly entertaining — but the true centerpiece was Monae herself. Her movements, her story and of course, her voice, were awe-inspiring.

While predictable blockbusters like ““Cold War””: and ““Tightrope””: were highlights, Monae shown brightest during some of her more stripped down performances. I floated on air during her cover of Steve Wonder’s ““My Cherie Amor””: which was almost better than the original. But I fell in love most during her stripped down performance of ““Sir Greendown””:, an oft-overlooked track off “The ArchAndroid.” Monae returned to the stage with only a guitar, singing the first few versus and even inviting her toddler cousin to join in (he didn’t).

By the end of the performance, I was spent, both physically and emotionally. Should Monae make a return to my neck of the woods, I know I’ll be in the audience. I hope you will too.