In perhaps the best triple bill in L.A. since Fema Kuti, Raphael Saadiq and Santigold shared the Hollywood Bowl stage last summer, Janelle Monae, Lupe Fiasco and Erykah Badu wowed the Greek Theatre crowd on Sunday night with a show that defied genre and yet killed as a unified expression of groove-oriented artistry. Like such eclectic artists as Santigold, Meshelle Ndegeocello and Danger Mouse, these performers are not constricted by hidebound formulas, and engage in a kind of performance art that identifies them as uniquely talented even while being sponges to an array of classic forebears.
At the Greek, apparently patrons didn’t get the memo, since when Monae — who was the subject of an extensive profile by the L.A. Times’ Ann Powers in that morning’s Sunday arts coverage — appeared onstage at 7 pm, the house was only about one fifth capacity. Too bad, since the 25-year-old from Kansas City with her trademark pompadour is an artistic force to be reckoned with, displaying influences ranging from Siouxsie Sioux and Grace Jones to Stevie Wonder and Prince. And those silky, slithery dance moves? Pure James Brown. (See her rendition of “Tightrope” on the Letterman show above.)