The Democratic National Convention 2012 isn't offering much in terms of "wow factor" on its music sked this week, but the first day lifted off to an extraordinary start when Janelle Monáe, in black trousers, a white shirt and suspenders, launched into "Little Wing" on a downtown stage under a canopy emblazoned with the words "We Make It Possible." Monáe and her band ripped into the oft-covered Jimi Hendrix classic as if no one — not Derek and the Dominos and not Stevie Ray Vaughan — had ever done it before. It won't get much better than this.
Something about the wildly eclectic Monáe singing of "butterflies and zebras and moonbeams and fairy tales" alongside a long-haired guitarist with severe Rick James bangs made the possibility of four more years of Barack Obama seem not only hopeful but wonderfully surreal.
But wait — there was more. Before the Democratic button- and bumper sticker-covered mix of delegates and locals could catch their breaths after so much walking through clouds with their circus minds runnin' round, Monáe transformed herself into an 11-year-old Michael Jackson, singing "I Want You Back" with every ounce of pre-teen angst she could muster.
This was not your Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton DNC block party — until, that is, the spell was broken by a lumbering Pearl Jam wannabe band (Simplified) and an aging mellow singer/songwriter (James Taylor). The higher powers were so disappointed with this musical anticlimax that they sent black sheets of rain onto the proceedings to put the throngs out of their misery.
And now, how about a little original "Little Wing," just for good luck and healthy living?