Show Date: September 27, 2015
Opening Act: N/A
I'm sure it seems ridiculous to do a concert review for Janet Jackson, who's known for live entertainment excellence, but nevertheless, it must be done; especially when certain trademarks were absent.
One of my favorite things about pop shows are the dramatic openings. Three sheer screens projected a band of wild crows (or ravens?) forming a large, single one, which eventually morphed into Jackson's silhouette and naturally caused hysteria. With the help of a digital Missy Elliott, Jackson stepped out to current song, "Burn it Up!" and proceeded to perform a rather epic opus of a hits medley, which included "Nasty" and "Miss You Much." The setlist was extremely well-ordered and inclusive; it astounded me how she was able to mash a 30-year career into 2 hours without there being any shortchanges, lulls, abrupt endings, forced or odd transitions. Even the new songs fit right in; there were no awkward "What is this??" moments. I'm personally offended that my favorite song, "You Want This" was a part of the medley and not performed in its entirety though, haha. An awesome surprise was the addition of "Scream;" the only song Jackson recorded with her late brother, Michael. "Get it Michael!" she shouted over his verse. When it came time for the iconic dance break, I was prepared to pass out. She didn't do it, but went into "Rhythm Nation," which totally worked. If you're curious as to whether the 49-year-old missed a beat or an 8-count, she didn't. Vocally, Jackson met expectations, with the best showcase being the ballads section, where there was more girth than many might anticipate.
Now, for those missing trademarks. Unbreakable Tour goers who have seen Jackson live before or any of her concert DVD's might notice a difference in stage production. There's usually a bold, consistent theme with elaborate, expensive-looking sets and visuals, and a bevy of cool costumes. The set pieces shined like obsidian rock, but were few and pretty simple overall (2 stair cases and a scaffold block for the band were primarily used). Though the video graphics and lights were neat, they didn't connect, have concept or emphasize the message of "unbreakable." We didn't see anything much in relation to that until the end, when the bird reappeared and was unfazed by arrows shot into it. Jackson left the stage a handful of times, but never changed attire. The dance-team's wardrobe was giving me Janet. era, while the background singers were giving Velvet Rope Tour. Given the paucity of a premise, I didn't know if that was an intentional homage or just another incoherency. For Nashville attendees, the production wasn't the only thing that was retrenched. Jackson's energy was subdued in comparison (not to be mistaken, she was in no way lazy or cavalier) and majority of the audience interaction was placed at the end. In shows past, she's a mix of hyper and intense, and addresses the crowd frequently. She's notorious for being hands-on in a very literal way, bringing guys onstage to be tied up and tantalized for her rated-R cuts. Not this time, fellas. I prefer to hear from an act throughout a concert, but when Jackson took time to speak, she gave heartfelt thanks for support given to her and her family, which was memorable. There weren't many unique band arrangements, but when a crucial part of your show is nostalgia and catering to long-term fans (as one should), it makes sense not to tamper with classics. No one wants to hear a hip-hop or rock version of "Again" or a jazzy rendition of "I Get Lonely."
There were no preliminary performers (which was great; I just want to get to who I paid for), so be sure to be on time. Jackson had a DJ play remixes of her songs to get people pumped up instead. Typically this is annoying, but it was actually a satisfying appetizer. Hardcore fans were doing choreography in the aisles and making friends with strangers that were just as excited as they were. Many came wearing flawlessly intact old tour gear and make-shift Janet-like outfits. The atmosphere was beautiful and giddy. While I was visiting the exhibit of Janet artifacts they had available (which is incredible and must-see), I was surprised with upgraded tickets to front row!! I still can't believe that happened and it's been more than a week. I have no idea what made them choose my friend and I, but I'm not asking any questions. I've never seen anyone of Janet's status before or been front row, so for both of those things to happen at the same time was mind-blowing to say the least. Pyrotechnics, smoke and lights are amazing from a distance; seeing it front row is an out-of-body experience and brings out your inner child. It's like "Wow, Mommy! Look!!" Hands-down one of the best moments of my life. Putting that aside and being objective, there might be some bells and whistles missing, but none of the upmost important ones. "Ms. Jackson if you're nasty" is incomparable and still lives up to her performance standard.