After releasing a new book earlier this year, and starring in two Tyler Perry films, Janet Jackson is back to giving her fans what they have been waiting for since her 2008 Rock Witchu tour was abruptly canceled. Jackson is currently touring in 35 cities performing songs strictly from her Number Ones greatest hits album which was released in 2009. Although Janet is known for filling stadiums around the world this time around the performer chose smaller venues for a more intimate personal connection with her fans. On March 18, Janet returned to Radio City Music Hall to a sold out crowd of 6,000, for the first time since performing at the venue at a private show in September.
In keeping with one of the tour’s themes of celebrating the accomplishments young people, Janet enlisted the teenage group ‘Mindless Behavior’ to open for her, in which the 13 year old boys from Los Angeles impressed the much older crowd of fans with their smooth dance moves, energy, and harmonious pitch. After the boys finished their set, the crowd eagerly waited for an hour for Ms. Jackson to come out. Before Ms. Jackson hit the stage, videos of her songs ‘The Best Things in Life Are Free’(her duet with the late Luther Vandross from the ‘Mo Money’ soundtrack) and Rhythm Nation played on screens that were located center stage. Then a familiar intro began to play, which was the same introduction that Janet had used during her 2008 Rock Witchu tour. As many who have seen Janet perform during previous tours knows, that Janet’s entrance is usually marked by a explosive blast of pyrotechnics, but this time around Janet appeared out of the darkness center stage, performing ‘Pleasure Principle’, no ‘explosive’ dramatic grand entrance. After ‘Principle’, Jackson went into a celebration of her upcoming twenty fifth anniversary of her 1986 album ‘Control’ with a medley of songs such as ‘Control’ and ‘What Have You Done For Me Lately’.
In all the show ended up being just under two hours clocking in at a hour and forty five minutes. Besides the performer’s usual singing and dancing this time around she made great use of career videos and publicity photos to help add to her more personal ‘intimate’ feel. During interludes where the singer exited the stage for a costume change the audience was shown clips of her films Poetic Justice, Why Did I Get Married Too, and her appearances on the television series Good Times and Different Strokes. However the most personal moment was during the conclusion when a childhood photo of Janet and late brother Michael appeared on screen behind the singer as she performed her 1997 hit ‘Together Again’ in which the singer seemed teary eyed at one moment during the song. Another personal element was the song out of Ms. Jackson’s catalog which she chose to dedicate to New York City being ’The Best Things in Life Are Free’. Jackson not only showed the music video for the song, but would perform an abbreviated version of the song during a medley leading up to the show’s finale.
Some surprises were Jackson’s performances of her 1987 number one hit with Herb Alpert ‘Diamonds’ and ‘The Best Things In Life are Free’, in which during the performer’s twenty one years of touring has never performed either on tour. However it would have been interesting to see her perform more songs from ‘The Velvet Rope’ album and songs like “Runaway” (which reached number one on the Canadian singles chart). Also it would have been nice to see Jackson perform “What About” live rather than having her backup singers perform the track during a interlude.
The strongest moments of the show were the second half where Janet delivered her classic slow songs such as ‘Again’ and ’Nothing’, which both live performances sounded as smooth as the studio recorded versions. However for those you are into seeing Ms. Jackson really get into her choreography the third segment was what everyone was waiting for. The dance breakdowns in ‘Rhythm Nation’ and ‘All For You’ had everyone on their feet, and Jackson kept up with her dancers during the complex routines not missing a step. Jackson had the audience wondering how she didn’t seem out of breath.
What you get from Janet Jackson’s Up Close and Personal tour is a closer vibe to the artist. The audience feels that the performer can actually look at their faces even if they are way back in the top row of the venue, which is what Jackson was trying to accomplish. Jackson also managed to give the audience almost every song they wanted to hear (basically by combining three songs each into nine minute medleys at certain points). Not many artist can or will perform nearly 40 songs complete with dancing while keeping the audience on their feet the whole time, but then again there’s no artist like Janet Jackson.