Review + Setlist: Janet Jackson at the Fabulous Fox Theatre, Thursday, March 31

Marco Torres
A shot from the Houston Press' 2011 slideshow of Janet Jackson
Janet Jackson easily sold out the cozy Fabulous Fox Theatre last night, on the strength of a tour which featured her performing her number one hits. Backed by a five-piece band and three back-up singers - along with a fleet of dancers - the pop star ran through an impressive number of songs in a little over 90 minutes. Unfortunately, the execution of the top-hits premise was often lacking.

For starters, the songs were grouped into neatly packaged medleys with breaks in between for costume changes; these interludes ranged from Jackson's acting clips to a dazzling collection of her photos. Disappointingly, this meant that only select hits were played in their entirety. Besides that, Jackson's most energetic, lively music fell at the start and end of the show. The middle was an attention-sapping run-through of her slow jams and ballads. Both of these factors prevented the concert from gaining momentum.

Still, the show's engaging moments were magical. After an airing of the original "What Have You Done For Me Lately" video, Jackson emerged on the stage wearing a skin-tight grey rubbery outfit and launched right into generous snippets of the Control singles "Pleasure Principle" and "Control." A snappy, take-no-shit run-through of "Lately" - featuring some salacious dancing between Jackson and a male dancer - kept the energy high. Other highlights of the first set included an ebullient "Miss You Much" and rock-hard funk of "Nasty."

The show started lagging after the first break, when Jackson returned and perched on a stool to sing a few songs. "Let's Wait Awhile" sounded overly saccharine, as did "Again," one of the songs to receive the complete treatment. "Nothing," however, was haunting -- Jackson sounded exactly like her late brother Michael, almost eerily so.

The crowd grew more restless after a long second interlude. Jackson tried to engage the crowd during "Doesn't Matter," but the disinterest persisted -- so much so that even "Escapade" and "Love Will Never Do (Without You)" didn't quite connect. The lightweight 2001 hit "All For You" felt overly long and inconsequential, while a performance of the Nelly duet "Call On Me" was just boring, mainly because the St. Lunatic only appeared on a video screen performing his parts.

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