Review + Setlist: Janet Jackson at the Fabulous Fox Theatre, Thursday, March 31
"If"/"Scream"/"Rhythm Nation" at Radio City Music Hall
Things finally started picking back up with steamy versions of "That's The Way Love Goes" and "I Get So Lonely" - and exploded with a springy, dynamic version of "If," which found Jackson recreating the complicated dance moves from the video with pinpoint precision. She exhibited the same ferocity (and attention to detail) during the set-ending "Rhythm Nation," whose straight-faced blocky moves and propulsive percussion sent the crowd dancing.
In between these tunes came a well-received portion of "Scream," her 1995 duet with Michael. As black-and-white footage from the video rolled above the stage, Jackson sang lines such as "Stop pressuring me" and "Leave me alone." The juxtaposition of this footage and lyrics was poignant and bittersweet. Just a few songs later, Jackson again referenced her brother: During "Together Again," innocent photos of her and Michael appeared on the video screen. And at the end of the song, she expressed heartfelt thanks on behalf of her family for the support over the years.
The sincerity Jackson exhibited throughout the night stood out. Perhaps it was the (relatively) small venue or her top-notch dancers, but she came across as relaxed, and appeared to be having fun. The choreography, while featuring plenty of familiar moves from past tours and videos, similarly felt playful and loose. Jackson also looked fantastic, whether sporting the aforementioned rubbery suit, a simple black sleeveless shirt and black pants, or her encore fashion, a feminine pantsuit that resembled a Stormtrooper outfit.
In the end, though, while it was nice to hear so many hits, the show felt rushed because so many songs were crammed into an hour and a half. Had Jackson performed fewer songs - but more complete songs - the night might have been better-paced.
Critic's Notebook: The musicians and back-up singers were top-notch. The former especially handled booming rock, scorched funk, R&B subtlety and pop sweetness with ease. Jackson herself once again proved to be a lithe dancer capable of both seductive moves and high-energy aerobics.
During the montage of acting clips - which touched on Diff'rent Strokes, Poetic Justice and Why Did I Get Married Too? - it was odd that the clip from Good Times was so disturbing. In it, Jackson (as Penny) cowers in terror after it's insinuated that her mom is punishing her with a hot iron. Seriously, it was anxiety-inducing.
Personal Bias: Heartbroken that there was no "Black Cat."
"What Have You Done For Me Lately" video
"The Pleasure Principle"
"What Have You Done For Me Lately"
"You Want This"
"Miss You Much"
*Video interlude featuring her acting roles
"Come Back To Me"
"Let's Wait Awhile"
*interlude featuring photos of Janet
"Doesn't Really Matter"
"Love Will Never Do (Without You)"
"When I Think Of You"
"All for You"
"Call On Me" (with video of Nelly on screen)
"That's the Way Love Goes"
"I Get So Lonely"