Icon impresses with stripped-down presentation of hits
What statement does a 51-year-old music superstar have left to make in the midst of a 35-year career marked by 11 albums, 10 number-one hits and a slew of iconic music videos? If you’re Janet Jackson, you can just show all facets of yourself — from the serious to the sensual — without the spectacle. And that’s what the singer did during a stop at the Schottenstein Center on Tuesday as part of her “State of the World Tour.”
Having renamed the tour following a hiatus to give birth to her son, Eissa, Jackson highlighted political content from her catalog, including “The Knowledge,” from Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814, and “State of the World,” from Unbreakable. The singer opened the show with those two songs, following a dramatic video montage focused on social issues and featuring a list of unarmed African-American men killed by police.
That encapsulated the most political section of Jackson’s show. Next, she dove into an impressive series of hits, from “Nasty” and “Miss You Much” to “All for You” and “Love Will Never Do (Without You).” Once known for showing off her famously toned physique in revealing attire, she kept covered up in black pants and a black, long-sleeved top.
Sultry but not over-the-top sexy, Jackson strutted across the stage, flashing her signature, dazzling smile and flipping her long ponytail. She was accompanied by a crew of dancers in all white, which she called her “tribe.” To engage in the “Janet Jackson experience” also means engaging with her dancers and choreographers, who have always been an integral part of the package; alumni from her tours and videos have almost as much name recognition as Jackson.
But while the “State of the World” dancers were certainly talented and appeared to be a close-knit group, some of the spark was missing compared with previous “tribes,” which overflowed with personality and technique. For her part, Jackson kept up with the dancers, falling in and out of the choreography as she pleased — her commitment to the signature moves from the “You Want This” video elicited a joyous response from the crowd — instead of dancing through entire songs.
But her understated approach did not take away from her captivating performance — a sign of a seasoned entertainer who knows the choreography in her sleep, but is not sleepwalking through the execution. Nor did she have to rely on auxiliary distractions. Gone were the elaborate costume changes (which she famously filmed during the HBO broadcast of her 2001-2002 “All for You” tour) and colorful props she’d often wheel out for songs like “Escapade.” And no lap dances were given to audience members.
For the second section of the show, Jackson returned to the stage to sing a handful of slow songs such as “Twenty Foreplay” and “The Body That Loves You” while sitting on a stool. It was a familiar staple of her tours, though noticeably absent was the towel she once needed to dab the sweat worked up from hard dancing. But, as with previous shows, it wasn’t the most enthralling section, and the subsequent performances of songs such as the J. Cole-assisted “No Sleep” and classic “Got ’til it’s Gone” — featuring some impressive, smooth dance moves — were a welcome change. “That’s the Way Love Goes,” remixed with Aaliyah’s “Rock the Boat,” was a standout moment.
Jackson wrapped up with a fiery trio of songs — the unexpected “What About,” a moving commentary on domestic violence, followed by “If” and “Rhythm Nation,” bringing her political message full circle. The encore, including three songs from Unbreakable, was a bit underwhelming, if only because the material was unfamiliar. But it was fitting that she closed with “Well Traveled.”
“I’ve come a long way,” sang Jackson, a confident artist who doesn’t have to put on an extravagant stage production or dance like she’s 21 to cement her status as a legend. “Got a long way to go, ’cause I’m so well-traveled/Wherever life takes me I’m willing to go.”
I was around 9 or 10 years old (I am 40 years old now) When I fist heard Janet Jackson. Every since then I have been a faithful fan of her and her music. I have had the pleasure of seeing her twice so when she announced her unbreakable tour I was excited.
But excitement went away when I realized I had no extra money for luxury. So I prayed and I prayed for a way to go. The January show was then postponed. So YES I had a chance. I can save!! The new dates were announced for July 22, 2016. And I knew then I would have enough saved up to get tickets and a miracle.
We came across some money and my husband knew how much I wanted to go so he went to ticket master and purchased four tickets. The excitement was back and I was ready!! Being on a family budget we got tickets on sale. It was ok, we were going, that is all I cared about.
After having the tickets it was then announced she would postpone that show due to pregnancy which is fine, I understood and we kept our tickets locked safe away. Janet is so worth the wait, I’d wait a lifetime if that means I get to see her again.
And in 2017 the new dates were announced and Indianapolis was on the list. November 26!! So it was time, time to see my favorite singer of all time. The woman who music kept me from crying, being depressed, hating life, and hating myself. Her music brought me joy, happiness, and fun. The pleasure of seeing her was amazing. I was so ready. The time is coming I kept saying. November 26, 2017!!
PART TWO COMING SOON!
Although the lyrics of “What About” describe situations that aren’t the same as this year’s reckoning of sexual assault and sexual harassment, it wasn’t a stretch to assign an abundance of vile male behavior to the dancer as he received Jackson’s message.
How did the audience know the personal relevance of “What About”? Jackson concluded the song by saying, “This is me.”
The forceful statement arrived as one of a handful of onstage remarks by Jackson, who lived in Gary, Ind., for the first few years of her life.
“I have to tell you, it feels so good to perform for my home state,” she said near the end of Sunday’s show.
Jackson returned to Gary, where she and her iconic siblings lived in a house roughly the size of a two-car garage, following a Chicago tour stop in October. Speaking to students at Roosevelt High School, the 51-year-old talked about the February birth of her first child.
“Every doctor told me it wasn’t possible. But I’ve got a beautiful, healthy son,” Jackson said.
Youth provides one theme for Jackson’s “State of the World” tour. Despite an overall assessment that things aren’t great, a new generation can bring change.
Jackson performed 1990 chart-topper “Escapade” with two female dancers who resembled high-school students pulling the best job-shadowing assignment ever.
And Jackson deserves all credit for radiating youth at 51. She’s breezy, fit and holding onto a teenager’s bold attitudes.
Minimalism defines the “State of the World” production. Jackson began the night wearing black military boots and she steamrolled through more than one medley of hit songs.
The sound mix was far from finessed, so it was great to hear Jackson sing the melodies of “Control,” “What Have You Done for me Lately” and “Pleasure Principle” back-to-back-to-back above her rough-edged band.
A satellite stage or some type of catwalk would help the show keep pace with other modern productions as well as bring Jackson closer to her fans.
She clearly was at ease during the show’s middle segment, when she wore a denim jacket and track pants covered by a flannel shirt.
This part of the program delivered the highlight of her latest studio album, 2015’s “Unbreakable.” With assistance from rapper J. Cole via video, Jackson navigated the seductive beats of “No Sleeep.”
An audience estimated at 8,000 attended the show, making it a smaller event in the arena’s 2017 parade of blockbuster concerts starring Garth Brooks, Bruno Mars, Ed Sheeran, Billy Joel and Lady Gaga.
Jackson last performed in Indianapolis in October 2001, a wait made even longer by canceled plans between then and now. Her 2011 concert at the Indiana State Fair didn’t happen in the wake of the fatal stage-rigging accident the night country-pop duo Sugarland was scheduled to perform.
Sunday’s show originally was set for January 2016 and then pushed back again from July 2016.
With a performance as strong as Sunday’s, there’s no reason we won’t see her again on an Indianapolis stage.
Jackson closed the show with “Well Traveled,” an “Unbreakable” selection inspired by her life’s countless adventures: “I never want to arrive. Because if I ever reach there, there’s no place left to go.”
Janet Jackson is taking her tour to Houston and has a special surprise for fans who were affected by Hurricane Harvey.
The star took to Twitter on Wednesday to confirm the news that she would be performing in Houston despite the devastation left in the area by the hurricane and the storm that followed.
“We’re going to roll in early because we wanted to visit some of the shelters,” she said. “And not just visit some of the shelters, we also want to do something special. So, we’ll see you Friday!”
— Janet Jackson (@JanetJackson) September 7, 2017
It’s showtime #Janfam!
Pop and snapback queen Janet Jackson was fierceness personified tonight at Lafayette, Louisiana’s Cajundome. There, with her array of hits and jaw-dropping svelte figure in tow, the songstress blew the roof off the arena with the long-awaited kick off of her 2017 ‘State of the World’ tour (a reboot and revamp of 2016’s ‘Unbreakable’ tour).
Fans with any questions or concerns if the 51-year-old pop star/new mom still has “it” saw that worry silenced once Jackson hit the stage – even declaring she came to “snatch wigs.”
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