You’ve got to hand to Janet Jackson. At 45 and with enough multi-platinum selling albums and singles under her belt to remain credible and comfortable for the rest of her life, she could easily have contemplated a billion-dollar five-year contract in Vegas to see her through to retirement, but instead insists on touring tirelessly – army of backup dancers in tow – pleasing her fans in intimate venues around the globe. Granted, she has had to cut her Australian tour temporarily to fly back to the US to support her family during the trial of Dr Conrad Murray who is accused of negligence in his treatment of brother Michael.
Jackson impressed fans last week with her first Australian concert at Perth’s Burswood Theatre on Tuesday night, and a second one at Adelaide’s Festival Theatre last Saturday. At the Perth concert, there was a reunion-like atmosphere and indeed it felt like seeing an old girlfriend up there performing. In fact, I bumped into no less than 10 friends who’d all shared a Janet concert experience years ago (her ‘Rhythm Nation’ tour) and most agreed that, even without the arty effects and fancy costume changes, this was the artist delivering her best.
The woman oozes confidence and cool, and never gets too cocky behind the microphone. Though not a performer praised so much for her singing or musicianship as for her dancing (ie: she’s no Mariah with the high notes, nor Gaga on the piano), Jackson’s vocals were consistent throughout the entire set, with every verse and chorus perfectly simulating her studio recordings. And that’s what the audience at this kind of ‘greatest hits’ gig wants from their idol: for the hits to sound just as they did when first heard on the radio or ogled on MTV.
And the hits kept on coming with a set list that consisted of no less than 35 songs including ‘Nasty’, ‘What Have You Done For Me Lately’, ‘Runaway’, ‘Escapade’, ‘Miss You Much’, ‘That’s The Way Love Goes’ and ‘Together Again’. Most songs were delivered completely, but occasionally snippets of tracks from the same album were strung together in medley form or – to appease latter-day music fans – in mash-up format. There wasn’t as much tribute paid to her infamous brother as most fans might have expected – save for a rendition of their duet ‘Scream’, and snapshots of a young Michael during the ethereal single ‘Together Again’ – which only goes to show that, true to the Jackson ethos, the show must go on.
One thing I thought was rather redundant was the featuring of a montage of old photographs of Janet in all manner of glamorous poses, along with snippets of television series she’d starred in. Sure, some of the photography was exceptional and worthy of retrospection, but a relentless series of retro snaps seemed somewhat perfunctory if not merely self-indulgent. The same amount of visual expenditure could have been spent on, say, some trippier graphics or more innovative lighting. That said, the show is a trip down memory lane that serves to celebrate Janet’s iconic musical canon, so I suppose a couple of hundred happy snaps never hurt anyone.
Photography by Antonino Tati.
Janet Jackson’s Melbourne concerts that were scheduled earlier this week for Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday are now planned to take place at Rod Laver Arena for one night only on November 3rd. Tickets for all of the Melbourne shows will be honoured at this concert. She then plays the Gold Coast Convention Centre on Wednesday 2 November (book at ticketek.com.au), and Sydney Opera House on Saturday 5 (SOLD OUT), Sunday 6 (SOLD OUT) and Tuesday 8 November (book for this final show at sydneyoperahouse.com).