Many who make it to the tops of the charts one year will be nothing but a frothy memory seven years after their career climax.
But Janet Jackson – who launched her first tour in seven years Wednesday night with a high-voltage performance at GM Place – has a secure place in the pop world. The soft-spoken diva has a fan base and track record that allow her the rare privilege of hiding from the spotlight for years at a time before breaking out again.
But when she decides it’s time for a tour, Ms. Jackson makes sure it’s done right. And when she promises fans the show is going to be packed with hits, costumes and dancers, she doesn’t disappoint.
Within the first 10 minutes of the show, Jackson powered through four hits, covering material that spanned an impressive 22 year range. The opening set made it abundantly clear that Jackson has weathered many different musical trends and eras, but has always remained an individual.
Blasting off with The Pleasure Principle, off her 1986 breakthrough album, Control, Jackson quickly set the tone for a show that had a serious celebratory party vibe. The 42-year-old danced and sang her way through What Have You Done for Me Lately and onto Feedback, the lead single off her most recent album, Discipline.
With an ear-piercing blast of pyrotechnics, a fog of thick cloud and dancers that popped up out of the stage and runway, Jackson proved within the first few minutes that she didn’t choose the low-budget route for her Rock Witchu Tour.
The costume changes came fast and furious, ranging from futuristic space wear to a sailor-inspired number that included a curious corset to a long red sequined gown – which she wore for her slowed-down set of four ballads (including Come Back to Me, Let’s Wait Awhile and Again). Nine dancers did their best to keep up with her on stage, a video screen behind showed graphics and images to enhance the mood, moveable staircases created layered interest, and a band worked away off to the side.
The crowd – which didn’t quite fill the stadium – was on the quiet side to begin with, but exploded with high-pitched cheers for mega-hits like Nasty, Miss You Much and Together Again.
But it was after that last tune – Janet’s eighth No. 1 hit on the Billboard charts – that the audience went wild.
For what seemed like minutes, Jackson stood alone, at the end of the runway, gesturing gratitude with her hands and allowing a few tears to roll down her cheeks. Judging from the screams, that kind of emotional display from Ms. Janet was worth more to the 11,000 or so fans than all the dance moves in her repertoire.
But while Jackson can be endearingly sweet and tender, she can play nasty just as well, if not better.
Toward the end of the more than two-hour show, Jackson put on an S&M display that would have either made you blush with embarrassment or flushed with lust, depending on your range of sexual fantasies.
For one enthusiastic male fan, it might have actually been a fantasy come true as he was hoisted up on stage, walked towards a torture-like device, and hoisted into various compromising positions as Ms. Janet and her dancers had their way with him. But it was probably a good thing there were barely any young kids in the crowd.
Rhythm Nation, one of Jackson’s signature classics, was one of the last songs of the night and was presented with so many deafening fireworks explosions, I briefly felt we were under attack.
And, in a sense, we were. Janet Jackson’s latest choreographed concert spectacle is an aggressive reminder to the world that she is a woman who has risen above fads and scandal (who can forget the famous Superbowl wardrobe malfunction?). It is a reminder that she is a trend-setter in her own right, a true diva, and a marvelous performer.
Thanks to Amy O’Brian, Vancouver Sun