By Michael P Coleman
During a two-hour performance before a capacity crowd at Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center, superstar Janet Jackson reaffirmed her place among pop music royalty. The diva is back: svelte, sassy, sexy, and still in control.
Taking the stage around 8:35pm, Jackson ferociously launched into the first of two lesser-known songs from 1989’s phenomenal Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 album, “The Knowledge” and “State Of The World.” The latter was the inspiration for her current tour, and both were reminders that Jackson was well ahead of her time with that album.
Both songs morphed perfectly into a hit from her latest Unbreakable album, “Burnitup.” A rapid succession of high energy favorites followed, including “Nasty” (with the unforgettable “Miss Jackson if you’re nasty” line), “Miss You Much,” “Alright,” and “You Want This.”
After that last one, Jackson bellowed — in a much huskier speaking voice than her trademark falsetto — “Sacramento! Do you want more? DO YOU WANT MORE?” We let her know, in no uncertain terms, that we did. And Jackson delivered, performing virtually every hit you’d want to hear, with vocals that appeared live and very much on par with her recordings.
Jackson was never considered a heavyweight as a vocalist, always in the shadow of contemporaries like Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. While that somewhat handicapped her early in her career, it’s actually served her well down the road. Jackson’s hits never included vocal pyrotechnics that she has to try to match decades later. And while each may have bested Jackson vocally, neither could have held a candle to her in the live performance department.
Could this be the same Jackson who wowed us in the video for “The Pleasure Principle?” Yes — and she recreated that iconic “back against the wall” choreography on stage. Could this be the same Jackson who flashed that megawatt smile in her “Love Will Never Do (Without You)” video? Yes, and the smile is still piercing and holds up to comparison. We know because Jackson played segments of the original video on a large screen above the stage while she sang it. The singer looked great and she knew it, as it took a lot of confidence to show a video from 1990 to her fans last night. If anything, Jackson looks and sounds better than ever.
Other concert highlights included a moment of silence for victims in Puerto Rico and Las Vegas (although, embarrassingly, some fans violated the moment with screams of “I love you, Janet”), a powerful performance of her anti-domestic violence opus “What About,” and driving renditions of “Together Again” and “Rhythm Nation.” I’d forgotten how many hits that girl has!
Back in the day, some critics wrote Jackson off as a studio creation that was only successful because of her lineage and production team, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. While Jam & Lewis undoubtedly handed Jackson dozens of carefully-crafted pop and R & B masterpieces, one must recall that they did the same for many other artists, most of whom aren’t recording or performing today, let alone selling out arenas nationwide. Whatever that “it factor” is, Jackson’s got it. And one need only ask LaToya whether being Michael Jackson’s sister is enough to get the job done.
Last night’s show was a welcome reminder of Jackson’s unquestionable talent and the impact she’s had in the entertainment industry. And if you listened closely during last night’s show, well beneath the screams of tens of thousands of Jackson’s adoring fans, you could faintly hear the sound, from a distance, of Beyoncé’s gentle sobs.
He’ll even welcome notes from members of the Beyhive.