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CONCERT REVIEW

Vintage Janet

Janet Delivers a ‘Greatest Hits’ Concert

By Devdoot Majumdar
ARTS EDITOR

Janet Jackson “All for You” Tour

FleetCenter

August 25, 2001

There will always be those who are moved by the Moulin “Roughed” version of “Lady Marmalade” or the latest remix of Destiny’s Child’s “Bootylicious.” That’s pop culture for you -- talentless, tasteless, and egregiously teenage.

But there are those rare musical artists (and I use the word in the strictest sense), who have always been glistening in their spotlight despite the turbulent world of pop music. In spite of the many musicians who entered fame and fortune and subsequently failed (MC Hammer, Bel Biv Devoe, Paula Abdul, Puff Daddy ...), Janet Jackson has always been among the cream of the crop in her enigmatic genre of soul, R&B, hip-hop, and flat out ’80s.

And with that aura of continuous success did Janet pull off two sold-out, two-hour concerts at the FleetCenter. In title, it was in celebration of her latest All for You album, but in reality it was the “Janet’s Greatest Hits Show” that was the be all and end all of all stadium tours.

Last Saturday night, following a seemingly endless intermission after opening act 112 of “Peaches and Cream” fame, the Janet-crazed crowd awaited their mistress with eager anticipation. Her entrance was preceded by a barrage of Janet’s glamour shots, spanning from her black leather Rhythm Nation days all the way to her towel-clad All for You days. The lighting shifted to reveal a solitary Janet standing erect on a 15 foot pedestal in the center of the stage, clad in all white with white frills dangling from her pants and a white cowboy hat covering her eyes. Her troupe of eight dancers slid down from the ceiling to perform the opening song, “Come on Get Up,” with Janet’s 15 foot pole descending as the song began.

Like any Janet Jackson concert, the evening was much more than any ordinary concert -- it was a show. It was a show of Cirque du Soleil proportions, with enormous inflatable jack-in-the-boxes, large signs in Chinese script, and flamboyant costumes galore. And though it had the glittery feel of an ultra-coordinated theatrical masterpiece, it conveyed, albeit slightly, the (cult of) personality that is Janet Jackson. The visual candy combined with Janet’s stellar vocal delivery (even when drenched in sweat) made the concert well worth the overpriced tickets (upper, upper balcony seats at $70).

From a musical standpoint, Janet covered her entire repertoire. Essentially, the concert was the greatest hits CD that never existed. From Rhythm Nation (1989) came “Rhythm Nation,” “Black Cat,” and “Miss You Much;” from Janet (1993) came “Again” and “That’s the Way Love Goes;” from The Velvet Rope (1997) came “Got ‘til It’s Gone” and “Together Again;” and from All for You (2001) came eight of the more radio-heard singles like “Doesn’t Really Matter,” “Trust a Try,” and “All for You.”

Had Janet not taken the “greatest hits” approach, this All for You tour would have fared much worse. The album is, after all a collection of disparate songs (some gems, some filler) with an unusual leaning towards inane lyrics. Perhaps the only problem with the concert’s format was a despicable trend towards medleys. Instead of singing complete songs, she lived up to TRL’s pathetic standard of shortened songs, consisting of a few choruses before transitioning to the next song. For instance, one medley consisted of “What have you done for me lately,” “Control,” “Nasty, and “Alright” in a single ten minute block of music.

In suit with such four-song medleys, set changes were rampant. Incidentally, the All for You tour had a caravan of sixteen trucks and 110 people, and a cornucopia of sets and costumes. With “Runaway,” the festive song that begins “I’ve seen the world, been to many places,” the crowd saw Janet with a pair of elf-ears on, dancing with ladybugs and dodging large toylike sets.

With “Would U Mind,” the song signalling Janet’s entrance into the “sex music” genre, a retractable stretcher emerged from within the barren stage. Picking a lucky gentleman from the audience, Janet promptly had him strapped to the stretcher as she proceeded to fondle him and rest her legs on his shoulders, singing lyrics like “Cause I’m gonna Bathe you, play with you, rub you, caress you.”

All in all, the concert’s kinky side can’t really be overemphasized. Janet has known to be an erotically liberated character, making notable appearances on Oprah championing the nipple ring as an aphrodisiac. Her sex appeal was no less subtle in her FleetCenter concert. Her costumes were all riveting, from ultra-tight black leather from head to bootstrap to a sporty, white one-shoulder crop top with army pants from her “Together Again” video.

Beyond that, her distinctive choreography and highly skilled dancers added to the show’s sex appeal. With remarkable synchronization, elbows flying, stop-and-flow rhythms, the visual buffet never ended. The real challenge, however, was managing to sing presentably while dancing passionately. There was a time when Christina Aguilera had first broken into her bubble of celebrity. She made the unfortunate mistake of performing live while dancing. The end result was her dancing fairly well, while her voice resembled that a cat being skinned, forever giving this writer nightmares of genies in bottles. It’s moments like that when one begins to truly respect Janet.

More importantly than the sets or the attire, Janet’s voice came out CD-perfect. There was a point in the concert after several dance-overloaded songs that, after a pause, guitarist David Barry sits alone on a stool on an empty stage when Janet comes out, drenched in sweat, spotlight on her, and the crowd can’t stop screaming for minutes on end. And there sits Janet, gasping, drenched with sweat as she swabs herself with a towel and begins an impassioned, technically perfect rendition of “Again” with all her soul, swaying and snapping her fingers. And yet, later in the concert in a performance of “Black Cat,” she emulated the vocal rigor of Tina Turner, spitting and screaming in the microphone with focused intensity, even breaking into a bit of air guitar.

Her performances of “Together Again” and “Rhythm Nation” really roused the crowd, bringing radio rehash to mild artistic value. All in all, the All for You tour was most definitely worth the overpriced tickets.