I attended two musical concerts this year– John Legend and Janet Jackson. I had incredible times at both. Janet, however, was a long old wish fulfilled on a chilly November night just days before flying out to Paris.
I have been a fan of Janet and her musically gifted family since childhood. Yet it was the baby girl of the Jackson’s whom I had loved so deeply, affectionately drawn to her strong lyricism, vocal range, dance moves, and iconic music videos. As Mom would play out “Control” and “Rhythm Nation” cassette tapes over and over, my siblings and I would sing along and dance the way children danced to edgy guitar popping, foot stomping R&B meets rock and roll. It brings apart memories of my uncle, who passed away this November. He always called me, “Janet” and I hadn’t corrected him because I had such a strong connection to my favorite musician.
Janet’s “Unbreakable” tour started late 2015 to promote her newest album release and spread love to those who had admired her forever. For so many including me, this would be our first time seeing her live and the enthusiasm was wildly contagious. I bought the album, t-shirt, and concert ticket to Wells Fargo in Philly, super thrilled whilst reading excited fans’ concert reviews via social media.
Sadly, the tour was postponed. I was refunded, but very heartbroken for a while.
At fifty-one, Janet gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. Then, she announced that the tour was resuming, that it would be renamed “The State of the World.”
Originally, I wanted to see her at the Boardwalk in New Jersey, but settled in on Wells Fargo in Philadelphia the sequel.
It was the most surreal Monday night, sitting in the 100 section, not too far away from the stage, waiting for an iconic queen. Lights went dark. On the screens were the names of victims killed by police, female voice reciting them. Janet came out in a long black duster with black attire underneath and flaming red ponytail, on the prolific beats of “Knowledge,” the lyrics flashing the giant projectors. Through my own loud screams, my eyes watered and my chin quivered. I couldn’t believe I was present and so was she.
“The Knowledge” turned into “State of the World” which then transitioned into a killer dance workout of “Burn It Up” featuring video cameo of another amazing artist, Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliot. “Nasty” came to play and everyone screamed and hollered, including me. It was such a vital statement considering the current political climate, a boost shot for all women.
Other jams such as “Miss You Much,” “Alright,” “Control,” “What Have You Done For Me Lately,” “The Pleasure Principle,” “Escapade,” “All Nite (Don’t Stop)”, “Love Will Never Do (Without You), and “Got Til It’s Gone” were highlighted. I absolutely loved the choreography on the latter. Ageism is no factor to this incredible talent! She can still dance as if the 1980’s and 1990’s never left. Just jaw dropping!
Her background dancers were also top notch, ranging in ages, body shapes, genders, and ethnicities, taking their skills to the floor with Janet looking on with pride and joy.
Songs took on a deeper, autobiographical charge as Janet serenaded her Oscar nominated ballad “Together Again.” At the end of this precious melody, she lifted her head and mic to the air, quietly speaking, “until we see each other again, Mike.” In “What About,” a powerful uptempo with alternative rock edge, her dancers enacted violent domestic abuse situations through improvisational movements as she struggled through singing the cords, even pausing at times to get through raw, poignant lyrics.
“That was me!” She cried out, sobbing and running off the stage.
The entire audience felt her pain, utterly touched by emotional display.