by Albert Rodriguez -
SGN A&E Writer
'STATE OF THE WORLD' TOUR
Honestly, I wasn't sure when I'd see Janet Jackson again on stage. When she axed last year's Seattle concert with unexpected plans to start a family, I assumed that was it. Done, finito, adios! I seriously thought she was going into retirement. But what a difference a year makes, as the R&B-pop legend returned not only to the stage, but to fine form as well, at Key Arena this week, singing and dancing - and looking - like the twentysomething Janet Jackson we all fell in love with.
For the record, she didn't perform any of her songs in their entirety. All of them were condensed into medleys, or were trimmed to about a half or third of their original length. It would have been nice to hear full versions of 'What Have You Done for Me Lately?' 'Control' and 'Escapade,' but that's not the way she rolls anymore; the bright side is that you get to listen to all of your favorite songs by her at some point in the show; the only noticeable omission on the set list this time around was 'Black Cat.'
The concert opened with Jackson appearing behind one of three tall, vertical curtains that doubled as LED screens. Dressed from head to toe in black with auburn hair pulled into a long ponytail, she strolled the stage from side to side while holding a golden stick, singing the lyrics to 'The Knowledge,' 'State of the World' and 'Burnitup!' Then things got nasty, literally, as the five-time Grammy winner got to work on a string of mega hits that featured 'Nasty,' 'Miss You Much,' 'Alright' and 'You Want This,' all the while displaying some tricky choreography alongside a nine-member dance squad.
'Seattle!! Seattle!!' she shouted. 'Are you ready to party?! I said, are you ready to party?!' The crowd, mostly represented by straight women and gay men of all ages, responded with loud cheers.
She got busy again, performing a trio of songs that put her on the music map, starting with 'Control,' 'What Have You Done for Me Lately?' and 'The Pleasure Principle.' All of these tracks were released in the '80s, during Jackson's quick rise to superstardom.
Like Madonna, vocals have never been Jackson's strong suit, but the effort has always been there. At Key Arena, at least from what I can tell, she sang everything live with a full band and backup singers, so there was no need to rely on pre-recorded vocals, with the exception of those by guest rappers, like Missy Elliott. Jackson glided beautifully on slower material, such as 'Come Back to Me' and 'Where Are You Now?' sitting or standing along the perimeter of the stage, sometimes addressing fans parked in the front rows on the main floor by pointing a finger at them, or blowing them a kiss, or simply telling them that she loved them, too.
Speaking of pointing fingers, she directed her index finger to the heavens when she sang 'Together Again,' surely to brother Michael, who was both a mentor and collaborator in her career.
But what many of her Seattle followers came to hear on Wednesday night were the uptempo dance hits, and she didn't disappoint there, performing snippets of 'All Nite (Don't Stop),' 'When I Think of You' and 'All for You,' to name a few, with colorful stage lighting and sharp choreography, certainly better than what we saw at McCaw Hall during her last Emerald City tour stop in 2011.
Jackson went through four or five costume changes at Key Arena, the first two being all-black ensembles and then switching to a pair of track pants, wraparound plaid shirt and oversized denim jacket, before trading that in for another black outfit and closing out with a youthful, casual look that found her in light-washed jeans tucked into powder blue high-heeled boots with a tight ivory-colored turtleneck. With a figure of a college girl, it's nearly impossible to believe this woman gave birth to her first child just months ago.
A highlight of the two-hour concert was Jackson's rendition of 'What About,' from her 1997 album The Velvet Rope, which featured herself and several dancers acting out scenes of domestic abuse through interpretive dance; it was bold and effective, really showcasing the song's lyrics and theme. She paused and allowed tears to flow afterwards, as concert goers cheered thunderously; the sentiment appeared genuine, although I'm not sure if Jackson is doing this at every show on the current 'State of the World' tour.
She wrapped up the main set with a pair of bangers, 'If' and 'Rhythm Nation.' The former was performed amidst a dramatic glow of blood red lighting, while the latter included an intense, impressive dance routine that mirrored the music video for the 1989 smash single.
Following a short break, Jackson returned to the stage for an encore featuring 'Dammn Baby' and 'I Get Lonely' that slowed the momentum down considerably. In fact, if there's anything to fault the music icon for, it's that she didn't end this show on a high note.
'Seattle, thank you for allowing us to perform in your city!' said a beaming Jackson glancing around a nearly-filled arena.
Wednesday's concert was more of a remixed medleys tour by Janet Jackson, but a very good one at that. Unlike the McCaw Hall performance, which was uninspiring and phoned in, the Key Arena show was memorable and exciting with all the feels we'd expect from a Janet Jackson live experience. In two words, she's back!
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