Janet Jackson at The Orpheum Theatre, 8/19/11
Janet Jackson touched down Friday night at The Orpheum for an intimate but energetic mega-mix-style performance of her hits, many of which were created right here in Minneapolis. With three decades of exemplary pop music to her name and more No. 1 songs than will fit into an average set list, the star treated fans to a homecoming gig of sorts filled with those familiar feel-good grooves, memorable dance routines and video interludes that reminded everyone of Janet's incredible trajectory as a music icon.
As soon as the black and white backdrop blaring "#1's" lifted, an already buzzing, half-standing crowd began to cheer in palpable anticipation of their pop star. Instead they got another screen, which read, "Tonight I dedicate the 'Control' video to the beautiful people of Minneapolis," bringing a wave of even louder cheers. The the room went black and a few seconds later the video rolled, now considered incredibly old-school by MTV's standards. The crowd went crazy during the intro, where Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis make their cameos, and the familiar syncopated beats dripping with that Minneapolis Sound hit our ears. The crowd was diverse as can be. A cute gay guy near the front leaped up, and, drink in hand, started doing that shoulder-shoulder 80's dance move from the video. The vibe was thick, and we were ready. Finally, Janet came out as the song ended and launched right into a medley of "Pleasure Principle" followed by the live version of the song she just dedicated to our city.
Photo by Tony Nelson
The first thing that strikes you when you see Janet (now 45 years old) is how gorgeous she is, that famously beautiful smile beaming down at dancing fans. Undoubtedly getting thick in the booty, Miss Jackson-If-You're-Nasty is still one fabulous woman. This night she stayed in the same outfit throughout -- black jeans, combat boots and blingy rhinestone accessories -- using time that would normally suffice for costume changes to run video interludes of her acting work (Good Times, Poetic Justice, etc) and eye-candy photos of her glamorous days as a Jackson.
Flanked by her dozen-or-so sprightly backup dancers (who looked just out of college), Janet fired off the first set of hits including "Miss U Much", "What Have You Done For Me Lately", and "Nasty" at an audience that was now clearly in a nostalgia-induced bliss-coma. Every song got about a minute in the spotlight and a video-famous dance routine with it ("Rhythm Nation" and "If" were huge hightlights for that). The dance-heavy numbers were lip-synched in favor of mobility, every so often Janet coming up for air to yell "Minneapolis!" or "Minneapolis, I missed you guys so much!", and those affections meant a lot to this crowd. She didn't lip-synch the entire show, as her second act saw a seated, unplugged-style Janet deliver longer versions of her heartfelt slow jams like "Let's Wait A While" & "Again". She really connected with the song in these moments, touching her face softly and showing off her natural sensuous side.
Into the third act after the aforementioned photo-montage (where we remember Janet in her mid-'90s urban hippe phase, her late '90s techno phase, etc) the third act lagged just a bit with "Oh yeah, I forgot about those hits!" songs ("I Get So Lonely", "What's It Gonna Be") but snapped up at the end with "Love Will Never Do" and Minneapolis tribute "Escapade" (No, she didn't shout-out the city like in the bridge of the recorded song).
Act four saw the best dance numbers, the highlight coming with "Rhythm Nation" as her choreographer & co. lit up the stage with the same military-style routine we remember in the video circa '89. Upon its end, Janet yelled, "I love you, Minneapolis!" and ran off stage. There were likely more than a few people in the crowd who wondered what songs she'd do an encore with, considering the army of singles that came before this. But sure enough, Janet and her band came out for more, a appropriate and touching rendition of "Together Again" ending the show, softly dedicated to Michael as photos of the two as kids came on the screen. After, she finally addressed the crowd with more than just intermittent shouts.
"Minneapolis..." she said in her famous breathy whisper, letting her voice trail off sincerely and knowingly, like we share a secret. "I don't know what to say. You played such a major role in my life. Except for two songs you heard on stage tonight, every single one was created here. Thank you for letting me be who I am and for all your love and support for my entire family."
To that, the audience beamed right back at her, screaming and cheering and flailing their arms in hopes of a wave back. In the end, Janet made a lasting impression on the city that she says made its mark on her, and everyone in attendance seemed happy for that relationship, however symbolic. Of Janet's millions of fans across the world, not everyone knows of our city's influence on her music, but from the sound of this crowd, you don't have to tell them twice -- in fact, they might even tell you.
Personal bias: As a kid when I played Barbies, I'd make them dance to "Rhythm Nation."
The crowd: Totally in love with Janet.
Overheard: "She is gonna be great, because she doesn't have a man anymore!" - gay superfan in front of me
What Have You Done For Me Lately?
You Want This?
Miss U Much
---Television/movie appearances highlight reel
Come Back To Me
Let's Wait A While
---- Photo montage
Got 'Til It's Gone
What's It Gonna Be?
Doesn't Really Matter
Love Will Never Do
All For You
That's The Way Love Goes
Black Cat instrumental
The Best Things In Life Are Free
Together Again (Michael Jackson Tribute)
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