Thursday, October 23, 2008

Rockin' With Janet: The Live Experience

From the initial, and successful, launch of Jackson's Rock Witchu Tour and my actually seeing her on October 15th, 2008, a few hiccups occurred. In a statement issued on the eve of my show in Washington, D.C., it was revealed Jackson was dealing with vestibular migraines or "vertigo." I waited patiently for word from Jackson to confirm her D.C. show as the media sharpened their blades to prepare for her failure. Dramatic? Yes. So was Jackson's return to the stage that night in D.C. on the appointed date after her bout with her illness. Silencing all her detractors and delighting her fans, last week, Janet Jackson stormed the stage and proved her relevance where it truly mattered.

Her setlist included a full smattering of hits from Janet Jackson (1982) through Discipline
(2008), served in an extended medley fashion. Jackson worked across and through her crossover pop pleasantries, urban aggressive jams, chilled-out soul, and plush ballads. Highlights included the Fatman Scoop remix of "So Excited," the post-disco R&B perfection of "Say You Do," and a brief reading of "Funny How Time Flies (When You're Having Fun)."  Also, "Luv," "Discipline," and "Feedback" staked their claim as new Janet Jackson classics. "Luv," part of the closing section of the show, shined live and it became clear that Island/Def Jam dropped the ball with her recent album.

Ninety percent of the show saw Janet vocally live and in effect, only on certain songs when choreography was turned up did her a backing tape rise to meet the occasion. Even then, her disciplined pipes guided the songs; it made her one of the only live performers with intricate dancing and vocal prowess to be weaved together. On "Call On Me," or any of her slow jams familiars ("Again," "Come Back to Me,"), Jackson was in fine vocal form. Visually and thematically the show was clean and uncluttered, her themes of "Good Janet" versus "Bad Janet" came across as odd, but interesting if one followed.

Against a backdrop of fireworks, flame plumes, and neon showers Jackson plunged through nine costume changes, updating her look with a fierce mohawk cut. In terms of her attitude, Jackson was gracious, sexually deviant, and cocky when she shouted, "I'm from Gary, Indiana...what's my name?" The doubters were hushed that evening and since with stops in New Jersey, Atlanta, Houston, and recently Austin.

(Janet-Xone Fan Meet-Up Before the Show, L to R: Kevin, Me, Steve, Courtney, Mika)

For me, seeing a music figure whom I've admired for sometime (for the first time) was an intense and gratifying experience. I was fortunate to spend the evening with my best friend and Aural Examination founder, Steve Flemming. Janet Jackson is undisputed in her realm of contemporary R&B and pop without many to really challenge her. That's "control."-QH

[*Editor's Note: Special thanks to blog wielders and true Janet heads Lonnell, Andre, and Darian for this excellent compiled video of reactions from fans after the show. Guess who gets featured? All pictures featured are from the opening night of Janet Jackson’s “Rock Witchu” Tour in Washington, D.C. 10/15/08. Visit or for "Rock Witchu" Tour updates, tickets, merchandise, and news. -QH]