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Concert Reviews:
Janet Jackson grows by getting small at the Fox Theatre
 

By GARY GRAFF
for Journal Register Newspapers

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DETROIT -- This was the step Janet Jackson skipped during her ascent to pop superstardom.

When she became a touring artist, the youngest member of the Jackson clan rode the wave of multi-platinum phenomenons such as "Control" and "Rhythm Nation 1814" straight into arenas. No clubs. No theaters. Just larger-than-life spectacles that, for all their choreographed pomp and dazzle, had a tendency to get muddled in their concepts and special effects -- especially 2008's labored Rock Witchu Tour. Jackson was technically proficient but, it seemed, unseasoned.

So this year, with her musical career still plowed under by Super Bowl XXXVIII's "wardrobe malfunction," Jackson has dialed down -- and to good effect.

Her nearly 95-minute Number Ones: Up Close and Personal tour stop Tuesday night (Aug. 16) at the Fox Theatre trimmed the visual excesses and put more focus on Jackson and her music. It was still a Show, mind you, with a tight script and deliberate pacing, but it was appropriate to the venue and allowed Jackson to, in a sense, start over at a smaller scale after years in the big houses.

How dramatic a change was it? Well, Jackson didn't change outfits once, simply removing a white jacket she wore at the start of the show to spend most of the night in a black tank top. And not a single flake of confetti was blown into the audience -- what would Britney, Katy and all the other post-Janet pop divas think of THAT?

Celebrating not only her No. 1 hits from a variety of charts but also the 25th anniversary the "Control" album -- which established her as a musical force after some modest acting successes -- Tuesday's show featured Jackson and her seven dancers vamping through a series of mix-tape style medleys, keeping the choreography modest and loose and the approach closer to a concert than a performance. A blitz through "The Pleasure Principle," "Control," "What Have You Done For Me Lately," "Feedback," "You Want This," "Alright," "Miss You Much" and "Nasty" got things off to a breathless start, while the "quiet" segment of "Nothing, "Come Back to Me," "Let's Wait Awhile" and a genuinely well-sung "Again" was the night's moment of restraint.

There were, of course, songs among the 25 she touched on that could have easily sustained their full lengths, particularly buoyant hits such as "Escapade" and "Love Will Never Do (Without You)." But a chill "That's the Way Love Goes" and a taut "Rhythm Nation" showed just how potent Jackson could be without extraneous trappings. "Scream" and "Together Again," meanwhile, used the video screen to pay tribute to her late brother Michael Jackson, and Janet paid tribute to Motown at the end of the night by telling the crowd, "Detroit, you know how much you mean to our family. It all started for us right here. Thank you...not just for me, but my entire family."

The real expression of gratitude, however, was Jackson finally presenting a show that treated her body of pop hits as the star of the night rather than a soundtrack for flash extravaganzas.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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