Janet Jackson Delivers the Hits -- All of Them? -- to Bill Graham Civic Auditorium
Richard Haick Janet Jackson at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium last night.
April 19, 2011
@ Bill Graham Civic Auditorium
Better than: What you probably remember of the late '80s and early '90s.
Ladies and gentlemen, there is a Jackson in the house. Janet can sing (although her thinning voice can be hard to make out among all the backup singers). She can dance (with only a teensy bit more robotism than the wriggly pop stars half her age). She can duet with the ghost of Michael (or at least one of his recordings).
She can even shout "Frisco!" without rebuke.
Yep, Janet Jackson is pop fucking royalty, and nothing about her show tonight is going to let you forget it. The very idea of this current tour is likely out of reach for the Britneys and Backstreet Boys, and still a very far-off dream for Queen Gaga: It's victory lap for the 35 No. 1 hits this woman produced from 1986 to 2008 -- and a marketing tool for the album that collects them. Let us pause there for a moment, people: Thirty-five No. 1 hits since Control, the album that began her career in earnest. It is these songs that will be heard on this "#1's" tour -- enough top singles to warrant advance study, if you really wanna get juiced at this thing -- and it seems for a while tonight that Janet is intent on blazing through every single one.
In fact, her set is less like a traditional concert and more like an extended medley broken up with video sequences. The advantages of this are clear: We're left with hardly a complaint about not hearing a song we wanted. "Control?" Pretty much immediately. "Rhythm Nation?" You betcha. "If?" Far enough in the set that we heard it through the bathroom wall (it was still great). "Escapade?" "Nasty?" "When I Think of You?" All in the affirmative, chumps.
But the problem with cramming 21 No. 1 hits into a 90-minute show (especially when at least 15 minutes of it are videos) is that we got rushed version of almost everything. Only a few Number Ones received the full four-minute treatment; most of them were slammed out for a few minutes, then traded in the space of a beat for another sultry flirt with fresh crowd-wowing appeal. You learn not to become attached to the songs, to wait for the shock and awe of whatever No. 1 single is coming next. The set feels like 25 years of whiplash foreplay compacted into a brief evening -- with a few slow jams in the middle for an extra tease.