Sunday, February 17, 2002


Janet Jackson, shown here in a Michigan concert last July 31, closed her latest tour with last night's concert at Aloha Stadium.

Janet Jackson at
her best at stadium

By John Berger

Wow! Janet Jackson exceeded expectations on stage last night as pop music's ultimate young diva closed her "All For You" tour with a two-hour taped-for-HBO concert at Aloha Stadium.

Call her "Janet," call her "Miss Jackson" if you think you're nasty, call her "Janet Privacy Control" (the alias from her 1986 breakthrough album). By any name she is a tremendous concert performer. Last night's return to Hawaii was considerably better in both pacing and musical content than her 1998 "Velvet Rope" show here and worthy of comparison with her brother Michael's Aloha Stadium extravaganza of 1997.

Anyone who let memories of her 1998 show keep them away last night should catch it on HBO tonight and watch Jackson reaffirm her status as one of the most dynamic superstars of the MTV-inspired music video generation. There were no spaceships or satellite stages but Jackson gave her fans 100 percent and then some, and she did all the current hits and oldies a fan could reasonably ask for.

Her costumes were striking. Several emphasized her washboard abs and others displayed her bust, but none crossed into sleaze.

There were technical problems with the opening number and it delayed the start of the show while problems were resolved. Jackson appeared on a pedestal while her dancers were lowered like spiders from the light grid to the stage.

She opened with a salvo of songs from her current "All For You" album, and then led the crowd through a celebration of her larger repertoire.

All her biggest oldies were there: "Control," "Nasty," "Rhythm Nation," "Miss You Much," "Black Cat," "If" and "Alright." Not all were performed in their entirety but none was trashed as throw-away teases, either.

"Got Till It's Gone" was a welcome nod to her work on "The Velvet Rope" album. A soft and soothing linkage of "Come Back To Me," "Let's Wait A While" and "Again" didn't make a whole lot of sense in terms of telling a story with the lyrics but as mood music, it was the most poignant yet romantic moment in the show.

"Black Cat" also took us back to her "Rhythm Nation 1814" days.

Three video screens at the rear of the stage provided other perspectives on the proceedings and gave fans in the more distant areas a better feeling of being up close and somewhere personal with her. Excerpts from Jackson music video clips and footage of Tupak Shakur, her leading man in "Poetic Justice," added shadings of meaning and memories.

Missy Elliott was a surprise guest singing "Son of a Gun (I Betcha Think This Song is About You)" with Jackson. Video also added Carly Simon. The song is constructed around Simon's 1971 smash, "You're So Vain," and is heard twice on the "All For You" album.

The nadir of Jackson's 1998 show here was when a man was brought out of the audience and tied to a chair in an overly long pole/lap dance number. The man selected last night was strapped to an upright cross-shaped bondage table; Jackson then ran her hand over his crotch and assumed various sexual positions while singing "Would You Mind" -- like, as if!

There was also a sense of deja vu when Jackson performed amid giant, brightly colored inflatable flowers and alphabet blocks while her energetic dancers cavorted as tropical flowers and animals.

Pacing, a problem in 1998, was close to perfect last night. Jackson's musicians and backing vocalist covered for a couple of her many costume changes but there was always some sense of action and excitement.

Janet Jackson may well be the biggest show Honolulu will see in 2002. Her performance is certain to stand as one of the best big concerts we'll see.

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