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Concert Reviews:
Janet Jackson Dances Away Her Troubles At The Palace

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Wednesday, October 29, 2008

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AUBURN HILLS -- There's nothing quite like dancing your troubles away.

Janet Jackson did just that on Tuesday night (Oct. 28) at the Palace, with a two-hour song-and-dance extravaganza delivered amidst a flurry of recent setbacks in her career. This year the singer has endured weak sales for her latest album, "Discipline," and a split from her record company. A spate of migraine-inducted vertigo forced her to postpone several shows on her Rock Witchu Tour -- including the original Sept. 27 date at the Palace -- and the recent defection of opening act LL Cool J.

And on Tuesday, Jackson had to trim a sexually explicit segment of her show at the behest of the Palace due to fears it may violate a Michigan state law prohibiting such exhibitions (even though she's performer similar displays at previous local shows).

The irony, however, is that the concert not suffer for the missing segment -- and may well have been stronger without it.

Jackson's booty moments, which usually involve bringing a male fan out of the audience and "molesting" him, have always felt a bit gratuitous and have generally been speed bump 'n' grinds in concerts driven by her buoyant dance-pop hits and energetic ensemble choreography. That's just what Tuesday's show turned out to be without the "Discipline" segment, a leaner, aesthetically cleaner and more celebratory -- if slightly over-polished -- exposition by Jackson and her platoon of dancers.

After a nearly hour-long energy-draining wait following DJ Donnie Klang's opening set, Jackson and company got down to business right away, with a shouted command of "Dance!" and a brisk three-song set -- "The Pleasure Principle," "Control" and "What Have You Done For Me Lately?" -- from her multi-platinum 1986 breakthrough album "Control" before vamping into "Feedback," the opening track from "Discipline." From there Jackson -- who made no mention of the postponement during the show -- parsed up mostly partial performances of 34 songs into eight semi-thematic sections, each with its own costume change and unique setting on a pliable stage whose squared-off walkway that stretched out onto the Palace floor.

An elaborate video presentation, meanwhile, allowed "guests" such as rapper Nelly ("Call on Me") and Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro ("Black Cat," though he did not play on the original recording) to be part of the show, while technology allowed the trimmed three-man band to recreate the various song arrangements, right down to pre-recorded backing and lead vocal parts.

A barefoot Jackson donned a red gown for a "ballad" section that included "Never Letchu Go," "Come Back to Me," "Let's Wait Awhile" and a particularly emotive rendering of the Academy Award-nominated "Again" (from "Poetic Justice"). Jackson also reached back to her pre-"Control" albums for a trio of songs -- "Young Love," "Say You Do" and "Don't Stand Another Chance" -- that freshened the repertoire even if they didn't make you forget about her biggest hits.

The show's most successful segment, meanwhile, found Jackson and her dancers in Egyptian-style costumes traipsing through a high-energy medley of "Doesn't Really Matter," "Escapade," "Love Will Never Do (Without You)," "When I Think of You" and "All For You."

The show did end on an odd note, however; at the end of an energetic, pyrotechnic-laden "Rhythm Nation," Jackson writhed on the floor, screaming for some unseen assailant to "stop it" -- a moment so unexpected and out of context with the rest of the show it knocked everything off kilter. And the encore of "LUV" and a low-key "Runaway," did little to regain any momentum and allowed the show to end with, literally, a whisper rather than the band its deserved.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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