CLEVELAND, Ohio - Janet Jackson got "Nasty'' - FINALLY - at Quicken Loans Arena Sunday night.
Her "State of the World'' tour stop in Northeast Ohio, delayed so long ago that it was supposed to have been part of her "Unbreakable World'' tour originally unveiled in 2015, might have suffered from all those delays. Though official numbers were not available, whole sections of The Q were empty. I'd put the crowd at less than 10,000.
But the ones who WERE there were not disappointed. Though Jackson had some pitch problems - she's not the singer her late brother, Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Michael Jackson, was - and she doesn't have the most powerful voice, she definitely sports the same dance genes in her DNA.
Quite frankly, it's amazing that she can even breathe - much less sing, pitchy or not - with the strenuous, athletic moves that kept the show speeding through 90 minutes of music, including several medleys. The seat-dancing from fans was only slightly less enthusiastic, too, even if the moves were a little less, well, choreographed.
Given reprieves only by a couple of short interludes, Jackson, who became a first-time mother last year at 50, and her boisterous, enthusiastic and gifted cadre of four male and four female dancers turned the entire arena into one big "Rhythm Nation.''
Dancer Allison Claire, for the record, was clearly a fan favorite. Why? Because she's not the twig-thin typical dancer; instead, she's a "real'' person, with curves ... but more than that, with the spins, kicks, leaps, splits and gyrations that rival - and indeed, surpass -- any practitioner of hip-hop style dance. At times, it was a tough call on whether to watch her or Jackson. And that's saying something, since at 51, Janet Jackson can bust a move with the best of them.
Make no mistake, though. This was the Janet Jackson retrospective - maybe an audition for next year's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame voting for the Class of 2019, even. Jackson has always viewed her 1986 album "Control,'' her third release, as the one in which she defined her personality and sound, and it was songs from that album - "Nasty,'' "What Have You Done for Me Lately,'' "The Pleasure Principle'' and of course, the title track itself that set the stage for the night.
Not that the stage needed much setting after an opening video that put Jackson's well-deserved reputation for a champion of civil rights clearly in the spotlight. You knew from then that this was not going to be a typical "Hello, Cleveland!" concert night.
And it wasn't, especially when Jackson delivered THE performance of the night, her song about domestic violence called "What About.'' Preceded by a video in which Jackson's own face was shown alternately in red carpet-quality glamour and with the bruises, blood and tears of a domestic violence victim, the song got extra impact as two couples danced vignettes of violence. Expertly choreographed, it was painful to watch . . . which was the intent, I think.
As she apparently has at every stop of the tour, the song ended in blackout, then with a spot on Jackson as she choked out, "This is me.'' The inference is that Jackson has been the victim of abuse. Her brother, Randy, has told People magazine that Jackson, who is in the midst of a divorce from Wissam Al Mana, was "verbally abused'' and was "a prisoner in her own home.'' No charges have been filed, and Al Mana's attorneys have refuted the claim.
As powerful as the moment was, Jackson was right not to end the night there, taking the crowd along on a few more rides on the nostalgia roller coaster that peaked with the balletic dance moves to "Rhythm Nation,'' followed by a five-song encore that ended with the show - and the crowd - "Well Traveled.''
Not sure about the "State of the World'' itself, but the state of the crowd by the end of the beat-laden night had to be pretty much exhausted....Read more