Janet Jackson is a musical and entertainment icon for many reasons and she showed it once again on Friday Nov. 6th at the Chicago Theatre in downtown Chicago. The final of three sold-out shows in four days at the theatre for her current Unbreakable Tour in support of her latest album, of the same name, Jackson didn’t waste any time in showing why she’s still got it and why her music has resonated for well over three decades.
Even with the seven-year break in between studio albums, Jackson showed with the very diverse crowd of young, middle and old age why her music has been what many of us grew up on along with much of the rest of her families music. Her opening with a video image of a black phoenix flying and then rising from the ashes, before Jackson herself came out in a black leather outfit was very symbolic of her time off before she recently reintroduced herself to us this year from a long hiatus.
Quite appropriately it was one of the very first records that Jackson released from her current album, Unbreakable, the Missy Elliott assisted Burnitup! in which she opened the show with such energy too that got the show started off on the right note with a video image of Elliott flashing whenever Missy’s verses from the record came up. Miss Janet if you nasty then went into one of her more popular songs ever in the hit, Nasty, which the crowd went even more nuts for, as she asked everyone to help sing along.
Much of Jackson’s old somewhat risky image at times that she had on previous tours or even albums was absent from a lot of the rest of the show though. With it having a more, “Live at the Apollo” type feel, as my friend and I from elementary school (Jeremy Horn) I took with suggested. Our first ever experience at a Janet Jackson concert was one we very much enjoyed, as Janet substituted a lot of medleys you hear from a lot of concerts/shows nowadays for complete songs and showed how much more mature she has become in her older age and why her new music is doing much better not only in context, but on the charts as well. With her latest album, Breakthrough debuting at number one on the Billboard 200 albums chart the week ending Oct. 8, 2015 and her single No Sleep being on the top Adult R&B Song charts for an astounding 18 weeks in a row (with several of those for it being at number one).
Jackson’s show was very dance choreographed heavy like a lot of her tours have been for decades though and was very much highlighted throughout the show with records such as Control, The Pleasure Principle, Escapade, All For You, All Nite (Don’t Stop) and Together Again among the more noteworthy ones performed. Like in previous tours Janet had eight background dancers of all shapes, sizes, ages, races and genders helping her put on such a magnificent performance. With the youngest being as young as eight and oldest up to their twenties. Once again showing how diverse the crowds are for her shows for not only the different colors, cultures and barriers, but the range in ages from young children to some even as high as sixty and seventy year olds in the crowd. Which goes to show the wide range of reach the “Motown sound”, Janet and much of the rest of the Jackson family grew up on has still till this day.
During the show Janet even showed her appreciation for some of today’s artists she obviously influenced like Kendrick Lamar, whose video image and recorded voice poured out of the speakers with a mix of his Jackson inspired Poetic Justice coming in just as Jackson performed the beginning of Any Time, Any Place. With her even dancing along like a dancer enjoying a moment of great times at a club as Lamar’s verse played on the screen.
Janet’s performance of some of her great and memorable ballads such as Let’s Wait Awhile, I Get Lonely and Come Back to Me, where she was backed by some amazing background singers really showed that her voice as still as great and memorable as ever four decades into her illustrious career. Her reprise of her collaboration “Scream” with her late great brother Michael was a very memorable moment that her and all of us in the crowd really got into too.
Her finale of that along with “Rhythm Nation” and her new record Shoulda Known Better were a very powerful way to end such a great and amazing performance and night. Especially with the way Janet traced the line from the 1989 anthem’s optimism to today’s ongoing civil-rights struggles we still have to a point today. Her dancers arrayed in hoodies that resembled mourning shrouds and evoked the images of shooting victim Trayvon Martin on the screen, as Jackson noted: “I had this great epiphany/ And Rhythm Nation was the dream/ I guess I shoulda known better.”
Indeed sadly enough to say some of that still holds true today, but as Janet noted before closing out her performance all you can do is love and still show love, as well as peace to everyone. How full the theater was and had everyone enjoying themselves throughout the night really showed how powerful a symbol Jackson’s whole family name still remains till this day and why she thanked everyone so much for making such a big entertainment family from a little town in Gary, Indiana have such an illustrious and still strong standing career for not only Janet and most notably her late brother Michael, but her whole family.