Janet Jackson All Sexed Up With Nowhere To Go

Show relies heavily on flashy costumes, props and choreography and less on musical style.

LOS ANGELES — Certainly Janet Jackson has the look — and many of them.
She’s got the moves — limited though they may be. But whether she has the substance
to fill out her elaborate wardrobe is another matter entirely.


Michael’s younger sister, and the only Jackson sibling currently hawking her musical
goods, had just sung “I Get Lonely” from her latest album, The Velvet Rope, when
she pulled a male fan onstage and began serenading him with the album’s title track.


After sitting him down in a chair, Jackson folded her arms and watched with a seductive,
vixen-like pose as her dancers tied the surprised fan’s hands down.


Though his back was to the crowd, the fan’s gleeful face was projected onto a large
screen at the back of the stage.


The audience watched as his expression changed and his excitement built while
Jackson — who at the time was wearing a black bra and black pants — teased him. First
she stood with her chest inches from his face, then she performed a stripper-style dance
with a pole. Finally — after letting him suck each one of her fingers — she planted an
elaborate kiss on his lips. With his hands still tied, he bounced up and down ecstatically,
making the chair rise with each upward jolt as he mouthed the words, “I love you.”


There it was — the purest and most spontaneous moment of a show that hinged more on
well-acted, Broadway-style vignettes than on any display of live music.


Resembling Madonna’s 1990 “Blonde Ambition” tour with its elaborate choreography,
dramatic stage sets and flashy costumes, Jackson’s show at the Great Western Forum on
Thursday night was a technically wowing extravaganza. Even the smaller nuances —
such as chandeliers that dropped from the ceiling for an early ballad segment — added to
the show’s highly theatrical feel.


With red streaks running through her long black hair, Jackson made several costume
changes during the show. But of all of them, her Chester outfit was the most wild.
“Rhythm Nation” featured the characteristic, Russian-style military suit she wore in the
video, corresponding with the song’s rigid, robotic dance movements.


Though the show was heavily choreographed, many of the dance movements were right
out of her music videos, excerpts of which were shown on the venue’s large television
screens.


The most striking set came in the second part of the show, when the stage took on an
“Alice in Wonderland” appearance, complete with a giant moon and a dancing clock.
With her backup dancers clad in brightly colored, carnival-style get-ups, Jackson wore a
red halter-top, purple pants and a Chester hat. She performed her hit songs “Escapade,”
“When I Think of You,” “Miss You Much” and “Love Will Never Do,” giving each a distinct,
celebratory feeling.


“That was my favorite part,” said fan Lorraine Brown, 24. “It was such a surprise to see
the stage like that all of a sudden. I felt like I was transported onto the fantasy planet. It
was so fun.”


Very much a crowd-pleaser, Jackson — accompanied by her backup band, two backup
singers and eight dancers — performed her biggest hits, drawn from throughout her
career, grouping them together to correspond with the show’s changing mood and style.
She abbreviated many songs, delivering them medley style. Early in the show, while she
was wearing black pants and a vest over a white shirt, she performed a medley of cuts
from her 1986 breakthrough album, Control — including the anthemic title track,
“Pleasure Principle,” “What Have You Done For Me Lately?” and “Nasty.”


Though the velvet-rope motif literally loomed throughout the show, with a gigantic gold
and maroon cloth “rope” suspended from the ceiling, Jackson artfully balanced the new
tunes with her older material. While “Free Xone” and “You” provided dance bliss, the
ballad “Special” was a distinctly personal touch, with pictures of Jackson’s childhood
projected onto the screen behind her. She encored with the high energy “Got ‘Til It’s Gone” (RealAudio excerpt), which features Q-Tip from the hip-hop outfit A Tribe
Called Quest.


“It feels so good to be home,” she told the crowd after the set. “Thank you so much, L.A.”


Opening the show was R&B singer Usher, who recently held the #1 single in the country
with his hip-hop number “My Way.” He too had an elaborate wardrobe, and the sexy
moves to go along with each.


Changing clothes four times during his 40-minute set, he played a mixture of ballads and
dance hits. New Jack-ed up in a red outfit and hat, Usher performed the Bobby Brown
hits “Every Little Step” and “Rock Wit’cha.” Though Usher was more compelling during
his dance songs, the crowd responded most fervently to his ballads, which included such
erotic routines as humping the ground, putting his hands down his pants, pouring water
on himself as he squiggled around and eventually dropping his drawers.


“That was my favorite part — when we got to see his Tommys,” said fan Sara Jeffries, 18,
referring to Usher’s choice of the Tommy Hilfiger underwear brand. “I thought he looked
so good.”