Shrouded and still beneath a hooded, purple cape, Janet Jackson’s presence alone caused the crowd to erupt at New York’s Madison Square Garden on Monday night.
Ms. Jackson opened her “Together Again” tour by reintroducing us to the side that she doesn’t “hide but might never show” via a performance of the title track to her 2004 album, “Damita Jo”. Throughout the night, Jackson proved she is indeed “shy but down for a good time.” Shedding her shyness along with the cape (perhaps symbolic of no longer having to “tone down” her sexuality out of respect for her former husband’s Muslim faith) pop music’s most celebrated sex symbol strutted about the stage in a skin-tight jumpsuit, glittering in gold, waist snatched by a purple bow – the only (unfortunate) remnant of the cape.
Divided into four acts, Jackson dances her way through a 40-song set spanning the majority of her 40-year career. Performing everything from fan-favorite album tracks to her biggest chart-toppers, Jackson sneaks in at least two songs from each of her adult albums. It is in this balance of setlist staples and adored deep cuts that Jackson’s “Together Again” tour manages to delight attendees, whether they’re casual fans or a part of her devoted #JanFam.
The biggest delight of the evening is by far Jackson herself, though. It is her first time hitting the stage since 2019, and the dynamic diva who is famous for shouting “GIMME A BEAT!” doesn’t miss a step – or a beat. Of course, it is to be expected that, at 56, her choreography is not as intricate as it was when she was younger – but it doesn’t really matter. She still delivers her signature confidence, strength, and electrifying stage presence.
Perhaps one bonus of less-demanding choreography is the fact that Jackson’s microphone is actually on more often than not throughout the show. In the 80s and 90s, Janet essentially wrote the book on dancing and lip-syncing, from which everyone since has taken a page. From donning a hand-free mic (Britney) to pre-recording a convincing backing track (Beyoncé), Jackson was the pioneer. This tour, though, serves as a reminder that her voice, just like her dance moves, is still up to par.
That’s not the only reminder the show provides. While she was married, Jackson pared things down a bit when it came to her sexuality. Though nowhere near as risqué as she was pre-motherhood, Jackson doesn’t shy away from her sexiest hits like “If,” “Any Time, Any Place,” and “I Get Lonely.” For the latter, she does a teasing sort of lap dance, where she caresses the bare chest of one of her male dancers before grabbing his crotch. A far cry from when she would bring male audience members onstage, tie them up and discipline them, but a subtle reminder, nonetheless.
Subtlety seems to be the theme here. Gone are the flashy productions of Jackson’s prime, when she had elaborate stages, opulent costumes, and a literal army of dancers in her “Rhythm Nation.” This could be seen by some as a disappointment, sure. Instead, though, it feels more like a legend who has proven herself and is well aware of her worth. A consummate veteran, Jackson has stripped down her production. Flanked by four dancers and a few rotating screens, the simplicity allows the focus to be on her talent as a singer and performer, and most of all, her catalog of hits most can only dream of.
Jackson’s encore marks the night’s third performance of the dance-pop smash “Together Again” (she performs its DJ Premiere and Deeper remixes earlier in the show). She’s still wearing the “Rhythm Nation” t-shirt from the previous performance as she sings, “‘When I feel that I don’t belong, draw my strength from the words when you said, ‘hey it’s about you baby, look deeper inside you baby,'” and it’s as if she’s reaffirming it for herself, but also for us too. Before our eyes, all the facets of Janet Jackson have been put back together again: Ms. Jackson (if you’re nasty), Damita Jo, and simply, Janet. And, frankly, it makes me wanna dance.