When I was a kid growing up in Michigan City, Indiana, it was a big thing that the Jackson family was from Gary, a mere 30 miles away. Michael and I were the same age. If you are a baby boomer, you probably grew up along with the Jackson 5, later The Jacksons, solo Michael Jackson and his baby sister Janet. Young Janet was an actress first, I remember watching her as Penny on “Good Times”. She also had roles on “Fame” and “Different Strokes”. In 1986, when MTV was at its prime, Janet’s breakout album “Control” had five hit singles in heavy rotation with a grown up Janet dancing across our TV screens. Next came “Rhythm Nation” and between Janet and Michael they dominated music television and radio stations around the world. They were and are today that iconic musical family dynasty and when she walked out on the stage on Tuesday night in Tampa, there was no doubt that she is still Queen.
The audience of more than 9,000 fans was ready to dance and sing along to their favorite Jackson tunes. Janet, known to be socially conscious, opened with a political video stating that “all lives matter”. “Skin Game” and “Knowledge” were her opening tunes with “Nasty” right behind. One of her strongest performances was during “What About” a song from the 1997 “Velvet Rope” album about a difficult relationship. Jackson has been currently going thru a divorce in her personal life, of which she has remained fairly private but this song clearly touches her emotions and the audience felt it too.
Janet performed material from all time periods of her career. Her most recent album is from 2015 – “Unbreakable”. She has sold over 100 million records! “Rhythm Nation 1814” and “The Velvet Rope” are both on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of all-time. She has been the first female artist to chart a number one in four different decades. For the show she has combined some of the hits into medleys, which was no doubt a disappointment for diehard fans who wanted to hear these iconic hits individually. She has so many hits, it would make for a show longer than there is time for. We forgive, there was plenty of music to dance along to and Janet giving her dancers a time to shine by showcasing them while she made a costume change and during her return to the stage, a dance-off ensued.
There was a song and video tribute to her father Joe Jackson who recently passed away. Her memorial to Michael is two of them doing their duet “Scream” with the black and white video playing along on the big screen. The audience was on its feet as soon as Michael appeared on the screen! It was a great memory to see them working together and a wonderful way to pay tribute to her brother! From “Scream” she segued into “Rhythm Nation” which had dancing going on everywhere you looked including even some of the Mid-Florida Amp staff keeping the beat!
At 52, Janet looked great and the fact that she can keep up the pace of a summer tour schedule and a baby is pretty amazing. She is such a part of the fabric of the last 40 years of music in America! From her Gary, Indiana musical roots to her body of solo work, she is one of our musical icons! It was recently announced that Janet will headline the humongous Global Citizen Festival 2018 in Central Park in New York City along with John Legend, Cardi B, The Weeknd and Shawn Mendes on September 29th.
Photos courtesy of Vicky Sullivan / Rock the Lens Photography