Janet Jackson brings poor Vegas revue to L.A.

Thu Sep 18, 2008 5:02pm EDT
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By Darryl Morden

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - If you were a Janet Jackson fan at Staples Center on Wednesday who wanted synchronized robotic choreography with dancers, you got it, again and again.

If you wanted hits, there were plenty, albeit many of them in teasingly truncated versions.

But what you didn't get much of was a true connection from the heart.

The singer's Rock Witchu tour is her first in seven years, overloaded with blinding dazzle, pyrotechnics and gaudy style over substance. The myriad production numbers were reminiscent of a poor Vegas revue and emotionally distant, the band and backup singers bolstering her vocals hidden away, leaving one to wonder if some -- or most -- of it was prerecorded.

When Jackson ascended to stardom in the mid-'80s, she managed to balance the mechanized dance moves with a sense of empowerment in such hits as "Control," "What Have You Done for Me Lately" and the unity anthem "Rhythm Nation." But any possible messages were a mere afterthought during Wednesday night's show.

Yes, she played those hits and numerous others, wearing an array of outfits that ranged from science fiction tacky-wacky to a red princess-at-the ball evening gown for a tedious run of bland ballads.

Her finest moment came midway through the two-hour show with a joyous "Together Again." She smiled and bounced at the top of the U-shaped catwalk that reached the center of arena, and with the house lights partially up, the audience bounced along with her. She was equally playful for snippets of "Escapade" and "When I Think of You."

A short segment featuring her presuperstar days of R&B songs including "Young Love" and "Say You Do" seemed to liberate her from the trappings of the Big Show, which is ironic, since that was the material she once rebelled against.   Continued...

<p>Singer Janet Jackson speaks on stage at the 8th annual BMI Urban Awards at the Wilshire theatre in Beverly Hills, California September 4, 2008. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>