Features: Janet Jackson live in Berlin

The current Janet Jackson stage show is not what you would typically expect from an artist with such a huge following and career. We had the chance to catch Ms. Jackson’s show at the Tempodrom arena in Berlin a few weeks ago and the first thing that strikes you is how small and intimate the event was. After a rough period in her career (marked by the release of some failed albums and stadium tour that got most of its dates cancelled), Janet Jackson had no chance but to 1) turn herself into acting again, 2) release a greatest hits package just to remember everyone the insane amount of great tunes she has produced, and 3) take those hits on tour to smaller venues around the world. And well, it is paying off.
The air in the arena was filled with excitement. She starts the show with a video dedicated to each city (Berlin got Rhythm Nation) and as soon as Janet hits the stage, dressed casually in black jeans, army boots and a black shirt, the crowd goes insane. She looks, moves and sounds great. There’s a full live band with her and you can clearly hear that she is singing live, helped by her 3 chorus girls. Her stage presence is remarkably close to the body language of her brother Michael, whose moves and falsettos she emulates proving that there is such a thing called “the Jackson touch”. It is known that he was her mentor and the person she looked up to the most and this night will end up becoming an homage to his legacy as well (more on that later).
The stage is small and there aren’t many tricks used. Some video-walls provide graphic background to the songs and there are 6 (amazing) dancers with Janet on stage. She herself is a remarkably skilled dancer (well, duh!) and it’s a bit impossible to take your eyes of her. Every move is delivered with impeccable sharpness and every dance step complements the song. And what songs she brought with her! The set was a non-stop medley-esque succession of hit after hit, from such early gems as the Minneapolis infused What Have You Done For Me Lately, the military beats of Rhythm Nation, the slow motion of Let’s Wait a While or the disco extravaganza of more recent hits such as All For You and Together Again. There were a couple of video interludes to remember Janet’s career as an actress (her golf club scene from Why Did I Get Married To steals the show) but generally this was a non-stop event with the purpose of remembering everyone the high moments of this artist’s career. And yes, it also ends up becoming an homage to her late brother Michael, who comes up on the screens singing with her on the monster hit Scream, gathering a thunderous roar from the crowd. At the end of the show she pays homage to him again while singing Together Again (a dance song originally written in celebration of all her friends who have passed) showcasing a sequence of pictures of the two together since they were children. It comes off as sincere and you can’t help to be moved by it.
And it all comes down to this: in such a stripped-back surrounding, only the best performers can command a night from start to end, and that’s what she did in style. From her laser-sharp moves to her genuine sympathy, we bet no one in the audience felt unconquered. Either when singing, dancing or when she interacts directly with the fans in the front row to thank them for their support, Janet Jackson lights up the room and you can’t help but hold on to every word she says or every dance move she executes. That’s called connecting with your audience and Miss Jackson proved in Berlin that, even without all the bells and whistles, she is definitely one of the few performers out there able to do that in such huge proportions.


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