Janet Jackson was about eight songs deep into her Number Ones, Up Close and Personal world tour at Vancouver’s magnificent Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Friday, August 26 before audiences got a sense of what this tour had promised: an intimate and personal look at the international pop icon. Golden-lit globes descended from the ceiling above center stage, where Jackson sat alone, her six-piece band and three back-up vocalists barely visible behind her, as she dove deep into the lyrics of “Nothing”, a song she cowrote for Tyler Perry’s 2010 movie Why Did I Get Married Too, of which Jackson also starred in. She followed this up with three more deeply personal, slow-dance hits: “Come Back to Me” from her 1989 breakthrough concept album Rhythm Nation 1814, “Let’s Wait A While” from the earlier Control, and “Again” from her 1993 self-titled album.
Jackson, who has always been known to put on a high-energy, dance-heavy show, basically gave the sold-out crowd (mainly full of self-professed “die-hard Janet fans”) what they were used to in shows past the rest of her 90-minute set, so it was nice to see her slow down, appearing alone on stage, and putting her all into a few of her chart-topping ballads early on.
When it came to performing heart-pumping dance numbers, Jackson didn’t hold back either. After getting the crowd riled up with the music video to “Miss You Much” projected onto a large screen, Jackson and her six backup dancers (two women, four men) burst onto the stage with the very ‘80s-sounding “Pleasure Principle”. With so many number-one hits under her diamond-encrusted belt, Jackson was clever to perform the majority of her songs in medley format, moving from one slightly-shortened number right into the next. “Pleasure Principle” flowed right into “Control” and onto “What Have You Done for Me Lately”, which moved into the more modern-sounding “Feedback” from 2008’s Discipline. She danced and sang her way through all of these songs before catching her breath and yelling, “Do you want more, Van City?” To which she answered her own question with “Alright”, another single off Rhythm Nation 1814, followed by a live version of “Miss You Much” and the attitude-driven “Nasty Boys”.
Later on in the evening, after the string of ballads, Jackson and her dancers were back on stage dancing cheekily to the feel-good “Escapade” and “Love Will Never Do (Without You)”, before Jackson, who was dressed in a simple black tank top and jeans combo, announced, “This was my very first number one song,” and sang “When I Think of You”. She followed that up with “All For You” off the 2000 album by the same name before disappearing backstage for a quick interlude.
While the show had no official intermission, there were about four short breaks throughout the performance. During two of the breaks, some of Jackson’s most iconic moments were shown on the big screen at center stage. The first reel consisted of some of Jackson’s moments on film, from TV shows like Good Times and Diff’rent Strokes, to movies like the unforgettable exchange between her character and Tupac’s in 1993’s Poetic Justice. Another video montage reminded the audience of some of Jackson’s most iconic photos, including album covers, magazine covers, as well as high-fashion and sexy nearly-nude shots.
During the last two sections of the show, Jackson featured a touching tribute to her late brother. First, after performing the scintillating “That’s the Way Love Goes” the fiery dance number “If”, Michael appeared on screen in the music video for “Scream”, an angst-filled rock-meets-r&b duet the Jackson siblings recorded together in 1994. Then, after performing “Rhythm Nation”, where Jackson’s dancing was most impressive, came a touching, long encore set to “Together Again”. During one the final chorus, photos starting from childhood of Janet and Michael together up until his untimely death appeared on the big screen. While Jackson was able to contain her emotions and continue on singing, it was clear that some audience members got pretty choked up.
Unlike most large-scale shows by pop legends, Jackson took her time before leaving the stage, introducing every member of her band, backup vocalists, and dancers, saying her thank yous, and just enjoying the energy from the crowd. “I hope, Vancouver, you guys can tell how much we like performing here. We love it so much,” she said at the very end, before smiling, giving a wave, and walking off stage. From the smiles on the everyone’s face, it was obvious that Jackson had delivered a hit show, and that the audience had enjoyed it just as much as she did.