September 24th, 2015 Tampa, FL Amalie Arena
This Friday, October 2nd, Janet Jackson will be releasing her 11th studio album, Unbreakable. After a seven year drought, Janet once again teams up again with the dynamic duo of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Will they bring back the magic of the 80’s when “Control” and “Rhythm Nation” brought Janet out of her brother’s giant shadow? Judging from her sold out Tampa concert and two early pre-release singles, Janet’s ready for another big career comeback. The crowd was surprisingly younger than expected and many women appeared to coordinate a giant girls’ night out party for the night. Despite starting twenty minutes late, Janet’s DJ spun a high energy set of Michael and Janet’s biggest club hits in a continuous megamix that even tossed in a few of Janet’s upcoming new tracks. Appearing in all white in front of a giant silhouette of her iconic 80’s image, Ms Jackson opened with her new single, BURNITUP! featuring Missy Elliott. For the next 40 minutes, it was a non-stop medley of Janet’s hottest dance songs from the 80’s (Nasty, Alright, Miss You Much, Control, What Have You Done For Me Lately, Pleasure Principle, Escapade, and When I Think Of You). The crowd never left their feet as Janet’s tight dance crew kept the party going all night long.
After a brief DJ intermission, Janet switched to all black outfit that once again covered every inch of her body except for her face. The once provocative and sexual energy that dominated Janet’s concerts in the 90’s has been replaced by a more subdued energy that focused on her music over giant production numbers. A quiet storm medley of Janet’s ballads showcased her sensitive side. Her voice may have lost just a bit over the years, but the crowd didn’t care. As Janet sat all alone on a barstool in the spotlight for “Again” and a sweet version of “Let’s Wait Awhile”, the crowd sang along with every note. Janet’s current single “No Sleeep” merged perfectly with the seductive 90’s sound “Any Time, Any Place” and “I Get Lonely”. Two twelve year old hip hop dancers brought the crowd back to their feet during “The Best Things In Life Are Free” and Janet kept the energy high with a furious mix of “Black Cat”, “If”, and “Scream” including snippets of Michael Jackson’s voice which brought a standing ovation from the fans.
If there is any doubt that Janet is proud of her upcoming album, the show ended with a 1 -2 punch of NEW songs. The homeless inspired “Shoulda Known Better” was set to a photo montage of Americans struggling to survive on the streets. The show ended with the CD’s title track, Unbreakable, a modern day inspirational anthem guaranteed to become one of the biggest hit singles on the new record. Overall, Janet’s 90+ minute set gave the fans every hit they wanted to hear but most were shortened versions inside of medleys. It would have been great to hear full versions of some of our favorites but that’s the compromise Janet chose to include a true greatest hits package. Unlike a lot of 80’s artists focused on their earlier hits, Janet opened the show and closed it with brand new material that stand shoulder to shoulder with her biggest hits. With the addition of artists like J. Cole, Missy Elliott, and Jam & Lewis, “Unbreakable” could be the surprise R&B album of the year. Look out for “Unbreakable” this weekend, it looks like Ms Jackson is back and better than ever.