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Janet Jackson’s “Together Again” Tour At Madison Square Garden, Featuring Ludacris, May 9th, 2023, Reviewed

“You ain’t groovin’ to this the way you should be groovin'” Janet (Miss Jackson if you’re nasty) snapped at us, her face in resting bitch position and her lack of amusement contagious. She was right but it was her fault. Janet Jackson, the queen as Busta Rhymes would anoint her later in the evening, does not have the voice for the songs she sings. It is too light and whispery and airy and can disappear in the mix; it’s not that she doesn’t communicate, she is quiet but some folks are, it is that it adds distance to distance.

This is such a problem that it certainly adds to the perception that she isn’t very good on stage and that’s wrong, she is very good on stage, and she can sing “Let’s Wait Awhile” with such purity that you believe the 56 year old mother was still a virgin, the song is a beauty and a set highlight. But when it comes to the very heart of Rhythm Nation she can’t sing em particularly well, even as she dances her wonderful army of one plus boys lockstep movement the bass is so heavy it muffles everything.

That’s Janet’s fault because Ludacris’ excellent 35 minute effort, with just DJ Infamous and a backing rapper whom Ludacris has known since High School, the boom bap goes to ATL master with flow coming out his ear blew the roof of MSG; the sound was excellent, the Fast and the Furious projections fun, his absolute certainty as to his skillset and ability to transport us exactly the way he did opening for Outkast in 2001 where he was substantially better on stage than the duo, a gift. The joy in creation was absolute and the pleasure in performance so complete he was more in synch with us after 35 minutes then Jackson was for the entire evening.

Janet’s “Together Again” was a well executed 100 minute on the Taylor Swift “Eras” style tour (though clearly not influenced by it). Like Taylor she performs different acts with the spotlight on certain albums. Not just on certain albums, Act III brought out the ballads, but enough to claim that Act IV was drawn mostly from Rhythm Nation 1814 and Act II gave us highlights from Control. That translates to too many deep album cuts though she didn’t stint on the hits, of which she has many. A personal highlight was Busta Rhymes singing their song “What’s It Going To Be?!” off Extinction Level Front: The Final World Front dating to 1998 (the same year he opened for Puff Daddy at the same venue, pushing his best album, When Disaster Strikes…).

The first act was overwhelmed by the cavernous MSG which made it too beats heavy, you couldn’t recognize “Got ’til It’s Gone” till the Joni Mitchell sample. The second act opens with “What Have You Done For Me Lately” and “Nasty and the set is back on set. Act three finds Janet putting her hands down a dancer’s pants and she seems to be awful near his main event before HE pushes her hand away. And four has a moment we hoped for, a great version of her duet with her big brother Michael on the horrified with a video as well as the live version of “Scream”. She was wearing a “Rhythm Nation” tee, which was not on sale among the merch. It was a build from the remains magical “Escapade” to the “Rhythm Nation” itself.

It was a pleasure to see Janet before it became Botox Nation. The audience (a mix of races and MILFs) weren’t as thrilled as they might be but they were thrilled which would seem to allow us to call her Janet, if we’re not nasty.

Grade: B+

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