by MIKE CHAIKEN
Clearly, Janet Jackson had something on her mind and she wanted to share it with the audience.
But, she also knew her fans wanted to party and dance.
So, she gave the audience some of the sweet stuff, while injecting a few moments that gave the audience something to think about.
The name of her current tour, which stopped into the Mohegan Sun Arena on Sunday, Sept. 30, gave a clue about what was to happen over the next two hours. The tour is dubbed, “State of the World.”
The title is a reference to her song from “Rhythm Nation 1814.” The song itself, which served as the evening’s encore, was a response to the news reports on television when she wrote the album in the 1991. And the words, “Drugs and crime spreadin’ on the streets/ People can’t find enough to eat/ Now our kids can’t go out and play/ That’s the state of the world today” still hold meaning today. Although the words then referenced poverty, today, for young black males the lyrics hold a new meaning.
But, as the evening progressed, it was clear “State of the World” also is a reference to the current political, gender, and racial environment.
The slide show at the beginning of the night– before she ripped into “The Skin Game, Part 1”– shouted out that Janet Jackson has her eyes on the headlines and she is concerned. The slide show referenced the violence of police against black males, the rise of hate groups, the deaths of children at the hands of an automatic weapon at Sandy Hook, and played a clip of former President Barack Obama speaking about race relations.
Then later on in the evening, in the wake of #MeToo, Jackson performed “What About,” where her dancers played out a harrowing scene of domestic violence where the woman was the loser in the equation.
Also, mid-show, she turned the stage over to a short film where she clearly was trying to make a statement about the perceptions of beauty and skin color.
Clearly, Jackson wanted to give the audience something to think about and she was willing to make some who came to the arena a little uncomfortable.
However, she must have recognized the danger of acting the role of preacher too long when she had an audience filled with fans looking for the hits that made them dance and smile.
And, Jackson gave them what they wanted in an energetic, brisk show that touched upon her entire career.
It was appropriate that the evening began with her DJ offering up remix of assorted Jackson tracks. The evening itself was like a good dance party with a DJ finding the right groove to keep the crowd moving.
Some songs zipped in, stayed for just a few snippets, till they served their purpose and were asked to exit; other times, Jackson let the songs linger and settle in for a bit before they transformed into the next track. There was an ebb and flow to the beats– sometimes insistent, sometimes languid and cool.
Although some in the audience clearly were in attendance for a little bit of 1990s nostalgia, Jackson made it clear that she is still a vibrant performer. This was best evidenced by the fun and catchy new track “Made for Now.”
I give Janet Jackson’s “State of the World” tour at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Sept. 30 3 ½ out of 4 stars.
PHOTOS by MIKE CHAIKEN