Janet Jackson: The Number Ones Up Close And Personal Tour Live At Mohegan Sun on March 16 (Concert Review)

On Thursday night, Janet Jackson brought her international Number Ones: Up Close and Personal Tour to Mohegan Sun.

As the Number Ones “Janet” logo flashed across the screen, the iconic spoken word introduction to “Control” began booming overhead: “This is a story about control…my control.” As she continued, a militant beat and damning clock tower bells droned louder and faster. And then–with a bright flash of dazzling colored lights–she appeared center stage; tearing into her 1987 smash hit single, “Pleasure Principle.”

Zipped up in a tight (like, rull tight) sharp-shouldered silver jumpsuit, Miss Janet was looking something ferocious on Thursday night, her boobies a-squeezed and her body looking tight. Added in with newly cropped ‘do, Miss Jackson was simply oozing confidence: Each time she’d knock out a five or six song set, Jackson would stop, stare and pose with every fiber of fierceness in her body–the mark of a true heavyweight entertainer.

Jumping from “Miss You Much” to “Feedback,” “Let’s Wait Awhile” to “Make Me,” and “Control” to “That’s The Way Love Goes,” Jackson’s set was a whirlwind celebration of the legendary performer’s triple decade reign, squeezing in over twenty of her #1 hits in just under an hour and a half.

In fact, it was only while watching Jackson fly through song after song–minute after minute–that one could truly begin to grasp just how many massive hits the singer’s wracked up over her prolific career.

Yet as any Janet fan could tell you, if there’s any one definitive characteristic of a Janet Jackson performance, it’s the choreography. And as always, the singer’s dance moves were simply spot-on: Janet sliced her way through tight, sharp choreography–from the militant steps of “Rhythm Nation” right down to the same exact breakdown routine from the 1993 MTV VMA performance of “If.” To see that electrifying moment recreated right in front of my eyes nearly 20 years later? Indescribable.

Interludes were frequent, including an amazing film reel of Janet’s finest acting moments–resulting in wild whoops from the crowd during scenes from Diff’rent Strokes and Poetic Justice, to fist-pumping cheers during Miss Jackson’s epic golf club-wielding glass table smash-fest during Why Did I Get Married, Too?

Another (less effective) interlude featured a lengthy slide-show of Jackson’s most iconic photographs. And while it’s always nice to see those pictures once again, it was nothing we couldn’t already see featured within the dozens of YouTube slideshows put together by Jackson’s hardcore fans.

As part of the Number Ones: Up Close and Personal Tour, Janet dedicates one of her #1 hits to each city she visits while on tour. So what was the choice track of the night for Mohegan? “Nasty,” which also happens to be arguably my favorite Janet Jackson song of all time. This, of course, was nothing short of destiny. “This is for you, Mohegan!” Jackson shouted before launching into the almighty jam. DEAD.

If there’s any criticism to be made about the show (aside from the lack of “All Nite (Don’t Stop)”…devastated!), it would be that the actual staging wasn’t entirely up to par with the sheer magnitude of the event.

While this particular tour is designed to be a more intimate affair (smaller venues, stripped down production), I still felt like the overly minimal stage–not much more than a few instruments and flashing lights–didn’t entirely pay due reverence to the magnitude of Jackson’s legend. Still, the icon thoroughly worked it out, making the lack of bells and whistles seem all the more irrelevant in the long run.

While most of the show was a hard-hitting display of Jackson’s finest up-tempo numbers, the BPM dropped midway through for a proper comedown. Perched on top of a stool, Jackson delivered a 1-2-3 punch of some of her biggest ballads–including “Again,” “Let’s Wait Awhile,” and her latest offering, “Nothing”–as the crowd lovingly swayed and sang along.

Throughout the night, the singer also teased the crowd with quick tastes of dozens of her other tracks cleverly mixed between her mega-mix performances–from the opening notes of “Rope Burn” in one moment, to a sudden, furious performance of the “What About” chorus by the back-up singers only seconds later.

At one point, the funky horn and early ’90’s club beats of “Throb” came pulsating in as Jackson delivered a signature cackle. But just as I began quivering and flailing all over the place–a transition to another song! The purest definition of a cock-tease.

After about an hour into the set, Jackson gave her faux-goodbyes and trotted off-stage. The house lights stayed dim as the crowd began cheering for an encore. And after a dozen or more rallying cries of “Janet! Janet!” the singer returned, decked out in an all-white suit for “Diamonds,” leading all the way into her final selection of the night, “Together Again.”

As she launched into the song’s final chorus, a series of photographs featuring Janet and Michael suddenly flashed onscreen. The crowd roared as Jackson–closing her eyes–tilted her head upward and raised her hands high to the sky. It was an incredibly touching moment (I got a bit verklempt), and undoubtedly the most personal moment of the entire night. “Be safe, I love you!” Jackson shouted between toothy smiles and air kisses before disappearing offstage for the final time.

Janet is (or rather, was) one of the only living legends I’d yet to see perform. To have finally gotten to witness the Jackson experience live? I’m still not over it.

In under two hours, Jackson proved just why she is a true icon, why she’s got a double-disc of #1 smash hits under her belt and why her pop legacy will continue to live on for decades to come. She’s one of the industry’s seasoned veterans–a world-class entertainer, and one of the greatest of our time.

In short: Perfection!

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