An en­er­getic evening that never broke its pol­ished ve­neer

Toronto Star - - ENTERTAINMENT - NICK KREWEN

Some­times you just have to laugh at the Spinal Tap- ish prac­tices that of­ten oc­cur in the mu­sic in­dus­try.

The latest: when the Star re­quested a re­view ticket for Janet Jack­son’s Un­break­able tour, which launched in Van­cou­ver on Aug. 31and had per­formed eight shows be­fore its Toronto stop at the Air Canada Cen­tre on Tues­day, the Rhythm Na­tion queen’s man­age­ment com­pany de­nied us through the pro­moter be­cause they said the show was in “pre­views.”

So we bought a ticket any­way, and if Miss Janet’s camp is para­noid about their pre­sen­ta­tion they needn’t be. The per­for­mance that the sec­ond­most suc­cess­ful mem­ber of the Jack­son fam­ily de­liv­ered was ev­ery­thing her pre­vi­ous tours have al­ways promised and pro­duced: a well-oiled, highly-chore­ographed ma­chine metic­u­lously planned down to each breath.

In fact, it was noth­ing less than a sonic bom­bard­ment of wall-to-wall hits, with a trio of slots re­served for new ma­te­rial from Jack­son’s up­com­ing Un­break­able al­bum, out Oct. 2. Spon­tane­ity was re­ally the only el­e­ment miss­ing from the show.

But that’s al­ways been what the Jack­son clan has been about, whether it’s the late Michael or Janet, the cur­rent su­per­star torch bearer.

They per­form at you rather than to you.

So Tues­day’s Air Canada Cen­tre show, Jack­son’s first per­for­mance here in four years, was ex­actly what her fans would ex­pect: a high-energy marathon of 32 songs sar­dined into a con­cert run­ning just over 90 min­utes — with the oc­ca­sional break be­tween songs and lit­tle room for nu­ance.

Some of the tunes, such as a snip­pet from “Scream,” the sole hit she shared with brother Michael, lasted a few lines, but the oth­ers ei­ther full­bore ar­range­ments or slightly trun­cated ver­sions, rang­ing from the Min­neapo­lis jack-funk stac­cato of golden hits such as “Con­trol,” “Nasty” and the em­pow­er­ing “What Have You Done For Me Lately?” that first es­tab­lished her as an R&B pop icon in ’86.

The per­for­mance was what her fans would ex­pect: a high-energy marathon of 32 songs sar­dined into a con­cert run­ning just over 90 min­utes

These seam­less tran­si­tions only stoked the es­ti­mated 16,000 in at­ten­dance, who were on their feet for the en­tire show, from the mo­ment the new song “BURNITUP” an­nounced that Jack­son, her eight-piece band, three back­ing singers and nine dancers were in the house.

Look­ing re­splen­dent in a white blouse, dan­gling gold neck­lace, white stretch leg­gings and run­ning shoes, her in­cred­i­ble red-curled mane reach­ing down to her waist, Jack­son breath­lessly tore through a cat­a­logue other pop stars would be only too happy to own: “Miss You Much,” “The Plea­sure Prin­ci­ple” and “Es­capade,” which fea­tured a pair of 12year-old dancers, Amer­ica’s Got Tal­ent con­tes­tant Kyn­dall Harris and Ed­mon­ton’s Tay­lor Hatala, sport­ing the proper ’tude and echo­ing the skills of their el­ders on the team.

In fact, this was one area where Jack­son’s tour was markedly dif­fer­ent: she gave her dance troupe, which in­cluded Toronto’s Me­lanie Mah, a chance for their own solo, a gen­er­ous ges­ture on the head­liner’s part.

Jack­son has al­ways been about chore­og­ra­phy as much as the mu­sic, so when she dou­bled down with the team to flex her arms and knees, dip or wildly shake her head, she was wildly ap­plauded for her dis­ci­pline. There was only one cos­tume change, into an al­most iden­ti­cal black out­fit, when she set­tled down for the bal­lad por­tion of the pro­gram, fea­tur­ing “Again,” “Come Back to Me,” al­low­ing the au­di­ence to ser­e­nade her for “Let’s Wait Awhile,” and “That’s the Way Love Goes.”

Other high­lights in­cluded a blis­ter­ing ver­sion of “Black Cat” and the pre-encore fi­nale of “Rhythm Na­tion,” adding a bit more nos­tal­gia to an evening that was en­er­getic, in­tense, that avoided her re­cent sex­u­ally charged ma­te­rial and re­fused to step out­side the pol­ished ve­neer.

At least, that’s how it came across in the preview.

CHRISTO­PHER POLK/GETTY IM­AGES

An es­ti­mated 16,000 peo­ple were in at­ten­dance for the Toronto per­for­mance by Janet Jack­son, seen here on­stage dur­ing the 2015 BET awards, and the show was noth­ing less than a sonic bom­bard­ment of wall-to-wall hits.

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