Live review: Janet Jackson @ Wells Fargo Theatre

Janet Jackson was effervescent and spritely at her Wells Fargo Theatre concert on Wednesday night — though her big greatest-hits show was hardly the stunner some had expected.

Jackson is a pop goddess, yes. But she’s also a mortal — a 44-year-old woman who still moves better, smoother, sexier than the rest of us. She’s a star, a pop culture figure since she was a tween. But that bright a spotlight, that intense glare, has its adverse effects, too.

Her show on Wednesday was a strange mix of hit-packed medleys and awkward, drawn-out photo/video montages. Right as Jackson would break a sweat and find her step she would exit the stage in favor of blaring
clips reels on the big screens. Clips of her acting in “Diff’rent Strokes” and later “Poetic Justice.” Clips of her publicity photos for “Control” and “Rhythm Nation” and “Janet.”


The concert started strong — though 55 minutes after its advertised start time of 8 p.m. — with a “The Pleasure Principle”-“Control”-“What Have You Done For Me Lately”-“Feedback” medley. And while the clunky, jerky presentation wasn’t befitting of such mammoth, era-defining hits, Jackson made good by working the crowd and playing off her back-up dancers.

But then Janet never got her groove back.

She yelled, “Denver, do you want more?” after only four songs. Her second medley started out in a lull with “You Want This,” but quickly got the blood moving with “Alright,” “Miss You Much” and “Nasty.” And then a break for her acting reel. Another medley followed — this time the ballads, a “Nothing”-“Come Back to Me”-“Let’s Wait Awhile”-“Again” whopper. And then a another break for another photo montage.

The best part of the ballads? Jackson was actually singing them. During her up-tempo numbers, she was clearly lip-syncing — and that’s unfortunately the way it goes at dance-heavy show like this. (Just ask Britney.) But during the ballads, Jackson’s true voice came out and showed her fans that, yes, she still has it.

And that’s not the only reason the concert was full of nostalgia. Janet is one of our few ties to her brother, Michael, and you could see their relation — and his influence — in her gentle movements, her distinctive
dance style, her effeminate blown kisses. Jackson’s concert might have been unconventional — arrhythmic, even. Still, Jackson remains an icon.

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Ricardo Baca is the founder and co-editor of Reverb and an award-winning critic and journalist at The Denver Post.

John Leyba is a Denver Post photojournalist and regular contributor to Reverb.