At 8:24 p.m., a DJ gently implores the nearly sold-out American Airlines Center crowd to “make some noise.” Janet Jackson’s still nowhere to be seen, so exactly who or what is on the receiving end of the request is unclear. Still, the ocean of sequined caps complies, Arsenio-style.
At 8:33 p.m., a woman arrives at her seat schlepping five State of the World Tour T-shirts across her shoulders. She could have bought a round-trip plane ticket to Lubbock with that amount of coin. The woman next to her makes a joke about how Janet is going to cancel again. Neither laughs.
At 8:40 p.m., the clouds roll back, the waters part and the 51-year-old icon emerges. She’s wearing a black catsuit, but nobody knows it yet because there’s a robe on top.
A quick video precursor to the opening number, "The Knowledge," plays. It’s about a lot of things, mainly white
supremacy, Syria and domestic terrorism. The Suburban Married Couple in the audience, middle aged and clutching $12 Bud Lights, start to perform full-body gyrations. Like many ladies in attendance, the woman seems like she was in high school during the Rhythm Nation era. Her husband is wearing a Harley Davidson shirt and a breed of boots suggesting he drove them there on one.
What’s certain, though, is that he’s already having the kind of night that’s propelling him to spin in 360-degree revolutions on boot heels while grinning like a goon. And it’s only the third song.
Then comes "Miss You Much." The arena is not just enthused. The audience is singing along with the gusto of a child on Christmas morning who’s just awoken to a Costco box of golden retriever puppies. “Dallas, are we gonna party?” Janet asks.
During "Escapade," a baker’s dozen or so of her backup dancers exit, leaving two young girls behind. Neither looks a day older than 13, which is also the scientifically determined best age to be a Janet Jackson fan. Janet sings to them like she’s their mom. It’s sweet.
After an extended backstage respite, Janet and her dancers re-emerge. JJ has shredded the catsuit, and now she and the backups are decked out in denim overalls, Doc Martens, and plaid shirts tied around their waists. It looks like Sister Act 2 after Whoopi tells the choir members to take off their robes.
We don't meant to focus unduly on apparel or how hot Janet is because girlfriend sounds great, too. Right now, she’s singing that song from Poetic Justice. It’s the “hold me” part, and everyone’s crying. She knew Tupac.
Remember in the "Love Will Never Do (Without You)" video when she does that adorable little-girl giggle? “Ta-ha-ha-ha?” It happens again tonight, a fact that more than makes up for the dearth of audience banter. The giggle is a bit suspicious in its perfection — Janet might be lip-syncing — but no one cares.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Nor does anyone care about the lack of stage banter when "That’s the Way Love Goes" rolls around, least of all the male half of the Suburban Married Couple, who by now is several beers deep. He's is back to doing those full-body revolutions, this time while slow-shrugging his shoulders as he stares googly eyed up at the heavens. When the song ends, he starts jumping and punches both fists up in victory.
Before she leaves, Janet tells us, “You make me laugh so hard, Dallas! I love you! Mwah!”
State of The World
Nasty / Feedback / Miss You Much / Alright / You Want This
Control / What Have You Done for Me Lately / Pleasure Principle
Escapade / When I Think of You / All for You
All Nite (Don’t Stop)
Love Will Never Do (Without You)
Where Are You Now
Come Back to Me
The Body That Loves You
Spending Time With You
Got ‘til It’s Gone
That’s the Way Love Goes
Damn Baby / I Get Lonely