Who: Janet Jackson
What: Number Ones Up Close And Personal Tour
When: 7 February 2011, Monday
Where: Singapore Indoor Stadium
I approached 7 February 2011 with great anticipation, and even took a day off from work so I could "prepare" myself fully for the show at night. In the day, I met up with a friend who happened to be in town for lunch, and carried my self-made Janet placard around town unashamedly. It attracted a lot of interest from passers-by of course, but I tried to be as un-self-conscious about it as possible.
At 6pm, I went to the Indoor Stadium and immediately tried to locate the merchandise booth. I knew there were tour T-shirts being sold at the Manila show, so I was really disappointed that they weren't available here.
I met up with my friends and we entered the venue. We didn't really need help from the ushers as we had tickets for the first row, and so we coolly walked towards the stage, attracting envious stares from people all around. It's the first time I've gotten first row tickets and it sure felt good!
After settling down in our seats, I surveyed the stadium and tried to gauge the crowd size. The organisers blocked off the Balcony seats and covered them with black cloth, and upgraded those who bought the Balcony seats to Gallery seats, so the entire stadium looked pretty packed. Which was a good move, or there would have been lots of gaps in the Gallery area. I reckon there were about 6,000 people last night. The full seating capacity (minus the area beside and behind the stage) is about 8,000, so I would say 6,000 is a pretty decent turnout.
Here's a 240-degree panoramic shot of the stadium:
The ticket indicated a showtime of 8pm, but it wasn't until 9pm before the lights were finally turned off, and the fans started screaming. The screen onstage showed the video of Janet's tour announcement, then it took a while before the band members and background singers came onstage to take their positions. They were dressed casually in plain white tees, in line with the stripped down concept of the show. The stage itself was quite bare bones, nothing fancy at all. Not that it mattered to me.
Next, a message of Janet's song dedication appeared on the screen:
Three weeks prior, she had announced that she would be dedicating Someone To Call My Lover to Singapore, but I didn't know that she meant it as a music video dedication. We would later learn that she was not going to perform Someone To Call My Lover at all, which was kinda weird and disappointing, cos I was quite looking forward to Janet singing it and telling us personally that this song was for us. But as some fans have pointed out, she never promised to perform the dedicated song live. All she said was that she would dedicate a song to each city she's visiting.
By the end of the night, we also realised that Janet wasn't going to perform all 35 of her Number One songs. And looking at the tour announcement video more carefully this time, she never promised to perform all 35 songs either. What she said was that she would "perform music exclusively from my Number Ones". I just assumed that she would be doing all 35 songs, like many other fans as well. Oh Janet, you're quite a sly fox! :)
Anyway...back to the concert, we were next treated to the video dedication - the Someone To Call My Lover music video on screen. It was the So So Def Remix version featuring Jermaine Dupri.
And finally, at 9:10pm, after a couple of false starts, the words "JANET" appeared on the screen in various colours as the band started playing. The audience got on their feet and cheered for Miss Jackson. And once the opening strains of The Pleasure Principle became recognisable, the spotlight came on and Janet was there in the middle of the stage riser! I don't remember some of the details as I was overwhelmed at finally seeing Janet in the flesh for the first time. All I remember was that I was screaming my lungs out, and holding up my placard, trying to catch Janet's attention.
She then sashayed down the stairs and was closer to me than ever. And when she strutted over to my side of the stage, she was barely 3 metres away from me and I almost hyperventilated! I think I'm exaggerating it a little here, but like I said, I was quite overwhelmed at that time so I'm a little groggy about the details. But yeah, finally, after 16 years of being a fan, I can now say that I have watched Miss Jackson live in concert, and she was only 3 metres away from me. :)
The dancers were togged in the same costumes as the Rock Witchu Tour, but thankfully Janet got an update. It was a super sexy, silver skin-tight suit that accentuated her every curve. I wonder how long she took to get into the costume. :) It's similar to the black suit she wore for the American Idol finale performance, with sheer netting running down both sides. She looked fine as hell, even more so up close. I loved her hair as well.
The show got off a raucous start with the 4-pow medley of The Pleasure Principle, Control, What Have You Done For Me Lately and Feedback. It was a great opening set of songs and the audience really went wild. I was trying to juggle between taking photos and watching the performance and taking it all in. If only I had more hands and eyes!
Being so up close, I could see Janet's every move and her all expressions. Her face was a study of concentration and intensity as she executed her moves flawlessly and effortlessly, while clad in high heels. Such a pro! Janet moved around the stage as if it was her bedroom and totally owned it. This is what I call stage presence, something a lot of younger artists lack. It's the ability to command the audience's attention at all times. In fact, my eyes were peeled on Janet for the entire concert and I barely noticed the other dancers and the overall choreography!
And being so close, I could also see the sweat being splattered around the stage, as if in slow motion, as Janet danced and flicked her hair. And of course, I had a good view of Janet's bosom too. The outfit ensured there was ample cleavage, and when she danced, I could see them jiggling. :) :)
The choreography for the first medley was kick-ass and Janet totally killed it. Up close, I could see all the accents - the hand movements and shoulder shrugs, synchronised with the music beats. And even the finger pointing, wrist angles and eyeball directions. The choreography is really complicated and precise, but she makes it look easy and natural. And she gives all out with every move, keeping it sharp and snappy.
Much like her brother Michael, Janet is great at forming shapes with her body, and the body-hugging suit allowed her to strike all the sexy poses easily. With this skill, it shows that you don't have to reveal a lot of skin to look sexy. Once again, something the younger artists should learn (ahem Gaga).
After the blistering 4-song opener, Janet asked us: "Do you want more?", to which we responded "Yes!". And then she asked again: "Do you want THIS?", with more than a hint of Nastiness in her voice. Love it!
You Want This was quite brief, followed quickly by Alright. I know some fans are sick of Alright and feel that it should be removed from the setlist. But it's a good upbeat song with some hot dance moves, and I quite enjoyed it. The energy never died down and the crowd cheered loudly when Miss You Much came on. I immediately held up my "Miss You Much" placard and Janet saw it. :) She didn't perform the chair routine at the end of the song, and didn't dance as much as I would have liked, but it was still enjoyable nonetheless.
The music then segued into Nasty and I quickly flipped my placard to the "Nasty" side, trying to catch Janet's attention once more. Nasty is one of my favourite Janet songs, and I simply love the kiss-my-ass attitude of the song. And of course, the immortal line "It's Janet, Miss Jackson, if you're nasty!"
After the 8-song burst, it was time for Janet to catch a breather and she disappeared for a costume change. We were treated to a showreel of Janet's acting roles - as the young Penny in Good Times, the adolescent Charlene in Diff'rent Strokes, the aspiring singer Cleo in Fame, the youthful independent woman in Poetic Justice, the sweet Denise in Nutty Professor II, and finally the strong yet vulnerable Patricia in the two Why Did I Get Married? films. Which led on nicely to the ballad medley, starting with Nothing, the theme song for the Tyler Perry sequel.
Janet appeared in a beautiful lavender gown and super-high Louboutins, belting out Nothing,Come Back To Me, Let's Wait Awhile and finally Again. Not surprisingly, Again was one of the most well-received songs for the night, and the audience sang along with Janet for most of the song.
And then she began to walk over to my side of the stage once again. And she stopped and looked me in the eye and sang to me for a good 10 seconds!!! I almost melted, and didn't know how to react...so I formed the heart shape with my fingers, to tell Janet that I love her too. OMG, that really made my day and I can die happy now. Janet sang to me!!! :)
After finishing Again, it was time for another costume change. I took a seat, to relive the earlier moment of looking into Janet's eyes. It was so surreal...The video screen came on once again and this time, it was a slideshow of iconic Janet images throughout her career. I think there were many pictures from Janet's personal collection as there were several pictures that I had never seen before. So that was quite a treat for me. But for the other not so die-hard fans, it was quite a long break between the sets.
Next up, it was time to turn up the tempo once again, and we had the "Happy" medley - Doesn't Really Matter, Escapade, Love Will Never Do (Without You), When I Think Of You and All For You.
For this medley, Janet was dressed in a tomboy outfit, especially so because of her short crop. Her arms and thighs looked a little big here, but I don't care. She still looks good to me. :)
She disappeared for a short while before coming back again for That's The Way Love Goes. This is one of my favourite Janet songs too, and nobody does sensual better than Janet.
(This is my favourite picture of the night)
As Janet disappeared for costume change number four, the band carried on playing and gave us a rocking musical interlude, including two choruses of What About. That was a nice touch. And this led to a nice transition to the "Aggressive" medley - Black Cat, If, Scream and Rhythm Nation.
I was very much looking forward to If and I'm glad it didn't disappoint. Janet was spot on for the entire performance and it was sexy as hell. Especially the crotch grabs...
When Scream came on and Michael's image appeared on the screen, the audience went wild. Janet has never performed this song live except during the 2009 MTV VMAs MJ tribute, so this is something new. These are two of my favourite artists ever, so bless you Michael and Janet. I am so grateful to have been inspired by the both of you with your immense talent and genius. To witness it live has been an absolute honour.
Rhythm Nation was another highlight of the night. This was Janet at her best - the military style choreography executed to perfection, never missing a beat, all in synch as one, like the army of dancers in the background video. Top class.
After the high of Rhythm Nation, the concert "ended" and Janet retreated backstage while the audience cheered on and chanted for an encore. She obliged of course and reappeared in a resplendent white outfit. Very nice.
She egged the audience to shout "Make Me" before launching into the song. It was rather brief and it segued into Together Again, which caused the audience to go nuts. Janet had previously closed her Velvet Rope Tour and All For You Tour with this song, and she did so again with this tour, and it's not hard to see why.
Together Again was her last #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and it's one of her most upbeat and happy-sounding songs. Originally written to remember her friends whom she had lost to AIDS, the song has taken new meaning with Michael's death.
As the song entered its final stretch, the screen showed images of Michael and Janet when they were still kids. Janet looked up to the heavens and pointed, sending a prayer and thanks to her beloved brother. It was a poignant moment, but Janet kept her emotions in check and bravely soldiered on.
Everywhere I go, every smile I see
I know you are there, smiling back at me
Dancing in moonlight, I know you are free
Cos I can see your star, shining down on me
And with that, it was the end of a spectacular concert. Janet and her six dancers raised their arms in appreciation of the love they've received from the Singapore fans, while we thanked them for the show they put on.
By 10:45pm, Janet and company exited the stage for real. The lights came on and the audience slowly made their way out of the venue. I managed to get a VIP pass for a meet & greet, so together with about 50 others, I proceeded backstage and waited for our meeting with Janet.
After waiting for almost an hour, a member of Janet's entourage finally appeared and said: "If you want to meet Janet, you've got to come this way. And hurry, because she's leaving soon". He also said that Janet won't be doing any autographs, so I sadly put away my copy of the hardcover janet. album.
As we hurried down the corridor, and I was super anxious. What was I going to say to Janet? Will I be at a loss of words and just freeze upon seeing her?
As we gathered along the corridor outside her dressing room, we were told to enter in groups of 12, so me and my two other friends joined the first group. But because we were the last in the group to enter the room, the other nine fans had already hogged Janet and we didn't get to go close to her. And before we knew it, the manager was asking us to get in position for a group photograph, and snapped four shots of us.
I was standing furthest away from Janet, and I didn't even get to talk to her. And she didn't even see me. We were then told to leave the room for the next group to come in, so I didn't get to "meet" or "greet" Janet at all. I was quite disappointed as I left the room last night.
But thinking about it now, I don't feel as disappointed anymore because I've already had the time of my life at the concert, watching from the first row. And I'm just happy that the whole show was a success and the fans loved it. That's more important than shaking Janet's hand or having a one-on-one picture with her. As far as I'm concerned, she sang Again to ME and that's good enough.
Nevertheless, I shall try to get hold of the group picture and post it here once I have it. It has been an awesome experience and undoubtedly, this is NUMBER ONE on my list of favourite concerts of all time. And it will stay for the rest of my life. I'm sure of that.