Back in 1995, what Michael Jackson believed had been the media’s biased coverage of the child sexual abuse allegations against him in 1993 led him to “Scream,” a video duet with sister Janet, written and produced by the two of them along with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and the leadoff single on MJ’s “HIStory” CD.
While that video stands up as an angry indictment of the press, projected on a huge screen at the Greek Theatre last Thursday, it also served as the perfect opening to the final date of the JJ’s North American Number Ones: Up Close and Personal tour: A hard-driving charge through her own remarkable career, a hit parade of music, movies and TV.
No one, including Janet, sat down much for the nearly100-minute concert. From moment one through the encores, the sexy, curvaceous, flirtatious, soft-singing but funk-infused dancing queen was up and dancing. Ms. Janet looked great in her form-fitting jeans adorned with punk rocker chains, black shirt, white jacket and boots and sounded great too (although at some points, there might have been a bit of lip-syncing). [For anyone who’s seen Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez or countless others over the years, it was easy to discern Jackson’s influence on their dancing styles.]
One tiny complaint is that the show felt like a series of medleys, the opener being “Pleasure Principle” with her boys, and “Control” with her girls. But when you consider the sheer number of No. 1 songs she’s recorded since the beginning in 1982, you couldn’t very well expect her to sing the whole version of all of her hits — that concert would have lasted ’til the next day! And it’s almost certain that celebrities in the audience like Natalie Cole, Courtney Vance and Raven Symone had early calls the next morning.
She had a lot of jammin’ to cover, like “What Have You Done for Me Lately?” “Feedback,” “All Right With Me,” “Miss You Much” and “Nasty.”
At break time, it was back to the screen, this time for her TV years. There was Jackson in her role as Penny on an episode from her “Good Times” days in the late ’70s in which she got severely punished for not coming straight home; her appearance as Willis’ girlfriend Charlene in the early 1980s on “Diff’rent Strokes,” where their kiss is interrupted by little brother Arnold; her role as Justice opposite Tupac Shakur in “Poetic Justice” in 1993; and her roles as Patricia in “Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married?” in 2007 and in “Too?” in 2010.
And now it was ballad-medley-on-the-couch time: “Nothing” from the Tyler Perry films, “Come Back to Me,” “Let’s Wait a While” and “Making Love to You” before another break, during which there was a pictorial exhibit of dozens of images of her over the years — from album covers, magazine covers to headshots.
She had plenty of opportunities for costume changes but, unlike previous outings on the tour, she opted to remove only her jacket so that she could go on an “Escapade” medley, really stretching out with her dance team on “Love Will Never Do Without You, “All for You” and “That’s the Way Love Goes.
After a brief musical interlude, she got into “I Get So Lonely” and “If I Was Your Girl.” That led to a re-screening of “Scream” before the ‘JJ anthem’ of “Rhythm Nation” brought the action to a close.
Jackson seemed to really enjoy herself this night. It took her nearly 5 minutes to thank her musicians, her dancers and the audience who, like Janet, had danced the night away.