Concert review: Janet Jackson “Controls” Atlanta at Philips Arena

Janet Jackson shown performing in Houston. The AJC did not shoot her Atlanta show because of terms in her photo policy. PHOTO CREDIT: Farrenton Grigsby

Janet Jackson wrapped up the U.S. leg of her “State of the World” tour in Atlanta on Sunday, but it felt like anything but a conclusion.

Where other artists might have trimmed their set list a smidge with an eye toward finally getting home after months on the road, Jackson performed almost the entirety of her hits with an energy that felt as if she was just getting started.

The almost two-hour concert at a sold-out Philips Arena focused heavily on her early hits — from “Nasty” to “You Want This”  to the infectious “All for You.” The crowd crooned with Jackson on “Come Back to Me,” roared their support on the liberation anthem “Control” and shook the stadium rafters bouncing on “Together Again.”

Jackson didn’t forget entries from her later catalog — performing “So Excited” from 2006’s “20 Y.O.,” the breezy “No Sleeep” from 2016’s comeback album “Unbreakable” and “Burn It Up,” which included a surprise but all-too-brief appearance by Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott.

Sunday’s Philips stop made up for the date Jackson cancelled last year when she pulled the plug on the second leg of her “Unbreakable” tour to take time off to become a first-time mother.

While Jackson was mostly flawless Sunday, the music sometimes overwhelmed her vocals and the paring of some songs to keep the show manageable rushed some of her best work.

It’s doubtful, however, that such quibbles bothered the audience, which was on its feet the majority of the show.

Part of their excitement was anticipation that Jackson would recreate onstage the intricate dance moves in her videos. Much of Jackson’s success is tied to her onscreen interpretations of her music. Her performance of “If” and “Rhythm Nation” — two of her biggest video hits — sent the crowd reeling as the svelte Jackson deftly proved she is as capable at 51 at choreography as she was in her 20s and 30s.

But Jackson also spent many moments of the night on stage by herself. While a dancer or two would pop up here and there, Jackson seemed confident and willing to shake the artifice of surrounding herself with razzle dazzle when it wasn’t necessary.

For die-hard fans, Jackson pulled out less well-known cuts such as 1996’s “Twenty Foreplay” from “Design of a Decade: 1986-1996” and “Where Are You Now” from “janet.”

And there were moments when she was missed. Instead of singing “Again” herself, she let those in attendance do the work for her while a video of the singer played (presumably she was backstage getting into a different costume). It would have probably been better to hear her sing, but crowd participation has its own rewards.

While her hits played a central role during the performance, a recurring theme was social justice. The show kicked off with news reports of hate crimes as the names of black men who died at the hands of police flashed across a bloodied background, including Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

Jackson took the stage shortly afterward with the rallying cries “The Knowledge” and “State of the World” from 1989’s “Rhythm Nation 1814.”

Later she explored the pain of domestic violence in “What About” from “The Velvet Rope,” a performance that left her visibly shaken before she left the stage.

In closing out the performance, Jackson reflected on a family career — she’s the sister of Michael Jackson and the other Jackson brothers and sisters in case you didn’t know — that has spanned five decades.

“I just want to thank all of you,” she said to the audience. “Your love (and) your support for my entire family. For 50 years we have been doing this. Thank you so much. It’s so appreciated and so felt. “

Reader Comments 0

Matt Chambers
Matt Chambers

"It’s doubtful, however, that such quibbles bothered the audience, which was on its feet the majority of the show."

It must have been nice to be where he was. I was in section 311 where literally the whole section SAT THE ENTIRE PERFORMANCE.  Janet came out and they sat. Missy Elliott made a surprise cameo and they sat. She did all the classics that make you want to dance and they sat. The upper level was devoid of any energy. I was expecting everyone would be on their feet  and dancing the whole show. Janet was wonderful and gave a riveting performance but it was ruined for me by the lack of any enthusiasm whatsoever from the audience where I was sitting. 

Eliza Queen
Eliza Queen

I was at the concert and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Maybe you should have focused more on the concert and less on people sitting in your area.

Matt Chambers
Matt Chambers

@Eliza Queen I know. She put on a great show. I just thought there would be a lot more energy for Janet and it looked like there was in some of the other sections, just not mine. 


Janet was amazing last night in ATL.  She sounded great, looked incredible and hit the moves (at 51) that prove that she is the one and only Janet Jackson - and the greatest living entertainer we've got.