Janet Jackson famously promised in one of her early hits that she’d be “worth the wait.” The multi-Grammy Award-winning entertainer kept that promise in all respects as she opened her three-night Honolulu engagement with a 81-minute performance Wednesday in Blaisdell Arena. Whichever of her hits each fan may have been there to hear, Jackson did at least a verse or two of all of them. Others were performed full length.
Jackson opened the show at 8:30 p.m. with “Control,” the semi-autobiographical title song of the album that established her as a pop hitmaker chart-topping superstar in 1986 (“Make your life a little easier/When you get the chance just take control!”). For the next 25 minutes Jackson took the crowd on a random journey through what her classic hits from the late ’80s and early ’90s – “If,” “What Have You Done for Me Lately,” “The Pleasure Principle,” “When I Think of You” “You Want This” and “That’s the Way Love Goes.”
She looked fabulous, dressed in black. Strategically positioned fans added the visual ambiance of the music video.
Longtime fans know that Jackson’s first name “ain’t ‘Baby.’” When she asked “What’s my name, y’all?’ the arena roared “Janet!”
“Rhythm Nation 30th Anniversary Tour”
>>Where: Blaisdell Arena
>>When: 8 p.m. Today, Nov. 21 and Saturday Nov. 23
>>Info: 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com
Jackson personalized the concert several times. The first break came after almost 30 minutes of nonstop music. She stopped the music briefly to address her fans.
“I love you so much, Hawaii. I’m not much of a talker, but you have no idea,” she said, explaining that she used to come to Hawaii with her family when her brothers were performing here. “I have so many fond memories of Hawaii.”
Jackson included a “shaka” in the choreography for “Together Again,” but it was not until much later in the show, when she was going through the songs from “Rhythm Nation,” that she revealed the depth of her emotional investment in Hawaii and the issues that are of concern here.
Jackson is here officially on the “Janet Jackson: A Special 30th Anniversary Celebration of Rhythm Nation” tour celebrating – can it be? – the 30th anniversary of her second consecutive hit album. The official title was “Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814,” and it was released in September 1989.
A brief break in the action gave Jackson and her dancers time for a costume change into clothes reminiscent of the Rhythm Nation uniforms seen in the original music video.
It was a joyful celebration as Jackson and her dancers worked through the “Rhythm Nation” hits. She personalized “Miss You Much” with an ad lib – “Hawaii, I’ve missed you so much!” She then plunged full force into island issues, as photos of protestors of Mauna Kea were shown along with images showing social problems and social issues elsewhere.
The crowd erupted. Many cheered, many threw up the familiar two-handed hand sign of the protestors. Jackson responded with the protest hand sign. She threw it up again later.
Politics aside, Jackson’s star power — and a singer, as a dancer, as an entertainer — was as bright as ever Wednesday in the Arena.