Janet Jackson’s still got it.
That was the sentiment echoed by fans streaming out of Park MGM’s Park Theater after witnessing the grand opening of the Grammy winner’s Metamorphosis residency in Las Vegas on Friday night (May 17). Indeed, the singer took control of the packed house of 5,200 for nearly 90 minutes as she and her crew sang and danced their way through her storied career.
First things first, Jackson doesn’t stint on what her fans are looking for: to hear as many of the classics in her multiple-hit repertoire as possible. But what takes this show to the 2.0 level is the integration of choice album cuts like “Trust a Try,” “China Love” and “Moist.” Sprinkled in as well are vintage faves like “The Best Things in Life Are Free,” her duet with Luther Vandross from the 1992 soundtrack Mo Money, and “Doesn’t Really Matter” from the 2000 soundtrack Nutty Professor II: The Klumps.
Not to be left out of the equation is Jackson’s signature choreography. She and her 14-member crew of dancers take impressive command of the massive Park Theater stage. The audience never feels left out as the dancers are in constant fluid movement, working the stage from various vantage points scaffolding running high above the stage, metal staircases situated at either end and circular towers placed center stage. Complementing their palpable energy are eye-catching costumes alternating from bright neon to stark black and white and hues in between. Rounding out the total effect is an intriguing interplay of lasers, flashing lights, colorful visuals and a see-through, stage-wide digital screen. Overheard in the audience were quibbles about some of the sets being too dark and Jackson’s tight band playing too loud at times, issues that no doubt will be fine-tuned as the residency continues its run.
And — at least last night — there were no surprise guests or encores. But nothing could really dampen the fans’ fervor as it was all about one thing: hearing and seeing Miss Jackson in action. In fact, about 30 minutes into the show, Jackson stood solo in front of the digital screen as the audience went wild for about two minutes as the theater reverberated with loud applause, screams and cheers.
After silently taking in the audience’s love and admiration, she thanked the audience for their support. Then she recalled that it was 46 years ago that she made her debut at seven years old at the neighboring MGM Grand Hotel. “It’s amazing,” said Jackson, “how things come back full circle.”
Below are several key moments from the Metamorphosis grand opening, which attracted the likes of such stars as Queen Latifah, Eve, Gabrielle Union and The Talk’s Carrie Ann Inaba. The show continues throughout May (18, 21, 22, 25 and 26). Then Jackson returns in July (24, 26, 27 and 31) and August (2, 3, 7, 9, 10 plus three recently added dates: 14, 16 and 17)
Bullish opening: An 8 p.m start was slated, but the house lights didn’t shut down for the show’s start until 8:24 p.m. as many patrons were still filing in after the appointed time. It was worth the wait. The digital screen, heretofore adorned with the logo of two golden small Js facing backwards, gave way to various brightly colored visuals and images of Jackson’s face as she ruminated in a voiceover about life and living through its ups and downs. Then the screen settled on one image, a stylized version of Jackson’s birth sign of Taurus the bull.
Showing she still knows how to make a fierce entrance, the singer-songwriter — who turned 53 on May 16 — was spotlighted at the top of the stage sitting inside a life-sized version of the logo. As she and the logo were lowered to the stage floor, Jackson sang “Empty.” Stepping onto the floor she ripped off a boa-necked wrap to reveal a pink and black color-blocked tunic over black leggings and boots. The ensuing show continued in this mode as Jackson — through various visuals, video clips and voiceovers — shared her personal journey from young woman seeking self-esteem and romance to focusing on social activism, motherhood and just having some plain old fun. The show closed with a spirited rendition of her recent single “Made for Now” featuring Daddy Yankee.
Re-Uniting the Rhythm Nation: One of the choreography highlights was Jackson’s salute to the 30th anniversary of her game-changing album Rhythm Nation 1814. Dressed in black vinyl jumpsuits (the females) and coveralls (males) with white shirts, Jackson and her crew followed up their performance of “Black Cat” with the iconic “Rhythm,” orchestrating precision moves and decrying social issues that are just as compelling as when Jackson bowed her first headlining tour in support of the album in 1990. Jackson also added a twist to one of her concert staples in which a male fan is chosen from the audience to come onstage to sit in a chair and give himself over to Jackson’s ministrations. This time around, after her female dancers catered to the gentleman, Jackson ambled over to him and leans in to kiss him — right as the stage went dark.
Brotherly love: “Scream,” Jackson’s duet with brother Michael, wasn’t in the show. But one surprise had the audience on its feet and going nuts. Dovetailing out of “Rhythm Nation,” Jackson asked the crowd if they knew about her brothers, the Jacksons. Then she, her dancers and backing vocalists lined up across the stage and broke into the Jacksons’ back-in-the-day dance routine, complete with head-bobbing and outstretched arms, all in perfect unison.
Ultimate metamorphosis: Toward the end of the show, Jackson talked about the joy that motherhood has brought her. A video clip showed Jackson dressed all in white with a full mane of white hair as she shared in a voiceover that “I am a mother; I love saying those words. To be blessed with this responsibility, the care and upbringing of another human being — I see this as my ultimate metamorphosis.” As she spoke, you can hear (but don’t see) her young son talking and laughing.
Set list for the grand opening of Janet Jackson's Metamorphosis residency:
Trust a Try
(20 Y.O. Part 2 Interlude)
What Have You Done for Me Lately
When I Think of You
(Short Film – Are You)
That’s the Way
Got ‘til It’s Gone
Funny How Time Flies (When You’re Having Fun)
Let’s Wait Awhile
All for You
Any Time, Any Place
Go Deep (Timbaland remix)
Come on Get Up
Rock with U
All Night Don’t Stop
State of the World
(Let’s Dance interlude)
Miss You Much
Love Will Never Do
Doesn’t Really Matter
Made for Now