Janet Jackson goes through the motions but recovers in time at Chase Center

Janet Jackson

Janet Jackson performs at Chase Center in San Francisco on Sept. 21, 2019. Photos: Gary Chancer.

SAN FRANCISCO — Rarely does a performer set such high expectations, dip low into serious mediocrity, then pull off such an epic, mid-career comeback the way Janet Jackson did Saturday night at Chase Center.

And that was just during one show.

Jackson’s appearance in San Francisco was billed as a celebration of the 30th anniversary of her game-changing record Rhythm Nation 1814, a month after ending her 15-show Las Vegas residency. It’s one of just two non-Vegas shows she’s playing in the U.S. this year.

Janet Jackson

Janet Jackson performs at Chase Center in San Francisco on Sept. 21, 2019.

At first it seemed like she was pacing herself, as one might do playing multiple nights a week during a residency. It looked like the 53-year-old was accepting her veteran status and doing just enough for a packed house of equally middle-aged fans to remember who she used to be.

The last relevant member of the Jackson musical dynasty, she idled through the first portion of the show at a perfunctory pace, scattering bits of former hits around in medley fashion. Fans got a bit of “If,” some pedestrian chunks of “What Have You Done for Me Lately?,” “Control,” “Nasty” and the “The Pleasure Principle.” It seemed like Jackson, clad in flannel shirts around her torso and waist, was just cruising by.

Dancers danced and backup singers sang, but something felt wrong. She was flying through abridged versions of some of her biggest hits, and the evening started looking like a disappointment. When a performer as dynamic as Jackson promises to celebrate a record that sold 12 million copies and helped change the direction of R&B, she creates big expectations. You don’t expect someone merely swaying around her much more agile backup dancers, singing along to backing tracks while looking disinterested.

That relentless, hard, funky precision of 1989 was missing in action. Jackson had no edge and the material deserved better. There was a bit of life to “That’s the Way Love Goes”—at least enough for a big crowd singalong—and she found her sweet spot in the always gorgeous “Again.” After abbreviating “Together Again,” Jackson took a break 40 minutes into her set, and the whole thing started feeling like watching someone punch a time clock.

Janet Jackson

Janet Jackson performs at Chase Center in San Francisco on Sept. 21, 2019.

Jackson must have taken a power nap during the break, because she came back like her bright rust-colored hair was really on fire.

Well … eventually. She warmed up. She giggled a little. She bounced up and down. There was more sway to her hips. She started teasing and grabbing at her male dancers. Then after her band played an extended jam, she came back on decked out in true Rhythm Nation industrial gear. She and her crew lined up in formation, flame pots ignited on stage, and they delivered proper versions of “State of the World,” “The Knowledge” and “Miss You Much.”

Janet Jackson

Janet Jackson performs at Chase Center in San Francisco on Sept. 21, 2019.

The show went from wheezing through a musical school zone to merging into a high-speed police chase. “Escapade” lightened the tone some, without losing an ounce of energy, before the flame pots again filled the air with fire during “Black Cat.” The only place to go from there was a powerful, committed “Rhythm Nation,” during which Jackson’s voice strained with effort. The song was an exclamation point on an evening that ended nothing like it started. That is a credit to a great artist who probably shouldn’t be underestimated, even after all these years.


(49) Comments

    1. Spaz

      No, the review was pretty spot on. During some of the first songs she barely moved and she looked completely disconnected. he's terribly out of shape. When you're a dance artists you get into better shape for touring and you don't show up in jeans and a flannel shirt. If you want to see the standard for a woman in her 50's, look at J. Lo.

      1. jntsrb

        A standard for a WOMAN? If that means she should be semi-naked in very uncomfortable clothes. then she shouldn't be doing it. A standard for a MAN seems much better because they perform dressed like this all the time and no one is complaining. I fully support Janet in performing in cozy, casual clothes.

      2. Angel

        JLo didn't have a child a 50 either... I love and respect both performers/entertainer... So what you have a off night which is still her best!!! Not everyone one can do what she does its not easy.

      3. Chris

        Yeah let’s “Look at Jo Lo” , an artist who will be forever in debt to JANET for being a crucial piece of the bridge to the success she enjoys today! You will have grown a year older by the time I’ve finished listing ALL of Janet’s achievements , most of which J-Lo WILL NEVER come remotely close to accomplishing in her career ....EVER! It’s profoundly obvious that you missed THE POINT AND MESSAGE OF THIS CONCERT because your primary concern is if she’s in or out of shape ,which reveals a-lot about your values and how you view yourself! I do hope that years from now you would will realize that you witnessed history in the making, and have gained the vision to recognize, acknowledge, appreciate, and respect the contributions and unprecedented achievements of the LEGENDARY JANET JACKSON!

      4. Mr. Tibbs

        Hmm, let’s see... Jennifer Lopez 20 Years 2 Solo Tours 1 Residency Janet Jackson 33 years since her first hit 9 Solo Tours 1 Residency Now who is the standard????🤷🏽‍♂️🤷🏽‍♂️🤷🏽‍♂️

        1. Marcus

          Always know this.. jlo is amazing but you should always remember that she was a Janet Jackson backup dancer first. And that takes nothing away from her but she is an amazing artist but give Janet her due which she has earned.

      5. Joe Johnson

        what's wrong with jeans and a flannel shirt? I've seen plenty of people wear them including plenty of women. Also J. Ho also loves attention and shows off her butt at any chance she gets. Janet has never been that girl so why would you expect her to be trying to show her butt cheeks all the time. Janet's butt is actually bigger than J.Ho's but she's never had to wear revealing clothing to show it off.

        1. Jocelyn D Payton

          I have always loved that Janet wore her clothes or outfits without looking sleezy. I am all for sexy but enough of those damn baby onesies. Janet probably would look sexy in a paper bag. When you have real talent you don't have to be damn near naked to captivate an audience.

  1. Steve

    This review was spot on....Janet was on point during the State of the World Tour....its like she is just showing up and walking through the motions. And that outfit is just plain horrible. Here was an opportunity to make the aniversary special and perform the entire Rhythm Nation in its entirety for the first time....make it a super creative performance....like bringing the album and the short film to life. Instead it was half-assed. Janet is amazing and she as it in her.....but its like she takes one step forward and two steps back....I wish she still had the creative inspiration she had even just two years ago. I hope the pendulum will swing back again where she steps fully back into her zone.

  2. Cathy

    I loved reading this review but can only affirm the review of the first third of the show, since we left thereafter. Which is rare for us as frequent concert goers.

  3. Frank

    Lies! This review is bullshit! There was no 40 minute break. It wa s10 minutes the DJ played so they could change outfits. Whole show was good. This review is trash.

    1. JJ Fan

      Learn to read: "After abbreviating “Together Again,” Jackson took a break 40 minutes into her set, and the whole thing started feeling like watching someone punch a time clock."

  4. Frank

    Lies! This review is bullshit! There was no 40 minute break. It wa s10 minutes the DJ played so they could change outfits. Whole show was good. This review is trash.

    1. Troy

      I caught that lie too...she would NEVER take a 40 minute break, that's almost an hour....who does that. Her energy was high and of course she was emotional at the reception she was getting. To walk up that many flights of stairs, and back down, and back and forth across the stage, who was she not in shape. Often times the SO-CALLED WRITERS/JOURNALIST have no idea to give a review. They tend to look for small things to complain about that has no relevance to a performer because it could be so small and basically an opinion. As people use their cell phones to take pictures and pay attention to what's going on around them, they miss out on getting the complete concert experience of the performer. I have to give Janet 100% credit for her mobility at 53, because I would have been tired from the 1st two songs. Janet has earned her stripes, she has nothing to prove, and people, such as this SO-CALLED WRITER may address her age, but not understand completely the will power and strength that someone who has been doing this for 4%+ years to get out there and give what she gave, something her contemporaries cannot do...and for the record, she has opted to sing more of her songs live and therefore, I see no reason this SO-CALLED WRITER would bring that up as a lot of entertainers use a backing track, especially when they dance as vigorously as Janet. madonna, beyonce, Christina, Britney, Rihanna, and others sing with backing tracks.

  5. JBnRWC

    You do know Hawaii is part of the US, right? Anyway, the whole first half just kind of dragged along. She kicked it up in the second half. I'm glad I saw her at Concord Pavilion during the State of the World Tour. That show was amazing! This one paled in comparison.

    1. Vaughn-Rian St.James

      I have seen Mrs. Jackson perform probably nearing 20 times now and it is hard to imagine her going through the motions for anY stretch of time but IT would be understandable as she had easily done these songs probably close to thousand times by now. I have seen this show 3 times including Vegas and she literally did EVERY SINGLE HIT. I thought she was in great shape. As for the Jlo comparison I am a fan but she usually always has at least 2 other performers so she does not have 2 perform 2 or 3 hours straight. Apples and oranges comparison. As someone who adores Mrs. Jackson, I hope that you will.give her another shot...I know she will not disappoint!!!Thanks for review I was hoping to find one.

  6. Shsnon

    I dont know what show you saw, your just a Hater!, SHES FUCKING AWESOME! granted i would for her to wear something better and btw she's "NOT" JENNIFER LOPEZ, THAT'S WHY WE LOVE HER! JENNIFER LOPEZ'S catalog pales in comparison to JANET JACKSON and she barely sang on 3 of her biggest hits, everyone knows it!. She's not the standard, thats some bullshit

  7. Nino

    Show was HOT.. Sure its not the 30-something-in-her-prime Janet, but Jeez at 53, doing that show, singing every hit song and she still had the moves. It was amazing, she's still sexy as Hell regardless of the clothes she was wearing. The crowd was crazy into it, I was seated on the floor and everyone was rocking out/dancing to the songs. Totally would see her again (and I'm not even the biggest JJ fan). Wish her all the best in her performances. Come back to SF again Janet! SF will show up!!!!

  8. Janet Regardless Bitch!

    As a real stans of Janet it was a karaoke night the first half and a JANET show the second half. Honestly the weight she has picked up (although she stilll looks great) does not allow her to dance and almost not keep up sometimes with her dancers sometimes. She should either start doing shorter sets or get back to her shape from 2017. I dont think its her age cuz we saw her kill it at 52 during the state of the world tour! As far as this review, its reads like a hater,without comprehension!

  9. Micah McCoin

    I have seen Janet 15 times, including all three legs of the Unbreakable/State of the World tour and twice in July in Vegas, along with the San Francisco show. If I am being completely honest, I would have understood a review like this for the Vegas show. I loved it, but there was a little oomph missing. As for the Chase Center show, this review is WAY off. I’d be interested to know how many prior shows this writer attended and how much this review reflects his expectations versus how she actually performed. Janet has always been a disciplined, focused performer. She has relied on medleys and abbreviated versions of her songs, at least since her second tour, because she already had a 20-hit catalog by that point. This could read as going through the motions, I guess, except Janet was full of energy the entire night. The casual ensemble she wore, her relaxed approach to the material, and the entire vibe of her current performance style speaks to her veteran status. The 90s-era perfectionist Janet has given way to a more human, well-rounded, and relatable Janet. Anyone expecting Janet to be a borderline neurotic people-pleaser at 53 or some otherworldly presence like her brother (N.B., this is where Janet has the edge on Mike and what differentiates her) is going to be disappointed. She’s a legend, and she is comfortable in that role. She’s earned it, and she is still a perfectly engaging performer, at any size, at any age, independent of the expectations of others.

    1. Joe Johnson

      Thank you! This is my 6th time seeing Janet and this reviewer is a damn liar! The show was awesome from beginning to end. The way he wrote and tried to downplay a solidified legend is absurd! She's still able to do the same dance routines she did in her 20s so if that isn't remarkable in itself I don't know what is!

  10. Vanessa

    Janet was amazing. Always has been, always will be. She is beautiful and talented and always will be. I am thankful I got to see her last night! We love you Janet!

  11. Michael A

    I'm Sorry if your not a True Janet Jackson Fan.. it this review started off dry and half assed as you said her performance was. I've been a long time fan of hers and yes her music was chart topping and trendsetting and game changing and still is. YES She is 50 something ..and ask yourself...how many performances have she given..how many dance routines has she brandished and ask yourself how would you come out performing..Janet always gives a Hot Performance .. And I'm grateful that she's still around giving us great performances.. Now as for the back up dancers have at them..the generation today are more worried about how they appear than in their craft..So Sad to NOT take advantage of performing with a Legwnd as herself. # foreverinlovewithjanet

  12. Travis M

    This review was indeed some bullshit. Does she move the same as she did 20 years ago? NO, none of us do! But the show was amazing non the less. This whole review was shady at best. Lets be honest, it was full of petty comments with the intent to downplay her show. And J Lo is not the standard of a 50 year old, anywhere besides Hollywood. If this is the type of writing you do, then consider a new profession...because this is not your calling!

  13. Rocky Daniel

    I think there is a disconnect here. First Ms Jackson is presently in the mist of a divorce from a Muslim man who wishes to take her only child. This in and of its self should explain why she isn’t exposing her bare skin. Your opinion versus her child! Her child won... secondly if there is anyone here who is breast feeding a child and is athletic in anyway you will find weight gain, a working mother who is actually raising her child. Means she is probably doing what most mothers do self comforting through food. Weight gain slows you down let alone being 50, a dancer who probably has bad knees and feet from dancing for more than 30 years. This review seems to be based on a 17-40 year old Janet and not the 45-51 year old Janet who might I ask is fine and still energetic when I bet the folk criticizing and the writer are not half as good as she is in any area of their lives. When you review please base it on now and not 30 years ago.

  14. Jenny

    She needs to lose all that heavy weight, stop her ever changing face surgeries, and update her costumes. Shes a millionaire, but her look is poor! Flannel shirt and jeans? Come on! Jlo does it better, and shes 50!

  15. Adrienne Perry

    She performed her show, there were spots where her breathing was struggling, and the sound system couldn't keep up. She was singing but there was no sound. No 53 year old is going to sing and dance, while running upstairs perfectly. You have younger artist who can't do it. Janet is a human being her performance was live, things happen beyond a persons control. You're a washed up writer, so you target someone on top of their game in hopes of them responding. Possibly yo ride their coattails, get a little exposure, maybe someone will notice you. Personally, I wouldn't have lasted the first song, and respectfully collapse during the second. That's why we're in the audience we can enjoy it and participate minimally.

  16. Joe Johnson

    From the headline alone anybody reading from that part on already knew you were gonna be negative and a hater. Trying hard to diminish a Legend, Blueprint, and Trendsetter? Please never attend or review another Janet show in your life. She alone is keeping the Jackson legacy alive. Go back to doing gigs with that unsuccessful band you were apart of because writing and reviewing shows isn't your thing. The way you're getting dragged in these comments is evidence of such. I was there Floor section 2, only 10 seats back from the stage and I can tell you you're definitely lying. Janet was amazing and the show had great production and energy. I don't even believe you actually attended with such a trash review you just gave. Why aren't you writing about how the show was sold out but the demand was so high they had to open up seats that had a limited view? Why aren't you writing about how the Arena security were even dancing and singing along? Why aren't you writing about how during the intermission everybody kept screaming for Janet and held up their phones with the flashlight on? The show's production was amazing and so was Janet's energy especially at 53yrs old and still able to do routines she was doing in her 20s. That's amazing in itself. She's been performing and selling out shows for 30yrs so to say something absurd as "she's going through the motions" is ridiculous." The crowd loved it period so your trash review means nothing!

  17. Shanon


  18. Angie

    First of all, there is no comparison between Janet Jackson and Jennifer Lopez. Janet Jackson is not only an ICON, but she is a true LEGEND. Some people have no idea, of what it truly takes to literally sing and dance while performing in front of thousands of screaming fans and critics alike. This woman has been able to have child at her age, and still look absolutely fantastic. She has been able to sustain a career in the music industry for over decades, while selling millions of records worldwide, and she's still breaking records. She is not one of these fake wannabes, who have to rely on their bodies and their looks, because they have to actual singing talent. Janet didn't have to manipulate or sleep with men to get to the top. Let's try to remember, of course many people don't know. So I will remind them, that Jennifer Lopez started out as a fly girl on In Living Color. No one knew or cared about her on that show. It wasn't until she made an appearance with PDiddy in the infamous dress, that he picked out for her. Of course, once she showed up with him, the media began giving her attention, because she was with the one and only PDiddy and because of the dress he picked out for her. Everything was perfect for her until the infamous shooting took place. She began distancing herself from him, even though she knew he had nothing to do with the shooting, because the media started painting PDiddy in a negative light, and she wanted to make herself look good. When she started dating her back-up dancer, she distanced herself from him because the media looked down on him for being her back-up dancer and he was a little younger than her. When she got with Ben Affleck, she distanced herself from him, because their movie bombed, and caused both of their careers to lose credibility. She got with Anthony because he was at the top of his career which helped her get back into the limelight. After years of his singing career overshadowing hers, she divorced him and kind of went I her way. Her career had been kind of steady for the most part, but Alex Rodriguez, definitely has been one of the key players in helping her boost her career, especially since he could be considered one of baseball's legends. So, these critics who have something negative to say about Janet are not just haters, they are just pure unintelligent assholes.

  19. Sharon

    Janet’s performance was great and entertaining we love you Janet thanks for coming to the Bay Area. Well done for a Mom, Entertainer, and for being Over 50 and still Fabulous moving Graciously over the stage.....Well done Janet God Bless remain encouraged many can not do what you did we appreciate you your heart to heart conversation with the audience your talent, style and music🌹

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