Janet Jackson knew that her concert at Treasure Island Casino on Saturday was not exactly in Minneapolis. So to get in the proper spirit, she took a preshow detour to where she made the music that made her famous: Flyte Tyme Studios.
While visiting both long-shuttered recording facilities in south Minneapolis and Edina on Friday, she had a simple request for the producer-songwriters behind her hits: Join her onstage at the casino outside Red Wing.
Seeing Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis — who moved to Los Angeles 15 years ago — jamming with Jackson on “What Have You Done for Me Lately” was not only an emotional spark early in the evening but also arguably the most extravagant thing about the show.
This was delightfully underproduced Jackson. No elaborate stage sets. Few bells and whistles beyond flamethrowers and artful images on a giant video-wall backdrop. And choreography that was compelling but not arena-level ambitious.
Perhaps Jackson’s casual outfit should have been a clue: baggy jeans, combat boots, a plaid flannel shirt over an inside-out Led Zeppelin T-shirt from a 1975 tour. Later she and her six dancers changed into elaborate black vinyl ensembles with militarylike caps/visors for a segment of tunes from “Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814,” the made-in-Minneapolis classic released 30 years ago this month.
Yes, “Rhythm Nation,” the socially conscious album that got people talking about Michael Jackson’s little sister in a new light. During “Knowledge” from that still-relevant album, she led the Treasure Island crowd in a rally-like call-and-response, shouting “prejudice,” “ignorance,” “bigotry,” “illiteracy” and getting a resounding “no” after each word.
Never one to talk much in concert, Jackson went out of her way on Saturday to give a sincere thanks to the people of Minnesota — “and especially Minneapolis” — for their love and support and “for allowing me to discover myself. It was here I found my voice. I met beautiful people who have been with me through my life and career.”
The 90-minute, 33-song concert was not as spectacular as her recent Metamorphosis Show in Las Vegas or her 2017-19 State of the World Tour. This was sort of a stripped-down hybrid that came across as a retrospective of her career, similar to her 2011 Number Ones: Up Close and Personal Tour that visited the intimate Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis.
At Treasure Island amphitheater, Jackson unleashed irresistible club bangers, found nasty rhythms and grooves, cooed cuddly ballads, delivered pop favorites and unearthed enough deep tracks to reward the hard-core fans, something that was missing on the 2011 tour.
To be sure, many songs were frustratingly truncated to simply a verse and chorus, but there were enough substantial versions to suggest that Jackson — at 53 and some 18 years past her last big hit — is still on top of her concert game.
She kicked out the jams on the sexy “Throb,” turned it out on the groovin’ “Feedback,” danced up a storm on the funky “Miss You Much,” teased on the delicious “Let’s Wait Awhile,” hit a big high note on the dreamy “Again,” and raised a ruckus and consciousness on the righteous “Rhythm Nation.”
While her dancing isn’t as articulate and aggressive as on earlier tours, Jackson still worked it, with swiveling Latin-dance hips and athletic moves while her six dancers, who were probably half her age, carried on like cardio champions.
Jackson’s singing voice wasn’t necessarily prominent in Saturday’s sound mix, except when she was offering ballads. She may have been lip-syncing on some of the dance-oriented numbers, but there were enough live vocals to show Jackson is a gamer.
No diva onstage, she keeps it real. Even though her long copper curls obliterated her visage during much of the show, Jackson couldn’t erase the don’t-lie-to-me look during “You,” the sweet seductive smile of “Love Will Never Do (without You)” or the I’m-so-satisfied face on the finale “Made for Now.”
In the end, this entertainingly nostalgic performance under a full moon reminded 8,000 Minnesotans that Janet Jackson and the Minneapolis Sound of the 1980s and ’90s made an indelible and enduring impact on popular culture.