MANILA, Philippines?An hour before Janet Jackson?s concert Friday night at the Philippine International Convention Center, ticket scalpers were anxious and persistent. ?Extrang ticket, binibili (We?re buying your extra tickets),? they kept telling people lined up outside the venue.
Nobody had extra tickets, of course. Everything had been snapped up days before the show ?from the cheapest at P3,000 to the most expensive at P25,000.
Why would people shell out that much cash for an artist who has been away from the limelight for quite a long while?
Perhaps that was the reason, too: Filipinos missed Janet. Or watching her would be the closest thing to experiencing, once more, the magical touch of that talented family of performers?The Jacksons?whose most famous member, Michael, died under tragic circumstances in 2009.
But Janet, the youngest of eight siblings, struggled to get out of the shadow of The Jacksons to prove her worth.
Here in 1994
She was successful in doing so?releasing albums that topped the Billboard chart, and becoming the highest paid female recording artist in contemporary music at one point.
Most of her songs apparently formed the soundtrack of many of her Filipino fans? growing-up years, including that of a 33-year-old doctor who came alone and gave us a running commentary of his intimate knowledge of Janet?s life and music during the concert.
?She was here in ?94, at the Folk Arts Theater,? the doctor recalled. ?It was packed, and she was good.?
Seventeen years later, here was Janet, looking foxy and fit like she just stepped out of a sci-fi thriller movie set in her body-hugging black leather outfit.
Economy of movement
At age 44 she showed it was not difficult to sing and dance, even while wearing high heels. How? Through wise economy of movement. She knew better than to try to outdo Beyonce or Britney Spears, without necessarily looking second-rate. This she did by sticking close to the simple but still snappy choreography of her act, which recalled the original moves in her 1980s-era music videos, done for her by the then still unknown Paula Abdul.
As for singing live, Janet could not be accused of lip-synching, although there must have been a vocal enhancer in her microphone to maintain consistency while she danced. The presence of three excellent backup singers likewise assured that the vocals would match the power of the music.
Performed by a live band (aided, of course, by programmed beats), the music electrified the senses, its rhythms slamming like onrushing waves.
Rock ?n? roll bliss
Against that backdrop and assisted by a company of multiracial dancers, Janet ruled the stage. The songs came in short versions, some arranged in medley form, but all sounded great, just like in the records.
It was an all-hits repertoire, with the crowd yelling like mad upon hearing the first bars of ?What Have You Done For Me Lately,? ?Nasty,? ?Miss You Much,? ?Escapade,? ?When I Think of You,? among others.
The ballads revealed Janet was indeed not lip-synching at all, even exhibiting vocal sensitivity amid the sexual-restraint message in ?Let?s Wait Awhile.?
There were some moments that dragged: videos of some of her movies and shots of her past pictorials that were obviously shown to allow Janet to do her costume changes.
But when the music resumed, it was hard not to be swept up by the energy. ?Black Cat? engulfed us in rock ?n? roll bliss, the band?s lead guitarist shredding the notes while Janet knelt and undulated in front of him.
When ?Rhythm Nation? came on, the spectacle of a theatrical performance unfolded, Janet and company moving to the tune?s martial beat in perfect cadence.
?Most of those songs had Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis as producers,? whispered my seatmate, the doctor.
Yes, we nodded.
?Jimmy Jam, he was Janet?s ex,? added the doctor.
Everyone was up on their feet and bobbing like one joyous tribe as the last song, ?Together Again,? played.
Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima was spotted swaying his head with his arms around his wife Corrie; Ida Ramos was dancing like she was still in ?Penthouse 7?; and Joel Cruz of Aficionado Perfumes was waving at Janet like he would miss her terribly the moment she got off the stage.
The morning after, the doctor would probably be back at his job saving lives. But last Friday night, he was living it up as a Janet Jackson fan.