Janet Jackson, Royal Albert Hall, London

A Jackson who's still a real thriller
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The Independent Culture

Watching Janet Jackson play such a prestigious venue, one that conveys a sense of intimacy despite its size, is a pleasure in itself. That she appeared more or less on time brought a welcome change to the usual practice of most A-list artists. Squeezed into a corset-style white suit with heels that constricted her movements somewhat, the 45-year-old Jackson performed classics such as "What Have You Done for Me Lately" and "You Want This" that had the audience on their feet. Despite the presence of a band, she relied on a backing track for the dance numbers to help her through, something a younger Janet would not have needed. Indeed, this tour is very much a look back to her past successes with an accompanying "best of" album. Her dance troupe was limited in size by a stage smaller than those of the many arenas in which she has played in the past. She went off stage briefly, presumably to catch her breath, during which time we were shown video clips of her acting career from Different Strokes when a child to the recent Why Did I Get Married.

When she returned, she sat on a stool to sing a succession of ballads including "Let's Wait Awhile" and "Again", the highlight of the show's first half since her voice was more audible and still in fine form.

After a 20-minute interval, her band played snippets of Jackson hits over a slide show of glossy cover shots, which although stunning, went on too long. However, now dressed in casual jeans, trainers and black vest, she was more like the Janet we know and love, able to dance more freely. She launched into "Escapade" and "That's The Way Love Goes" and the energy levels cranked up a notch.

Inevitably, there was the inclusion of her late brother, Michael, in her set by way of the official video of "Scream", a duet she recorded with him back in 1995 against which she sang her part, disappointingly cut short. The warm atmosphere created by her loyal following was improved further for "Rhythm Nation" and her fans were treated to "Together Again" as an encore that included a touching tribute to Michael by way of a backdrop of childhood images of the pair. Janet Jackson may be past her best but retains that Jackson star quality.