Rock music: Janet Jackson gets lost in her own limelight

ONE DAY, Janet Jackson may rearrange her songs for piano and voice and schedule an intimate tour of the country's jazz and blues clubs, but it's safe to say that that day won't arrive until Madonna, Kiss, Jean- Michel Jarre and the cast of Beauty and the Beast: The Musical have done the same thing. More than anyone else in pop, Janet - she and I aren't quite on first-name terms, but on some posters she has dropped the Jackson - can be relied upon to put on an enormous theatrical extravaganza. If pounds 22.50 seemed steep for a ticket to her performance at the SECC in Glasgow on Wednesday, once you'd seen the mobile video screens, the surreal stage sets, the dancing troupe, the many costumes and the pyrotechnics, you wondered how she managed to break even.

Janet's concerts are the pop equivalent of a summer blockbuster movie, with all the explosions, special effects, ersatz sentimentality, gratuitous cleavage and emphasis on spectacle over coherence that the term implies. You want thrills and chills? How about that creepy routine that went with "You", in which the dancers wore masks on the front and back of their heads? You want titillation? On "Ropeburn", Janet made one fan's fondest dream and worst nightmare come true at the same time. He was plucked from the audience and strapped to a chair so that a semi-clad, pole-dancing Janet could give him a close-up of her Wonderbra. The nightmare? The entire audience was given a close-up of his anguished, ecstatic face on the screens.

Speaking as someone who believes that there's no pop concert, from Tony Bennett to The Fall, that wouldn't be enhanced by a line of dancing girls and a firework display, I was worn out by this numbingly relentless multimedia onslaught. There were no dynamics, no chance for us to catch our breath. At one point, Janet announced that she was going to slow down the pace, and she sat on a stool, with a man next to her who was cradling an acoustic guitar. You don't have to have seen many arena concerts to know that stools plus acoustic equals the MTV Unplugged part of the set, in which songs are stripped down to their vulnerable essence. But, as we've already seen, the phrase "stripping down" holds just one meaning for Janet, and this isn't it . As the ballad started, the spotlights shifted to the back of the stage, where five other musicians and two backing singers emerged, ready to weigh in and drown out the poor guitarist's every note.

They drowned out Janet as well. As on her last tour, she appeared to be almost as overwhelmed by the distractions around her as I was. Her voice was all but obliterated by the whipcrack drumming, and any vaguely authentic emotion was crushed under the heel of the military Jacksonfunk, as inflexible and joyless as the choreography.

It might have helped if there had been a few more tunes and a few less gasping pseudo-raps. The songs on which Janet did have a melody to work with, particularly the classic "Together Again", proved just how brightly she can sparkle when she lets the visuals enhance the music instead of replace it.

Funnily enough, Janet Jackson is a not too distant relation of Garbage (not literally, thankfully for them). Like her, they make finely calibrated, armour-plated, futuristic pop music, sung by a woman with a seething, sadomasochistic persona. The difference is that at the Brixton Academy on Thursday, that persona dominated the gig rather than vice versa. Shirley Manson didn't have a chorus line and half a dozen flamethrowers to contend with, but she gave the impression that she would have relished the challenge.

Manson has grown into a unique frontwoman: sleazier, more aggressive, but also cooler and more controlled than any of her peers, with a voice that gets mightier all the time. She never stays still. When she's not singing, she's snarling anti-London comments; and when she is singing, she's also playing the guitar, out-raunching Janet with her dancing, or marching around her territory, restless as a boxer, before a backdrop that appears to be a sheet of giant bubblewrap. She is the person that Kylie Minogue dreams of being.

The rest of the band just about keep up with her, with Steve Marker threatening, if not to steal the show, then certainly to borrow it without asking. He has shaved his head, donned goggles and a black T-shirt, and metamorphosed from the rather podgy nerd of yore to a menacing, burly bouncer. It's quite possible that the exercise he gets from wrestling with his guitar was the only work-out required to complete this transformation. He and his fellow Garbagemen, Butch Vig, Duke Erikson, and a part-time bassist, made music that was a white-knuckle, virtual-reality rollercoaster ride. Any advertising executive worth his expense account should get on the cellphone right away: his worries about finding a soundtrack for his latest quick-cut trainer commercial are over.

I saw Garbage at their first ever UK gig, and if you'd told me back then in 1995 what they would be like three years later ... well, I don't suppose I would have been at all surprised. Thursday's show was the first in a European tour to promote Version 2.0 (Mushroom), and as the album title as good as admits, they've refined the blueprint that their first of their four-million-selling debut draws up - piling on yet more instruments, effects, loops and samples - but they've stuck to that blueprint none the less.

The songs sound pretty much like those on the first album, and the songs on the first album sound pretty much like each other. In concert, they could swap around the running order, swap around lines of lyrics, even swap whole choruses and it wouldn't make a great deal of difference. As much of a blast as their show was, I knew what it would consist of before I went. Three years before I went, roughly.

Janet Jackson: Wembley Arena (0181 900 1234), tonight & 17 June. Garbage: Manchester Apollo (0161 242 2560), tonight; Wolverhampton Civic (01902 552121), Mon; Portsmouth Guildhall (01705 824355), Tues.

Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
News
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
News
newsChester Zoo have revealed their newest members
Sport
sportLeague Managers' Association had described Malky Mackay texts as 'friendly banter'
News
The video, titled 'A Message to America', was released a day after Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot that has overrun large parts of Iraq, threatened to attack Americans 'in any place'. U.S. officials said they were working to determine the video's authenticity
i100
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
tvSpielberg involved in bringing his 2002 film to the small screen
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Data Insight Manager - Marketing

    £32000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based o...

    Business Analyst

    £250 - £350 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst, Bristol, Banking, Business Obje...

    Internal Communications Advisor - SW London

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Communications Advisor - SW...

    Data Insight Manager

    £40000 - £43000 Per Annum plus company bonus: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    Day In a Page

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

    Make the most of British tomatoes

    The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
    10 best men's skincare products

    Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

    Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
    Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

    Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

    The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
    La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape