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Janet Jackson rouses downtown Buffalo

Pop music icon performs medley of classics at KeyBank Center

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At 51, Janet Jackson still has it.

The Grammy-award winning music icon appeared Saturday night at the KeyBank Center, one of her stops on her ongoing State of the World tour. Jackson performed over 30 songs to a crowd of thousands downtown, impressing through a series of electric dance numbers and up-tempo pop jams.

“I think she still has the same energy, she’s still powerful in her stage presence and I thought it was really strong performance,” said Trent Tremaine, a Buffalo resident who attended the concert and saw Jackson perform in Toronto two decades ago. “She didn’t lose a beat, even at 51, she’s still an entertainer to be reckoned with. On ‘That’s The Way Love Goes,’ everyone was grooving and getting out of their seats, so that was a real hot track for her. That beat and her sexy moves, I was definitely impressed.”

The nearly two and a half hour performance started off with a bang. Banners draped from the arena’s ceiling and introduced the singer with flashes of imagery dealing with world hunger, greenhouse gasses and violence against black men in the United States.

Jackson appeared, providing attendees with cuts like “The Knowledge” and “State Of The World” from her album “Rhythm Nation 1814,” backed with drums and sporadic lights.

The vibe suddenly shifted when Jackson brought out the beat for “BURNITUP!” as the singer rocked a black bodysuit and opened up the stage, revealing her backing band.

Later on, she blew speakers up with the auto-tune-friendly “Feedback” while following up with vintage numbers like “Rhythm Nation” and “Miss You Much.” Jackson relished her older tracks, delivering peak energy with her dancing and singing -- barely a soul in the crowd sat.

The singer continued with the anthemic “Together Again.” Concertgoers stood as rainbow lights flashed around them. Other songs from “The Velvet Rope” like “What About” exhibited hard emotion as dancers enacted scenarios of violence and abuse.

It all led to “If,” backed with a serious shred of a guitar and parade of poppiness which revealed Jackson showering fans with pure showmanship. The song that followed, “Rhythm Nation,” collected claps and synchronized musicality to create an army of sound in the arena, in a nearly militarized manner.

Jackson ended with “Well Traveled,” a perfect piece to complete her musical journey in the Queen City as she closed out another tour stop with widespread cheers.

Buffalonians like Sheryl Chambers saw Jackson for the first time since previously looking forward to seeing the singer in the ’90s.

“Janet’s show got cancelled at the Memorial Auditorium and we were really hurt but she hasn’t changed; she’s still Janet,” Chambers said. “I loved ‘Pleasure Principle,’ it makes me want to dance and I can’t dance. ‘Black Cat’ stood out but overall, she brought back really good memories. She’s Janet and there can never be another.”

Concertgoers like Johnathan Worden of Buffalo noticed Jackson’s admiration for her dancers –– especially that of dancer Allison Buczkowski, a native of Western New York.

“She was pretty awesome and I didn’t know she was from Buffalo but I was rooting for her,” Worden said. “She’s really not supposed to be [on this tour] and the odds are stacked against her. The fact that she’s here is really just so great for her –– not only for women like her but just for her. For Janet to embrace that and all the diversity in her dances, was truly incredible.”

Benjamin Blanchet is the senior arts editor and can be reached at benjamin.blanchet@ubspectrum.com.


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