Janet Damita Jo Jackson returned to The Chicago Theatre after many years for three sold-out shows on Nov. 2, 3 and 6.
Her management described the venue as the smallest one on the tour so this was a rare opportunity to see her before she returns to Illinois at the large Allstate Arena on June 4, 2016. Expect a little fire and smoke in the future; for a spot this size, she was unable to shoot off some of the pyrotechnics that she did on other stops of the "Unbreakable" world tour.
While waiting through an opening-DJ set, several celebrities arrived at the iconic theater, including filmmaker George Lucas and local drag star Chilli Pepper.
It began as a hair show, as the lioness mane of hair on Janet flew through the air and even got caught in her earpiece, distracting her at one point. There were, surprisingly, no costume changeseven for the encore.
Jackson matched moves with her backup dancers and even shared the spotlight with two of the younger kids while simply singing in the background. She showed a performer doesn't need elaborate choreography to hold power. "Rhythm Nation" dance moves were a highlight that still hold up well today.
On video, guest stars such as Missy Elliott, J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar were projected on curtains and screens for their spots on duets.
This concert marked Jackson's first tour in four years, although it felt longer to many after she disappeared overseas for a time. She has released seven studio albums and matched it to seven concert tours that have only gotten stronger over the years. At one point she sighed, "So many hitsand we are just getting started."
She launched into her many chart-toppers, such as "All for You," "Control," "Escapade" and many others.
For some artists, ballads can be challenging to perform live, but not with Jackson. The focus was on her while sitting on a stool for "Again."
She kept things moving having dance-off competitions for the backup dancers on "Throb" and "That's the Way Love Goes."
There was a different tempo used for the beginning of "Together Again" that sped up and had the crowd dancing. One lucky front-row spectator caught her sweaty towel after a song.
She squeezed so many of her classics that for many listeners it was a trip down memory lane for the hefty price of their tickets but well worth it.
She closed with two new songs: "Unbreakable" and the inspiring, fist-pumping "Shoulda Known Better." It was a bit unusual to not save a major hit single for the end, but this was the Unbreakable tour and everyone seemed to just be together again with this legendary Jackson. Janet, we all missed you much.
Photos and text by Jerry Nunn