BY LIZ MINIET
When Mother Nature messed with Janet Jackson's first Atlanta concert in four years, she forced the pop star to live up to the title of her tour and new album: "Unbreakable."
The crowd waiting Saturday night at Chastain Park Amphitheatre sat in rain that picked up again each time they thought it was over, but when Jackson appeared on stage about 15-20 minutes past the scheduled 8 p.m. start, her fans' reaction was joyous.
How joyous? Let's just say the Falcons live for the day when they hear cheers and screams that loud.
Rain doesn't matter when we're all part of a rhythm nation.
Jackson started the show with a recently released song from her "Unbreakable" album, "Burnitup," featuring Missy Elliott (with Elliott's participation coming via a video; the same was true later in the show with the new song "No Sleeep," which features J. Cole). Then Jackson, with her band, backup singers and backup dancers, went through songs everybody knew, from "Miss You Much" to "Control" to "Escapade." In some cases during the show, especially for songs such as "Nasty" and "Together Again," she encouraged the crowd to sing along (like you could stop them anyway).
Though the first section of the show stayed fast-paced, Jackson took time out to give special treatment to "When I Think of You" and "Love Will Never Do."
There was a break of a few minutes, and considering that the show's first part gave Jackson and her backup dancers a cardio workout that would kill most of us, you were almost relieved when she came back from the break, sat down and delivered a few ballads. She started with one from her new album called "After You Fall." You could tell that unlike a few of the songs from "Unbreakable," this one hadn't been released yet. Every song up to this point had received some reaction, while the fans seemed to be taking this one in.
Jackson is not quite a month into the tour behind her new album, "Unbreakable," which is to be released Oct. 2. It's her first new material in seven years.
After the ballads, she went back to songs that kept the fans on their feet more, including the crowdpleasers "Together Again" and "Rhythm Nation." This section of the show also included "Scream," a duet with her brother Michael from 20 years ago. When she took time out at the end of the show to talk to the audience, one of the things she did was to thank fans for their love and support not just of her but of her family over the years.
She also told the crowd that the weather had led to some changes in the show: For instance, the stage was supposed to be twice its size (the covering at Chastain goes only so far).
Speaking of the weather, let's take a moment to acknowledge what I'll call the "honorary" backup dancers: the guys who were mopping the stage periodically throughout the show to keep the rainwater from tripping up anybody.
Though there were times it was a little hard to hear the lyrics during the show (whether it was the weather, the crowd or just acoustics, I couldn't tell you), the energy of Jackson and everyone around her was unmistakable.
And if you're sorry that you missed Saturday's concert, don't worry: Jackson will be back in Atlanta for a March 3 show at Philips Arena. I think she'll be grateful to have a roof over her whole show this time.
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