When I first moved to New York, Prince was playing at Madison Square Garden. I wanted to go. A friend who had been living here for years before I did, told me not to bother because I’d be paying $200 and he’d be too tiny to see anyway. He didn’t tour New York again before his death. Never seeing Prince in one of his legendary 3-hour concerts will forever be a major regret in my life.
Thing is, seeing concerts is also a major planning operation in New York. You have to be on top of when the tickets go on sale, so they don’t sell out. You have to have the money, and you have to have the time. With my work schedule, I’m not always sure that I’ll be in town for the show. These factors mean I don’t always see the artists I want to see #newyorklivingproblems. So when Janet Jackson was announced as the headliner for Panorama NYC, a music festival held on a small island literally down the street from me, I knew I had to go.
Let’s add this one to the list of Best Decisions Made in My Life because it every moment of her just-over-90-minutes-set was worth it. She played her ol skool hits, from Rhythm Nation in the ’80s to Janet in the ’90s, but also some of her newer material, like Burnitup! with Missy Elliot (a staple on my running playlists) and No Sleeep with J Cole. At times I could hardly hear her for the singing that was going on around me as die-hards mouthed back every single lyric. She paid tribute to her late father Joe Jackson, and also her brother Michael, conjuring him back to life through Scream. “It’s a lot of hits, right?” she teased. “There’s a lot more to come!”
And yet, for all the nostalgia that her show brought with it – and the pangs of unfulfilled dreams of being a Janet back-up dancer – she cast an eye forward. With a strong opener that saw the names of victims of police shootings listed on the screens and called for justice, Janet stated what she wants her State of the Nation to be. She rallied hard, and at one point she just stood looking out over and through the crowd, giving the fiercest stare that signalled she’s always been here and she’s not going anywhere. But at the end, she reminded us to always “go in love.” Because that’s the way love goes.