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Janet Jackson dazzles in career-spanning Xcel show

Janet Jackson performs onstage during the 2022 Essence Festival of Culture at the Louisiana Superdome on July 2, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Janet Jackson performs onstage during the 2022 Essence Festival of Culture at the Louisiana Superdome on July 2, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana.Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Essence

by Natalia Mendez

May 31, 2023

Janet Jackson has been working tirelessly for the last half-century to build a name and sound all of her own. Along the way, she has won five Grammys and entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Back in the Twin Cities for the first time since 2015, Jackson danced all attendees down memory lane at Xcel Energy Center Tuesday evening on her Together Again Tour. 

On her journey to success as a performer, Jackson was a singer in Vegas, had a TV stint on Good Times, and released two sunny albums overseen by her father, Joseph. Her next album, Control, went platinum five times and Rhythm Nation went platinum six times. The latter’s loud themes of Black female empowerment and unity led her to begin openly expressing her own eroticism and sex appeal – something that continues to tap into to this day. Jackson performed an extensive 40-song set, and she brought Atlanta favorite Ludacris along for the ride. 

Rapper and Fast and the Furious actor Ludacris kicked off the night with a swift 30-minute set dressed in black leather joggers, a red-and-cream varsity-style jacket, crisp braids, and a gleaming, icy necklace dangling on his chest. Now 45, Luda smashed through a medley of his top hits, including snippets of songs in which he was featured, like Fergie’s “Glamorous,” Usher’s “Yeah!” and Jermaine Dupri’s “Welcome to Atlanta.” Although the 612 was not called out on the original “Area Codes,” he ensured it was included on the screens behind him. The amped-up crowd bounced and danced like it was a club for much of his set, and there were ample opportunities for sing-alongs. Luda seemed like he was having fun, bantering with a fellow emcee, Arbie Fate Wilson, and DJ Infamous spinning from a platform above. Later, he appeared wearing what he referred to as “big-a** sneakers” during “Stand Up,” and on his final song, “Get Back,” he donned the oversized arms featured in the music video to the approval of the enthused crowd. 

After a short break, it was time for Ms. Jackson herself to take the stage. The racially diverse crowd of mostly 30-to-50-somethings, dressed in their best bedazzled and floral going-out clothes, screamed with anticipation when a montage of Jackson’s photos spanning her career played on the screens above the stage. A drapey cloth was ripped away to reveal an ethereal Ms. Jackson shrouded in a purple hooded cloak that hid a slim-fitting glittering gold one-piece and large purple bow that showed off her figure. Backup dancers wearing matching purple boilersuits writhed onstage with Jackson as she launched into the first segment of the evening. 

2022 Essence Festival Of Culture - Louisiana Superdome - Day 2
Janet Jackson performs onstage during the 2022 Essence Festival of Culture at the Louisiana Superdome on July 2, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Essence

Her set broke down into four acts encompassing many hits and a few new songs. Each act had a distinct color theme and outfits that matched the dancers – act one: purple and gold; act two: a flouncy black skirt that was removed to show wide-legged pants and high-necked, glittering black-and-white top; act three: a powerful-shouldered, blaze-orange-and-neon-pink dress with plaid accents; act four: a bedazzled shirt with RHYTHM NATION glistening across the front. Jackson’s hair was tied up in a sleek high ponytail that she occasionally had to battle and pull from her headset, and later she used to whip around her head like a helicopter blade. 

With help from her backup dancers, she showcased some of the legacy choreography that launched her, and countless other dance segments showing what a fit 57-year-old body could do. Jackson’s soft domination took center stage multiple times as lithe and muscled dancers surrounded her, knelt at her feet, and sensually submitted to her. The crowd whooped as she traced her fingers down one dancer’s chest and onto his crotch, and one got a good, deep smooch from Ms. Jackson herself at the end of act two during “So Lonely.”

A live band and DJ were mainly obscured for much of the set behind mesh curtains but were pushed forward for a few select moments. They played cleanly and loud enough to sometimes interfere with some of Jackson’s vocals, particularly during “No Sleep.” Jackson’s sexy, sumptuous mezzo-soprano breathily rang true a few times during the set, but the high-caliber calisthenics-like dance moves warranted what seemed to be some lip-syncing. The crowd didn’t seem to care or mind and sang along during hits like “What Have You Done for Me Lately,”  “Nasty,” “When I Think of You,” and “All For You.” There were a few lulls from Jackson and the crowd throughout the night. It was mixed results when she let attendees do the singing a few times while she sat primly onstage during “Come Back to Me,” “Let’s Wait a While,” and “Again.” Jackson also debuted a new song, “Put It On You,” during act three.

37th Annual Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony - Inside
Janet Jackson speaks onstage during the 37th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at Microsoft Theater on November 05, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.
Theo Wargo/Getty Images for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Some of the highest moments were in act four. “Miss You Much” showcased sharp and precise choreography. “Escapade” had great crowd appeal but cut off before her iconic callout to Minneapolis. The middle-aged crowd, slowly growing sleepier, perked up and became animated again when Jackson performed “Scream,” the duet with her late brother, Michael. Screens showed clips from the original music video as the crowd roared and the song bled into an energetic version of “Rhythm Nation,” featuring the original powerful choreography. For the night's final song and the encore, the teases and snippets throughout the night ramped up for the closeout of the entire track “Together Again” before screens rolled the credits for the high-production event.

Although she didn’t provide much banter, Jackson’s enthusiasm for her performance and dedication to putting on a good show, regardless of where it was or whom it was for, was very apparent. Jackson is a true performer whose night was dedicated to showcasing a medley of her take on Prince’s Minneapolis sound, new jack swing, smooth R&B, and pop. Although it could have been a little shorter, Jackson provided an entertaining set that gave die-hard fans and those who only knew her hits exactly what they wanted: a one-way ticket to her steadfast Rhythm Nation, and it sure felt nice to be Together Again. 


Damita Jo

Together Again (DJ Premier Remix) 


So Much Betta


No Sleeep

Got ‘til It’s Gone

That’s the Way Love Goes


What Have You Done for Me Lately


The Pleasure Principal 

Because of Love

When I Think of You

Diamonds (Herb Alpert) 

The Best Things in Life Are Free


When We Oooo

Together Again (Jimmy Jam Deeper Remix)

Come Back to Me

Let’s Wait Awhile


Any Time, Any Place

I Get Lonely 

Doesn’t Really Matter

All for You

Come On Get Up


Girlfriend/Boyfriend (Blackstreet)

Put It On You (unreleased, live debut) 

Do It 2 Me

So Excited

The Knowledge

Miss You Much

Love Will Never Do (Without You)



Scream (Michael Jackson)

Rhythm Nation


Together Again

Ludacris Setlist

Southern Fried Intro

Welcome to Atlanta (Jermaine Dupri)

Act a Fool

Southern Hospitality

Area Codes

Splash Waterfalls

Lovers and Friends (Lil Jon) 

Pimpin’ All Over the World

Glamorous (Fergie)

How Low

My Chick Bad

Money Maker

What’s Your Fantasy

Stand Up

Yeah! (Usher)

All I Do Is Win (DJ Khaled) 


Move B***h

Get Back