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Janet Jackson’s ‘Metamorphosis’ in Las Vegas shows she can still rock

Updated May 20, 2019 - 5:32 pm

All those hits. All those moves. All that hair.

All that history.

Janet Jackson’s “Metamorphosis,” which opened Friday night at Park Theater, is a show set up to tell a story of evolution and triumph. Jackson tells it expertly and with a fair measure of firepower. The underlying message from this superstar, a recent mother who just turned 53, is she can still blaze through the hits.

Jackson moves with grace and power, swiveling and gyrating around the double-deck stage with her 14-member dance team.

A sheer video screen, like an electric scrim, adds a layer of visuals across the theater’s arena-scale stage. Lasers dance around the theater. Jackson and her team are flanked by metal staircases and platforms where musicians blast the show’s sound bed. It’s all similar to an uber-fancy Ikea showroom, bathed in neon against a stark black-and-white backdrop.

The Twitterbugs ask if Jackson is singing through this show. A common question, and a fair one, too. To my trained eye and ear, Jackson seems to mix live and tracked vocals — not lip-syncing, but singing live with the aid of a vocal track. This technique is used across other headlining performances, and even Vegas production shows, that employ extensive choreography.

The effect does produce a video-quality live performance. Jackson’s show extends beyond a typical concert, especially with its tightly produced dance numbers. Jackson pays tribute to the 30th anniversary of “Rhythm Nation 1814,” with her dance team donning jumpsuits and coveralls. She tears through a suite of her many famous hits, among them, “What Have You Done For Me Lately,” “Control, “Nasty” and “Pleasure Principle.”

Standing alone, the hard-rocking “Black Cat” made the room shake. At times, band was so sonically strong it overrode the vocals.

Reaching to the days of the Jackson 5, Jackson also lines up the backing dancers for some of the moves made famous by her brothers. For those who remember “The Jackson 5” cartoon series or network variety show, it was a well-timed number.

The group did not perform Michael Jackson’s famous Moonwalk, though (and “Scream,” the searing Janet-Michael duet, was not in the set list).

In a signature nostalgia moment from opening night, Jackson finally addressed her fans, about 40 minutes into the show. The music stopped and she peered into the crowd, which howled its approval.

“Forty-five years ago, I made my debut right here in Las Vegas, and the beautiful thing about it was, it was right here at the MGM Hotel in Las Vegas,” Jackson said. “It’s so amazing how things come full circle.”

Showtime for celebs

The thing about being Magic Johnson is, you’re Magic Johnson everywhere, all the time. This is especially true while walking through Park MGM to Park Theater for the “Metamorphosis” opener.

That was Magic, smiling with his wife, Cookie, and walking tall through the casino. I know this because I saw him (after hearing his familiar laugh) as I made it into the show.

Jackson did bring an elevated level of celebrity to her first show at the theater Queen Latifah, Eve, Gabrielle Union, Carrie Ann Inaba, of “The Talk,” Sibley Scoles, and Johnny Gill of New Edition and producer Jimmy Jam were on hand to see Jackson groove it up and hang at the post-show party at On The Record Speakeasy and Nightclub. When there, you’ll probably find me at the double-decker bus, bar and DJ booth.

Myron was there

Smith Center President Myron Martin checked in after seeing social-media reports of Jackson’s comments from the stage. Martin was actually at the show Jackson referred to, her stage debut at the old MGM Grand when she was 7.

“My parents took me to see the Jackson 5 at MGM when I was a kid,” Martin texted Saturday. “The Jackson’s brought the young Janet out onstage. What a night.” Jackson siblings La Toya and Randy were also part of that limited engagement in December 1974.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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