Skip to main content

JANET JACKSON Velvet Rope Tour Live Review, Melody Maker, 1998

Melody Maker, 25 April 1998

IT'S WHEN THE camera catches the screen and doubles her back to infinity. It's when she's frozen silent by the spotlight, in the teeth of a crowd howl so frenzied and so insatiable the ground gives way.

It's when that mass of noise — perhaps the definitive sound of the 20th century — surges over into delirium and she juts the chin and drops the shoulder and you just know she is only intact now. And stardom is reprieved from Hollywood and given back to pop to play with, and you fall to the floor and gurgle. Gig of the century. Listen.

It's part spectacle, part musical and part plain unearthly. From the black, a giant velvet rope unfurls, a huge screen is opened out, you're hurtled through hyperspace at warp speed, the stage explodes in pyrotechnics and there she is. Janet Jackson. Twenty thousand people yearning with every cell of their being to fuse with her metabolism. 'Velvet Rope', 'If' and 'You' are the greatest ten public minutes of my life so far. She tells us she loves us. We utterly believe her, because she has no reason to lie. She sings 'Wait A While' and 'Again', and we each analyse our own tawdry relationships and lifesize passions and have to conclude they're not true. Then, ohmygod, a Control medley of such spine-cracking brutality, white people pass out, 'Nasty' kicking off a dance-troupe, all-action orgy of Eighties bodyrock. On 'Throb' and 'Ropeburn' (where a wretch is plucked from the audience, tied to a chair and pole-danced until he's a Kangol full of puree), the scorn we adore explodes from her performance, our base bodies struck dumb in wonder at the first human being to evolve to the point where she can actually f*** herself. Completely. Obscenely.

That's what she's doing. Self-possession in excelsis. We're not needed, and yet we're in love. The stage empties, the curtain draws, we scream at it in hesitant agony; suddenly a huge moon, a giant technicolour clock, a slide, — everyone's dressed as flowers, she's wearing a hat bigger than herself and we're not in Kansas any more. Never having seen anything as eye-popping in our lives, we squeal as 'Runaway' and 'Whoops' make us Disney-designed kids drunk on joy; then, in a wink, a Rhythm Nation section of brute futuristic brilliance and a 'Special' so moving we pretend to cry, unembarrassed, fearless. 'That's The Way Love Goes' and 'Got' stem the flood with funk so deep it damn near kills us, before 'Together' sends us coasting into the night drained, devastated, on fire. She blows me a kiss. Me. You wouldn't understand. You aren't really here.

Just try to understand, because our world is different now. Whether you believe in the concept of stardom doesn't matter, because stardom isn't a concept. It's an effect, a transmission, the last state of grace and divinity left on this godless rock, a happening that's irrefutable because there isn't time. And Janet Jackson is the most engulfing and engrossing star I think I'll ever see in my lifetime. We are changed. Go see. And start your life.

© Neil Kulkarni, 1998


Popular posts from this blog


This was my dream. And it was so vivid it really happened. 
I hired a van. The expense was a concern but I needed the capacity. First the long drive north to Middlesborough. I knew he'd be at home, visiting relatives. Made sure my HeadBag was packed. Blindfolds and ballgags. Rope. Some starved, stroppy badgers. Maxi-pack of chloroform-seeped bogroll from Costco. Masking tape. As I eased onto the M1 I told myself again the story of how it was developed from the need for waterproof ammunition casings in WWII. I had to, I was bored, and it's a long schlep up to 'boro. Idly, after securing a mortgage for a bacon roll at Tibshelf, I had an argument with my other personality about whether Middlesborough was in North Yorkshire, County Durham or Teeside. 
Nothing got resolved. A plain-clothes officer pulled me off in the hardshoulder near Malton and issued stern words about punching myself while driving. No hilarity did ensue. I needed to focus. This was a serious business. By noo…


(photo by Pat Pope, full text)  MANIC STREET PREACHERS  ASTORIA, LONDON  SORRY, lifelong fan, but I’m a new convert. I got into them a week ago and here I am. (They start with “Faster and, after the dub and horrorcore they’ve played, it jarrs and fits perfectly.) OK, see it ain’t attitude cos anyone can do that, just cock a snook and suck your cheeks. It ain’t glamour. Glamour is boring. Glamour is loud pretty people who hug, hug, hug, giggling at your geek self all night. And it ain’t rock’n’roll; it was your rock’n’roll that made a nigger-hater the King, your teddy boys who Paki-bashed for Mosley, Notting Hill 1958, your rock’#n’roll build on SAMBO DON’T SELL. I ain’t interested and the Manics are way beyond that. (“Yes” is Stjepan Mestrovic’s “Balkanisation Of The West” turned punk anthem, as if it could be any more punk. No higher compliment exists.)    The four founding points of Manics songs – one: modern life is untenable. Two: no one ever gets used to loneliness. Three: if tr…

The F.U.N.K 2017 End Of Year Lists Part 1 - Metal

Metal, like hip hop, has had a fucking great 2017. Like hip hop its manifold joys can mainly be found away from the mainstream, certainly light-years distant from the kinds of boybands-with-guitars that seemingly dominate Kerrang-style metal culture. So most of my favourite metal from this year has come from slightly off the beaten track (so much great stuff coming out of Italy this year), much of it found via Bandcamp and those metal bloggers who are so ably covering the anti-scene at the moment. 

Needs saying actually - metal, like hip hop, is one area of music where blogging and word-of-mouth is all the guidance I need anymore - haven't been NEAR a metal mag this year and don't feel like I've missed anything. The bloggers care, and know their stuff so thanks to Angry Metal Guy and Cvlt Nation  and No Clean Singing and Heavy Blog Is Heavy  and The Sludgelord for keeping me vaguely in touch with the best metal in 2017, they've been invaluable. 

These are the metal/doom…