As a queer person who uses terms like “work, girl” and “yass, bitch,” I thought I had a pretty good understanding of the word “slay.” After Janet Jackson’s performance Wednesday night, I came to the conclusion that I really had yet to experience a situation which could allow for the word's invocation … that is, until Miss Jackson came to the AT&T Center.
The audience inside the arena Wednesday night was a mix of generations and demographics: from older couples dressed up and out, probably past their bedtimes, to young gay boys with their moms dancing in excitement while they waited in line to buy a Janet t-shirt or hat (or both.) The crowds of people walking in were buzzing with a mixture of relief and anticipation, knowing that their two-year wait to see this famous pop star perform was almost over.
After a short set from Jackson’s tour and band DJ, DJ Aktive, the lights go low and an eruption of applause echoes throughout the enormous venue. A video begins to play on the massive projector screens above the stage as the names of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin and other men that lost their lives to police brutality, light up across the screen — all while Jackson's vocals from her brother's “Scream” plays over the speakers: “Oh my God can’t believe what I saw as I turned on the T.V. / This evening / I was disgusted with all the injustice” — a bit haunting considering the song came out 22 years ago.
With a burst of light and cheers from the crowd Jackson hits the stage looking like a bad-ass character from The Matrix. Donning a long, black trench coat and cane the singer tears into “The Knowledge” off of her 1989 record Rhythm Nation 1814. After “Burnitup!,” Jackson, along with her full band and backup dancers rip into a medley of old-school fan favorites, including tracks like “Nasty,” “Miss You Much,” “Control,” “What Have You Done For Me Lately,” “Pleasure Principle,” and “When I Think Of You.”
The audience is absolutely losing their shit, and with good reason. Jackson’s singing is flawless – almost to the point where I thought she might be lip-synching (she wasn’t). She's also totally nailing all of her high-energy dance moves with a smile on her face like “lol, bitches y’all didn’t know I could move like this still?,” as she whips her long, wavy pony tail back and forth to the music.
Closing out her set with “Rhythm Nation” which I may or may not have cried during (I’m not crying, you’re crying), Jackson returns for an encore of four tracks including “Black Eagle,” and “New Agenda,” from the album janet., before waving goodbye and saying “San Antonio! May God bless you! Each and every step on your journey! Goodnight!”