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  • Dispatch - By Aaron Beck - July 22 2001!

    You are Janet Jackson. You performed a soldout concert last night in Nationwide Arena.

    You asked the sound guys to make the bass-heavy dance-pop from the new album and the rest of your near-20-year career sound alive (during the rock song Black Cat, for one) and, at other times sound like an amplified clothes dryer filled with work boots.

    When the curtain was drawn, you appeared on stage in a glittery little number on a hydraulic lift and sang Come On Get Up. There was music, but no band to be seen behind the plain backdrop of the stage designed by Mark Fisher, a man who designed stages for U2 and Pink Floyd.

    From there on it was: Smile. Dance. Sing. Sing. Dance. Smile.

    Pause. Wait for audience to applaud and scream approval. Smile. Dance. Sing.

    Pause. Wait for more applause. In little-girl voice shyly tell audience, "I love you.'' Change clothes. Sweat. Sweat. Sweat.

    During Trust a Try, wear black and red leather. Ask a few dancers to wear Texas Chainsaw Massacre-inspired masks and other garish costumes. Make this a highlight for its visual wallop.

    During Would You Mind, your soft-core porn/ love-rap song from your new album, All For You, tie an audience member to a Dr. Frankenstein table. Play tape of a thunderstorm. Wear smart, black bondage gear. Dance. Gyrate. Grind. Whisper sexy action verbs in poor guy's face. Watch guy mouth the words, "Thank you, God.'' Change clothes. Smile. Dance. Sing.

    During Son of a Gun (I Betcha Think This Song is About You), play video of Carly Simon, who recorded the tune with you. Follow this with Got 'Til It's Gone, but play no video of Joni Mitchell gyrating to your bouncy take on her words.

    During medley of slow jams (which featured shots of you and co-star Tupac Shakur kissing in the movie Poetic Justice) catch breath.

    During Nasty, What Have You Done For Me Lately and Rhythm Nation feed off of crowd going crazy with approval.

    Use inflated props (jack-in-the-boxes; baby blocks) from 1998 Velvet Rope tour to great effect again because what are you going to do, give them to brother Michael? His Neverland Ranch already is packed with outlandish junk.

    I'm convinced we should have sent the theater critic. Maybe a sports person. Maybe the movie- reviewing fellow. Heck, maybe the fashion writer. We'd all have agreed.

    Jackson's concerts never have focused on her voice as much as they have on the stage and on her and her entourage's acting abilities, athletic bodies and deft foot and hip-work. Unless a dancer pulls a hamstring and falls off a hydraulic lift, there aren't surprises. City to city, the performances are more high-stepping Broadway show or Las Vegas extravaganza than they are concerts. Last night was no exception. People knew what they were in for and Jackson delivered.