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  • Quad-City Times - By David Burke - July 28 2001!

    The Mark’s love affair with Janet continues

    Fast forward into the future. It’s the year 2025, and Janet Jackson is making her 11th appearance at The Mark of the Quad-Cities. As her image appears on the microchip digital screens, teenagers scream in delight. Older members of the crowd wonder how she keeps looking so good at 60, while cattier audience-types question how much laser plastic surgery has been done.

    She goes back 40 years for a medley of hits, and then — here it comes — drags up a male out of the crowd for a little bump ’n’ grind. The fans are delighted. It was worth the $1,250 ticket, plus service charges.

    After seeing the 2001 model of Janet Jackson perform Tuesday night at The Mark, it becomes all that easier to picture her with a Diana Ross or Tina Turner-type career that shows no signs of ending.

    The 35-year-old pop diva glided through her greatest hits and a good portion of her new album, “All For You,” in the middle of an elaborate stage setting.

    The requisite pyrotechnics, smoke machines and stage lighting were there, but so was a stage full of inflatable, oversized childhood toys — including a jack-in-the-box that jutted 20 feet in the air. Band members appeared and disappeared from the background as needed. The band platform was raised later in the concert, with entrances and exits taking place underneath.

    Many of Jackson’s songs were turned into elaborate production numbers, with a hard-working crew of eight performers changing from dance clothes to operatic costumes to ladybugs and elves.

    Their boss had plenty of opportunities for costume changes as well, all of which effectively showed off her highly sculpted upper torso. Those costume changes, whether for Jackson or the dancers, delayed the concert at times and created that awkward, darkened silence similar to waiting for the inevitable encore at other concerts.

    With the exception of the medley “What Have You Done For Me Lately,” “Control” and “Nasty” — which Jackson seems to deliver at a higher octave — nearly every song was verbatim to the radio hits that the singer has produced in the past 15 years.

    The only exception — and the only truly genuine moment in the concert — came in the waning moments of Jackson’s ballad, “Again.” The loud reaction of The Mark crowd, at nearly 90 percent capacity, appeared to catch the singer off guard, delaying her singing of the final verse for what seemed to be several minutes. With the exception of several “thank yous,” the soft-spoken Jackson barely spoke in the concert.

    A three-panel video screen in stage center and two smaller side screens captured not only the moves of Jackson and the dancers, but a generous supply of shots of the crowd as well. Jackson shared a screen with Carly Simon — probably the closest Simon will ever get to playing The Mark — on Jackson’s song “Son of a Gun,” which samples Simon’s ’70s hit, “You’re So Vain.” And some of the loudest cheers in the night came when late rapper-actor Tupac Shakur appeared in scenes from Jackson’s movie “Poetic Justice,” which spawned the aforementioned “Again.”

    Atlanta R&B quartet 112 opened the show with a half-hour of hip-hop. The foursome’s vocal gymnastics could have been as evident as their stage gymnastics if not for the overpowering bass line on the taped background music.

    Although Jackson’s portion of the show left many questions — Why so many elongated set changes? Why is an unamplified guitarist sitting next to her for the ballad portion? What were those opera costumes? — it’s hard to argue with the vocal fans at The Mark.

    As she showed Tuesday night, Janet Jackson can simply let out a little giggle and flash her million-dollar smile and the crowd eats out of her hand.