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  • Toronto Sun - By Jane Stevenson - August 3 2001!

    R&B-pop diva mesmerizes 13,500 fans in a smouldering show of music and sexuality

    Madonna, watch your back. Since the former Material Girl has given up on a fun, dance-heavy show in favour of more serious themes and wild theatricality on her recent Drowned World tour, it has left a void in the concert world for a certain kind of diva.

    R&B-pop superstar Janet Jackson filled in more than capably last night during a tightly choreographed, high-energy, two-hour show at the Air Canada Centre.

    The 35-year-old singer, currently touring in support of her latest album All For You, made a dramatic entrance before 13,500 fans after two video screens aside the stage showed her variety of guises over the years.

    When the curtain dropped, Jackson -- dressed like a city slicker-meets-cowgirl in a white fedora, beige beaded halter top and low-riding fringed pants -- was revealed all by herself atop an elevated pedestal in the centre of the large, white-tiled, minimalist stage.

    For the next three songs, Come On Get Up, You Ain't Right and All For You, Jackson, joined by her eight dancers, didn't stop moving and the crowd -- on their feet and dancing themselves -- certainly seemed to like it that way. They also ate up Jackson's numerous changes of costume, most of which showed off her awesome muscled arms and chiselled stomach.

    There was everything from a fuchsia halter and eastern-inspired skirt ensemble amidst a playhouse set -- recycled from her 1998 Velvet Rope tour -- to a bright blue bandleader-meets-cheerleader top and tiny, tiny pair of shorts. But it was the dominatrix-inspired, black PVC catsuit that she donned for an interesting S&M display of audience interaction during the new song Would You Mind, that they really went nuts for. Particularly fond of the outfit was the guy she plucked out of the crowd to strap to a gurney suitable for Hannibal Lecter and then proceeded to crawl all over him for the duration of the hot and heavy song.

    I myself thought Jackson did her best when accompanied by her ensemble for some military-like precision dancing during Rhythm Nation and the more upbeat and warm trio of encore numbers Doesn't Really Matter, Someone To Call My Lover and Together Again.

    It should also be pointed out that Jackson did take the odd breather, seated on a stool opposite her guitar player for the early trio of ballads Come Back To Me , Let's Wait A While and Again which prompted both singalongs and some of the biggest cheers of the night when she merely paused during the song Again. Stuffed animals, and white and red roses were also thrown her way. Meanwhile, Jackson's seven-piece band was eventually revealed when a panel opened on her white backdrop-- but they played second fiddle to the sheer power of her presence.

    The singer was forced to postpone her concert last month in Milwaukee just hours before showtime when she chipped a tooth and had to undergo a root canal. And before that, her tour launch in Vancouver on July 5 was delayed when a piece of equipment failed to show up on time. But Jackson's well-oiled touring machine showed no signs of failure last night.