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Janet Jackson; Usher

With a show as taut as her washboard abs, Janet Jackson delivered an aural and visual extravaganza Thursday at the Forum.

Cast:
Bands: Jackson: Rex Sala, David Barry, John Roberts Sam Sims, Darrel Smith, Terry Santiel, Stacy Campbell, Rebeca Valadez. Usher: Alex Evans, Stan Jones, Brian Fraser, Valdez Brancey.

With a show as taut as her washboard abs, Janet Jackson delivered an aural and visual extravaganza Thursday at the Forum. And with a top ticket price north of $75 and other tours competing for consumers’ money, Jackson has wisely tried to offer more than your basic rock concert during her Velvet Rope roadshow.

But in her zeal to provide the most bang for the buck, she often sacrificed what has made her a star: the music.

Much of Jackson’s vocals were obfuscated by an aural barrage of electronically fattened choruses or recorded vocals inside a weak sound mix — even for the Forum. The emphasis on dancing also had an impact on her vocals: Her voice noticeably thinned by “That’s The Way Love Goes,” the set’s closing number.

The high-octane performance boasted tight-as-Lycra choreography to complement the tunes, but the performance was poorly paced.

Just when the show seemed to be building momentum — typically after two or three songs — the action would cease for a musical mood swing such as a set or costume change.

Audience members sat down and stood up so much it made the crowd seem like newcomers to a religious service, unaware of just when to worship.

And to much of the sold-out house, Jackson was Godlike, performing feats of musical derring-do by recreating the impressive choreogra-phy from “If I Was Your Girl” and “Rhythm Nation” in her performance of “Black Cat,” which has been seared in fans’ consciousness since its bow on the 1990 MTV Music Video Awards. It’s also the vehicle in which Jackson popped the buttons on her blouse to reveal a new Janet: sexy and self-assured.

Even though it’s been four years since Jackson played the venue, her show was still remarkably similar to that early 1994 outing: Jack-son’s composure wavered during her perf of “Again,” the well-crafted ballad from the film “Poetic Justice” in which she co-starred, and she rewarded a rabid fan by bringing him onstage and delivering a lap dance, which no doubt created a memory he’ll share with his great-grandkids.

The mammoth set reflected her Velvet Rope disc, with huge red and yellow velvet curtains and ropes embracing the stage, which later gave way to the Toyland atmosphere for the bouncy “Escapade” and the stark Orwellian era of “Rhythm Nation.”

Show opener Usher used his charisma and beat-heavy material to aptly demonstrate why he is one of LaFace/Arista Records brightest stars.

Drawing mostly from his latest disc, “My Way,” his 45-minute perf set the tone for the evening’s song-and-dance aesthetic.

Janet Jackson; Usher

Forum; 18,000 seats; $75 top

Production: Presented by Best Buy. Promoted by SFX/Magic Works. Reviewed Aug. 20, 1998.

Cast: Bands: Jackson: Rex Sala, David Barry, John Roberts Sam Sims, Darrel Smith, Terry Santiel, Stacy Campbell, Rebeca Valadez. Usher: Alex Evans, Stan Jones, Brian Fraser, Valdez Brancey.

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