Lacking sibling Michael’s theatrical pathologies, Janet Jackson has remained a compelling figure by being musically consistent — working with producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, albums such as “Control,” “Janet,” and “The Velvet Rope” artfully straddled a niche between Prince’s lascivious funk and the urgently romantic pop-soul Holland/Dozier/Holland crafted for Diana Ross.
Her latest release, “All for You” (Virgin), draws from that well once too often; its hip-thrusting yet kittenish sensuality comes off as labored. The tour she has mounted in support of the album — beset by cancellations, including all European dates — feels similarly pro forma.
It’s not helped by the fact that more than half of the show is recycled from past tours. The psychedelic Lewis Carroll set piece for “Escapade,” the strapping down and teasing of an audience member (this time accompanying “Would You Mind”), and her overwhelmed reaction to the crowd’s ovation during “Again” were seen on the Velvet Rope tour.
Lacking any cohesive theme, perf feels likes a Vegas revue. Big production numbers alternate with medleys of hits, but some of the latter were awkwardly assembled. Stringing together “Don’t Know What You Got ‘Til It’s Gone,” “Son of a Gun” and “Someone to Call My Lover” only calls attention to their reliance on samples from ’60s and ’70s pop hits (by Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon and America, respectively). And to follow gushing to the crowd how happy she was to be at home in Los Angeles with a series of songs accompanied by videos featuring Paris, New York and California’s Central Valley was bizarrely jarring.
The show is handsomely mounted, with the lighting, set design, pyrotechnics, costumes and staging all first-rate, and the band reproduces the heavily produced music with soulful precision. Jackson works hard onstage, as does her troupe of dancers. Her voice is often buttressed by tapes, but complaining about that is like feeling cheated because Sigfreid & Roy didn’t really saw a woman in half — this is less a concert than a personal appearance. Jackson is a luminous presence live, but it’s a chilly light and can’t keep the All for You tour from feeling as spontaneous and involving as an Imax movie.