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David Mallet
Janet Jackson
Not Rated.

Standard 1.33:1
English Dolby Digital 4.1
English DTS 4.1
English Dolby Surround

Runtime: 114 min.
Price: $24.98
Release Date: 9/3/2002

• “Janet Speaks All For You
• Photo Gallery
• “Would You Mind”


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Janet Jackson: Live in Hawaii (2002)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Though she never actually went away, Janet Jackson nonetheless enjoyed a nice little comeback in 2001. Response to her 1997 album The Velvet Rope and the ensuing 1998 concert tour seemed positive but they didn’t live up to the high standards she’d set in the past. If you current sales don’t equal or surpass prior results, people see it as a failure, even if the artist in question does quite well objectively.

In truth, Janet’s 2001 release All For You sold only about two million copies, a big drop from the six million each of 1989’s Rhythm Nation 1814 and 1993’s janet. It even marked a decline from the three million of Rope. Nonetheless, buzz means everything, and All For You seemed to revive Janet’s heat factor. The title song emerged as a major hit, and the ensuing tour enjoyed much more sizzle after the perceived flop of the 1998 “Velvet Rope” tour. Many regarded the latter as a flop; in reality, it did fairly well, but the perception of it as a disappointment remained.

The “All For You” trek seemed more successful. For example, instead of the single show at DC’s MCI Center scheduled in 1998, Janet moved enough tickets for three concerts there in 2001. Too bad Janet didn’t bother to do much to change the performance in the intervening three years. Actually, Janet found a framework she liked back during the 1993-94 “janet.” tour and hasn’t changed it much since then. As a result, the concerts remain enjoyable, but the lack of innovation seems disappointing.

Of course, I’ve seen Janet live nine times over the years, so I’m better acquainted with that framework. Most people would only see her once, so they wouldn’t recognize the similarities between the shows. And it’s not like Janet totally duplicates the concerts from tour to tour; sets and some other elements change, but the basic set-up remains quite similar.

Janet Jackson Live In Hawaii presents the final concert for her 2001-02 “All For You” tour. That outing progressed oddly. She started in the US during the summer of 2001 and planned to head to Europe that fall. However, Janet cancelled the overseas leg due to fears after September 11. She resumed the tour with a short US jaunt in January 2002 as she hit some smaller markets she missed the first time. The brief schedule seemed to exist mainly as warm-up for the February 16 show in Honolulu, intended for broadcast on HBO and included on this DVD, Janet Jackson Live In Hawaii. The concerts on this brief leg duplicated those seen during the earlier US outing; the Hawaiian show offered the sole stadium performance, but the staging and set remained the same as at the arena venues.

Not surprisingly, Hawaii favors material from All For You. The show features eight songs from that album: “Come On Get Up”, “You Ain’t Right”, “All For You”, “Trust a Try”, “Son of a Gun”, “Would You Mind”, “Doesn’t Really Matter” and “Someone to Call My Lover”. Velvet Rope contributes “Got ‘Til It’s Gone” and “Together Again”, while janet. offers “Again”, “That’s the Way Love Goes” and “If”. From Rhythm Nation 1814, we find “Love Will Never Do (Without You)”, “Miss You Much”, “Rhythm Nation”, “Alright”, “Black Cat”, “Escapade” and “Come Back to Me”. Control provides “What Have You Done For Me Lately”, “Control”, “Nasty”, “When I Think Of You”, and “Let’s Wait A While”, while “Runaway” comes from the greatest hits collection Design of a Decade.

As I noted, the structure of this concert highly resembles that of prior tours. Early in the show, Janet does the requisite “cool down” set in which she performs quieter songs accompanied by acoustic guitar. Not long after that, we get the “Whimsical Medley”. It combines lighter tunes like “Runaway” and “Miss You Much” and dresses Janet and the dancers as bugs, gnomes, and other cutesy characters. Another repeated motif comes during “Would You Mind”. Janet pulls a guy on stage and molests him, something she’s done the last two tours as well, though for different songs. Janet always finishes the main set with “Rhythm Nation”, and the last two tours ended the total show with “Together Again”.

While I don’t like the sameness of the different tours, one could argue that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Crowds eat up Janet’s shows and seem to enjoy all of the repeated elements, so only repeat attenders like me will complain, I suppose. Still, I’d think that Janet would have enough artistic ambition to make each tour more unique. It’s not like she goes out so frequently that severe alterations are impractical. She only hits the road every four years or so, which leaves plenty of time to create individual presentations. Each of Madonna’s five tours offered totally different affairs, so there’s no reason Janet can’t do the same.

Well, at least she changes the staging, and that offers one of the strongest elements of the “All For You” tour. Sets don’t usually impress me, but the one seen in Hawaii provides a genuinely impressive piece. This doesn’t come through very clearly on the video, but in the live setting, it looked terrific. It includes panels that move about and reveal different elements. Janet comes out on an elevator that lowers against a stark background, and eventually the set opens to reveal the band. Later in the show, the panels move to reveal a neon Chinatown setting that looked really excellent in person. Janet may not have put much thought into the setlist, but the stage shows a lot of effort and remains one of the most impressive I’ve ever seen.

Otherwise, Hawaii offers typically good but unexceptional Janet. I always enjoy her shows, but they never really stand out from the crowd. She’s clearly a much more natural and relaxed performer than she was on her first tour, but she still seems a little detached and distanced at times. She lacks the charisma of someone like Madonna and doesn’t come through as terribly dynamic, but she holds the stage fairly well. The band and dancers seem similarly competent, but they never emerge as anything remarkable. Overall, Hawaii provides a professional and lively show, but it never threatens to catch fire.

Veteran director David Mallet presents the material in his usual concise manner, though a few “innovations” mar the video. Four times during the show, the action cuts away from the stage to show “behind the scenes” clips. After “Love Will Never Do (Without You)”, “Nasty”, “Would You Mind” and “Rhythm Nation”, the cameras go backstage. The piece after “Mind” shows the ecstatic male Janet just molested as he heads back to his seat, whereas the other three offer looks at Janet as she changes costumes. Unfortunately, we don’t get to see any really juicy bits, but this still seems pretty hot.

Nonetheless, I don’t like these variations from the standard presentation. The ending of “Love Will Never Do” appears especially intrusive since it alters the music. The conclusion of the song gets muted to reflect the audio level backstage, and that ruins the song. The other numbers seemed less heavily affected, but I think that backstage material should remain in the supplements; concert videos should stay onstage.

By the way, for those who want to sneak a peek at Janet’s goodies, you get a look during the program’s prologue – maybe. The opening shows Janet on the Hawaiian beach, and she then romps toward a waterfall. She drops her top along the way, and though the view remains from behind, we get a pretty good peek at her breasts. However, I question whether or not this is actually Janet. Her face remains hidden pretty well, so I think it’s probably a body double. Maybe it actually is Janet, but the presentation makes this very unclear. It’s pretty hot anyway you cut it, though.

Too bad the concert itself doesn’t seem quite as incendiary. Overall, Janet Jackson Live In Hawaii offers a competent representation of a capable performer and a solid show. Janet always puts on a good concert, but she doesn’t seem able to take things to the highest level. Her shows remain likeable and entertaining but they lack much spark. Nonetheless, Janet appears above average as an artist and a performer, and Hawaii gives us a generally entertaining piece of work.

The DVD Grades: Picture D+ / Audio B+ / Bonus C-

Janet Live In Hawaii appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Why do so few modern 4:3 ratio concert programs look good? Britney Spears Live In Las Vegas presented a fairly strong image, but Madonna’s Drowned World and U2’s Elevation came across as quite weak visually.

Like this one, Janet’s only prior concert DVD – 1999’s release of Velvet Rope - came from an HBO broadcast, and it presented a problematic image. I hoped that Hawaii would improve upon that visual dud. It didn’t, as the results still seemed messy.

Whenever shots went beyond close-ups, sharpness became an issue. Wider images came across as soft and fuzzy most of the time; a few of those shots appeared reasonably well defined, but usually they lacked precision. Shimmering occurred at times, while jagged edges created a moderately frequent concern. Source flaws weren’t an issue, though the picture often showed a blocky, somewhat pixilated appearance. The material seemed edgier and rougher than I’d expect.

Colors varied, but they typically looked somewhat runny and heavy. Janet mixed up the production to a significant degree, so it offered a true spectrum of hues. Unfortunately, none of them seemed to work very well. Whether we saw the stark neon hues of “Rhythm Nation” or the kaleidoscopic panorama of the “Whimsical Medley”, the colors always looked thick and dense, and they lacked the appropriate tightness and definition. Black levels seemed somewhat murky and inky, and low-light shots failed to deliver much clarity. Janet Live In Hawaii didn’t present a terrible visual experience, but it came as a definite disappointment.

Happily, the soundtracks of Janet Live In Hawaii easily bettered the problematic visuals. The DVD offered both Dolby Digital 4.1 and DTS 4.1 mixes. These utilized the front side and rear side speakers and omitted the forward middle one. (Though the DTS version registered as 5.1 on my receiver, it still didn’t use the center channel.) Both Dolby and DTS tracks sounded very similar to me, though I’d recommend the DTS edition if just for one small reason: during the DD track, I heard a loud pop at the 32:17 point that didn’t exist on the DTS mix. Otherwise, I didn’t detect any significant differences between the two.

Hawaii didn’t do anything splashy, but it provided a solid audio setting. Logically, the sound remained oriented toward the front speakers. They offered very good stereo imaging, and spread the instruments quite nicely across the forward channels. The songs blended together naturally and the different elements seemed appropriately placed and delineated. The surrounds added general crowd noise and reinforcement of the music, but they didn’t contribute anything else to the package. That seemed fine, as they helped create a concert ambience but never became gimmicky.

Audio quality appeared very good for the most part. Vocals generally came across as warm and natural. At times Janet sounded slightly sibilant, as the producers poured on a little too much reverb; this appeared especially prominent during the quieter numbers like “Again”. Otherwise, the vocals seemed distinct and smooth, and instrumentation came across as similarly accurate. The mix spread the components cleanly and let them breath fairly well, and the track showed solid range. Highs appeared reasonably crisp and bright, while bass response seemed terrific. The track boasted tight and deep low-end that packed a nice punch. As with Velvet Rope, the producers amped up the crowd noise to unnatural levels, but it didn’t appear as obnoxious here. The audio’s minor concerns left Hawaii just short of an “A”-level grade, but it still worked quite well across the board.

Unlike the virtually feature-free Velvet Rope DVD, Hawaii tosses in a couple of extras. Most interesting, we get a collection of different performances of “Would You Mind”. That’s the track during which Janet pulls some lucky schmoe onstage and generally gropes him. We see clips from five shows, and each one offers the entire performance of the song. They’re all similar enough to make the presentation a bit monotonous, but this still seems like a fun extra.

The Photo Gallery appears as a running videotaped piece that lasts three minutes, 15 seconds. Accompanied by some concert audio, I believe this program essentially duplicates the program from the All For You tour, but I can’t say for certain.

Lastly, in Janet Speaks All For You, we discover 10 minutes and 15 seconds of interview footage. Actually, the piece includes only a little chat from Janet, as it mostly offers concert clips, shots from videos, and gushing praise from fans. Janet specifically discusses five songs from All For You and also yaks about recording and concerts in general. It’s a fairly lackluster and generic piece that sheds little light on Janet.

Note that in the “Special Features” area, the DVD’s case mentions “behind the scenes footage from the All For You concert” and “exclusive tour rehearsal footage”. To me, this implies that those pieces appear separately in the disc’s “Bonus Features” area, but they don’t. Any “behind the scenes” shots show up as part of the main concert. I didn’t detect any rehearsal material, but some may have appeared during the “Janet Speaks” program.

Janet Jackson remains one of my favorite performers, but she really needs to vary her live shows more than she does. Nonetheless, Janet Live In Hawaii offers a good documentation of a typically solid Janet concert. It doesn’t excel in any way, but it largely gets the job done. Unfortunately, picture quality seems weak, though the DVD provides solid reproduction of the audio. The package included a few minor extras. Overall, this one works because the music sounds good, but it will likely mainly appeal to Janet’s biggest fans.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5967 Stars Number of Votes: 62
5 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.