There shall be no talk of "wardrobe malfunctions" in connection with Judge Joel Pearce's review of this concert disc.
"We all have the need to feel special. This need has brought you here, this need has brought me here."—Janet Jackson
The footage on this disc was recorded at the last show of Janet Jackson's Velvet Rope tour, where she performed for a full crowd at Madison Square Garden. It was aired on television in 1998, and has now been tossed on a DVD with the added benefit of a pair of surround sound audio tracks. As a show at the end of a tour should, it displays a great deal of polish and energy, and the disc is a good way to remember this portion of Janet Jackson's career.
Even without considering the quality of the music, Janet Jackson is an awesome performer. She dominates the stage and controls the show in a remarkable way. Her presence is remarkable, making her seem larger than life, even on a small screen rendition of this concert. Her timing is exquisite, carefully gauging the audience's reaction before she speaks or begins the next song. I was reminded of the way that a good stand-up comedian controls the timing of each word and action perfectly in response to the audience. Because of this, it is clear that the audience belongs to her, at least for the two hours that she is on stage.
And this was a great audience for her to record. They respond to her exactly the way she wants, singing along with her songs, cheering, caught up in her every movement. This relationship between performer and audience is something you can never capture on an audio CD, and a concert DVD is a great way to explore these dynamics.
Although she has an active and spontaneous relationship with the audience, the show is also really well choreographed and planned. There is a lot of spectacle going on in the Velvet Rope Tour, and all of it is larger than life and pulled off without a hitch. There are a bunch of costume and set changes, so there is always something interesting to see.
The timing in her music is impeccable as well. Her sense of rhythm is perfect, which shows in both her singing and her dancing. Fortunately, the rest of her band is just as tight. The style of the music changes as often as the sets and costumes, which keeps the concert from becoming monotonous. Her music shows a variety of influences, from straight rock to soul to funk to R&B, and each of them is blended together well at appropriate times. The technical quality of the music lives up to the quality of the spectacle, which is important.
While the sound is tight and clean, there is one serious problem. Both the Dolby Digital and the DTS track lack a low frequency effects (LFE) channel. This absence is sorely missed, especially on some systems. On a system with huge tower speakers as front surrounds, this absence might not be noticed as much as on a satellite system. No matter what I did with my system, though, the bass was never as rich and deep as it should have been. The rest of the sound is so full and rich, the soundstage is active, but it just doesn't have the depth of bass that you want to hear when you are pumping out funky concert music. The DTS track is the way to go if possible, as it sounded richer and fuller than the other tracks.
The picture is perfectly acceptable for a television special. It is in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and it does a fine job handling all the colors and lights. I was not blown away by it, but it has aged well.
The disc does not have any extras at all.
Hardcore fans of Janet Jackson probably already own this disc, and have no reason to regret their purchase. Casual fans may want to weigh how important audio quality is to them, although I don't think the problems with the bass will show up in all audio systems. In the end, I have decided to grant the disc a full pardon, although Eagle Vision should be watched closely for further technical oversights. Dismissed.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Eagle Vision
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