Janet Jackson’s dramatic return couldn’t have been timelier.
The opening montage of her “State of the World” tour, which stopped at Barclays Center Wednesday night, seemed ripped from the headlines with images of racial unrest, quickly followed by her suggested solution, “The Knowledge.”
It’s a tribute to the depth of her catalog that Jackson, 51, could craft a topical tour almost completely from songs throughout her 35-year career in music, while still seeming timely as ever.
The first 40 minutes of her show was dizzying, moving from the socially conscious opening volley of “The Knowledge” and “State of the World” to the fast-paced medleys that gathered impressive strings of hits and fan favorites — including a trio of songs from her breakthrough album “Control” — and updating the choreography without letting any of her trademark moves pass.
“So many hits, you guys,” Jackson said. “And we’re just getting started.” Giving classics like “Nasty” and “Miss You Much” so little time becomes understandable, as Jackson’s focus on material that resonates with her today becomes clearer.
After all, her life has significantly changed — with new son, Eissa, the world’s problems suddenly become personal.
The intensity of “What About,” where the choreography depicts domestic abuse, nearly brought Jackson to tears, telling the cheering crowd, “This right here is me,” emotions possibly heightened by her currently pending divorce from Qatari billionaire Wissam Al Mana. At the other end of the spectrum, love songs like the shimmering “Love Will Never Do (Without You)” and “Together Again” also took on new meaning, especially when she added a quick tribute to her brother, saying, “I miss you Mike,” as she pointed skyward. Later, Michael Jackson appeared in the video for “Scream” and she sang along with him.
It’s a reminder of the struggles she has already been through and how she remains positive, bringing people together in a “Rhythm Nation.”