Inside D.C. entertainment

Why Constitution Hall isn't too small for a Janet Jackson show

January 10, 2011 - 03:15 PM
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Jackson plays Constitution Hall on March 22. (Photo: UMG)

Janet Jackson is coming to DAR Constitution Hall on March 22, as part of her "Number Ones, Up Close and Personal Tour," where she'll be performing only the No. 1 charting hits she has racked up over the course of her career. No sooner than the Live Nation show was announced, the moaning and groaning began—a thousand different variations of the same question: Why is a superstar like Janet playing DAR?

Some of the Twitter/Facebook outrage is actually pretty funny:

"JANET JACKSON is coming to Constitution Hall?....yaw sure they didnt say Freddie Jackson?"

"Janet Jackson at Constitution Hall? What is going on in America?"

"Wow, she used to sell out the Verizon Center."

Jackson is just the latest artist to inspire whining along the lines of "my favorite band is too big to play DAR." But your favorite band probably isn't too big for the 3,700-seat venue, unless your favorite band is U2.

Hip-hop star Drake played there in October (although the Washington Post rightly noted that the venue was "very, very cozy" for a rising star of his caliber). Robert Plant plays there next month, and the venue has brought in everyone from Vampire Weekend to the Roots over the past couple of years.

It actually makes a lot of sense that Jackson would play a mid-sized venue, if you think about it.

For starters, the economy stinks

In that same Washington Post piece about Drake playing DAR, Chris Richards pointed out that, in these trying economic times, it often makes more sense to book a 4,000 seat show and know it'll sell out than bet on a big venue like Verizon. He also noted that DAR has recently hosted R. Kelly,  Mariah Carey, and Vampire Weekend, all acts that can sell large venuve. And if Constitution Hall is good enough for Mariah....

It's called the "Up Close and Personal Tour," not the "Squint at Me From the Nosebleeds" tour

Which came first, the mid-sized venue or the intimate name of the Jackson's tour? Not sure, but you can't do an intimate tour in an arena. Unless you're giving away free drinks and passing out binoculars.

It's not 1989

Look, I loved Rhythm Nation 1814 and Control as much as anybody, and very much enjoyed 1993's Janet and 1997's The Velvet Rope. But what can you really say about Ms. Jackson's post-millennial output? There aren't enough combined fans of All for You, Damita Jo, 20 Y.O., and Discipline to fill a Starbucks, let alone a stadium.

This isn't some sort of permanent venue demotion

Playing a mid-sized venue once doesn't mean playing mid-sized venues forever. Jackson (or her tour organizers) obviously wanted to play intimate, sophisticated venues for this —in addition to DAR, she's playing Radio City Music Hall in New York City  and the Chicago Theatre, which are among the nicest venues of their size in the country (we're not going to talk about the fact that she's playing a Houston rodeo on March 4). 

Artists often decide they want to play smaller venues for a while, to connect with the people and get back to what it is they first loved about performing. But that doesn't last forever.  Don't worry, after this tour Jackson will likely have had her fill of mingling with the people and will go back to performing for us from a safe distance.

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