The Velvet Rope Tour

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The Velvet Rope Tour
Velvet Rope Tour Book.jpg
Tour Book Cover
Tour by Janet Jackson
Associated album The Velvet Rope
Start date April 16, 1998
End date January 30, 1999
Legs 6
Shows 61 in North America
33 in Europe
3 in Africa
14 in Oceania
11 in Asia
122 total
Janet Jackson concert chronology
Janet World Tour
The Velvet Rope Tour
All for You Tour

The Velvet Rope Tour is the third concert tour by American recording artist Janet Jackson. Launched in support of her sixth studio album The Velvet Rope (1997), the tour visited Europe, North America, Japan, New Zealand, Africa, and Australia. Jackson was inspired to create an autobiographical show using elements of Broadway theatre, portraying her struggle with depression and self-esteem. It consists of twenty-six songs, several band interludes, and intense choreography along with nine costume changes and four sets. Jackson depicts themes such as burlesque and domestic violence among the show's complex production of pyrotechnics and theatrics. The tour was developed as a storybook, allowing spectators to cross beyond her "velvet rope" and experience her life story through the evolution of her musical career.

Its setlist was composed of a wide array of Jackson's discography, focusing on new material in addition to medleys of previous hits. The tour is divided into five segments, each displaying different themes and settings. Its racy visuals and depictions of violence drew controversy, in particular her renditions of "What About" and "Rope Burn," in which Jackson selects a fan from the audience, performing a lap dance and kissing them while strapped into a chair. The show's suggestive promotional ads were banned from a number of publications. Billboards of the image were reported to cause traffic accidents in Europe. A number of reviews commended Jackson's stage presence as consistently exceptional, noting improvement in her vocal delivery. It broke several attendance records and is the most attended stadium concert of all time in Hawaii. A private show was held in South East Asia by request of Princess Hamidah of the Brunei Royal Family.

HBO broadcast the show during a special titled The Velvet Rope: Live in Madison Square Garden. It drew over 15 million viewers and was the most watched program among homes subscribed to the network. The special won an Emmy Award, also nominated for Image Awards and TMF Awards. It was released on DVD as The Velvet Rope Tour – Live in Concert, certified platinum in several territories. Various aspects of the tour have influenced numerous performers, including Britney Spears, Pink, Rihanna, Christina Aguilera, Panic! At the Disco, Jay-Z, and Arashi. Jackson notably selected Justin Timberlake and Usher to open for the tour; introducing both to the public during their early careers. It has also inspired the careers of several performers, dancers, and professional choreographers.


Jackson developed the tour as an audiovisual storybook, sharing her life experience through the evolution of her music. Catherine McHugh of Entertainment Design reports "Part of the reason Janet Jackson titled her latest record The Velvet Rope was to criticize barriers that separate different classes in society. So from the beginning of her show, Jackson strives to prove her accessibility to her audience. The spectacular opening presents Jackson's life—at least professionally—as an open book."[1] The stage was designed by Mark Fisher, saying "She wanted to have a book opening and herself come out of it. So I finessed that book into the video screen." Fisher explained, "Each different scene in the show would be akin to turning the pages in this book, and all the albums that she'd done in the past—Control, Rhythm Nation, janet.—would be represented."[1] Regarding its introduction, Fisher said, "The elevator deposits her gracefully, as befits a princess, on the very front of the downstage." "And of course, the entirely cool and wonderful and breaking-new-ground aspect of it is that it's all made possible by a thin LED screen." Roy Bennett stated "We talked about developing the show around the scenarios of her career. I kept that in mind while lighting each different scene, but I tried to do it in an abstract way, without jumping too far away from the overall look of the show."[1]

The tour's promotional advertisement (pictured) drew controversy and was banned from numerous publications.

Jackson said, "To me, being onstage is about entertaining. I know there are people who just walk onstage and give you a show by just doing their music, but I always wanted something extra."[2] Jackson conceptualized the tour in Paris, saying "I knew what I wanted everyone to look like, especially for the opening number. I knew what I wanted everyone to wear. I visualized the whole thing." Jackson desired to create new themes for prior hits to avoid repeating previous performances.[3] The tour's logo is a variation of Akan symbol the Sankofa, meaning "you can't move into the future until you understand your past." Jackson tattooed the symbol onto her wrist and used the image frequently throughout the tour's promotional imagery.[4]


The tour's promotional advertisements were controversial for their provocative imagery. The image depicts Jackson in a "clingy, breast-enhancing bodysuit with what appears to be a nipple ring on the bodysuit's exterior and high-cut bikini panties." Several publications refused to publish the ad when they could not determine a way to present the image. Ken DeLisa, corporate affairs manager of The Courant, said the photo did not meet the publication's standards. Jackson's spokeswoman said the tour's producers rejected proposed alterations, adding certain publications "sent back an image that colored Janet's bosom to appear as a sports bra."[5] A billboard of the image in England was also removed after its suggestive nature led to multiple traffic accidents.[6]

The tour's rendition of "Rope Burn" was considered "incredibly sexy" and "what everyone was talking about," becoming its most controversial performance.[3] During the act, Jackson "plucks a male fan out of the crowd and ties his hands to the arms of a chair on stage while she gyrates around him and eventually kisses him."[3] The selected fan was required to be strapped into the chair due to safety concerns from Jackson's previous tour, after the participant had forcefully grabbed and fondled her while onstage. Jackson said, "Everyone thinks it's this kinky thing. But the reason he gets strapped in is on this last tour, this guy grabbed my crotch. I sat on his lap and then I stood up and he grabbed my crotch, and I was trying to move his hand and he was too strong for me and he was just rubbing on my crotch. There was nothing I could do, so I said to myself I would never let that happen again."[3] Jackson's performance of "What About" is also infamous for its portrayal of domestic violence and abuse. The tour's "racy" costumes were designed by fashion designer David Cardona, who commented "All her life it's been about Janet being cute. Now it's about Janet being sexy."[7]

Concert synopsis[edit]

The show's setlist consists of twenty-six songs, several band interludes and over twenty dance numbers, along with nine costume changes and four different sets, in addition to frequent pyrotechnics and theatrics.[8] At the beginning of the show, burgundy curtains accented by golden tassels are drawn apart, exposing an enormous book. It is covered by an equally large quilt embossed with "The Velvet Rope." A master of ceremonies opens the book, revealed to be an LED screen. Images dance across the screen until they explode and the screen splits, revealing Jackson behind it. She is subsequently lowered by elevator onto the main stage and the book stand is removed, leaving the screen hanging in place. It then moves to the back of the stage, followed by the appearance of the band and dancers.[1]

Jackson performing on tour, as seen in "You" music video.

The concert opens and closes with a giant storybook containing a massive LED video screen, among the first technology of its kind at the time.[1] The book opens, revealing a frontispiece consisting of stars and planets before its covers split, floating backward and lit up into dual video screens. Jackson emerges between the screens in a top hat and velvet suit, resembling a "19th century British merchant," along with eight dancers to perform opening number "Velvet Rope," using a refrain of The Exorcist theme. After transitioning into "If," Jackson stares at the audience in silence for several minutes to cheering and applause before performing "You." Jackson is backed by dancers strutting alongside her wearing dual-sided masks, representing an isolated persona. Jackson then takes to a center stage stool to perform unplugged versions of "Let's Wait Awhile" and "Again" with an acoustic guitarist. A "frenzied" medley of hits from Control succeeds the ballads, including "Control," "The Pleasure Principle," "What Have You Done for Me Lately," and "Nasty," as well as janet.'s erotic house number "Throb." The red velvet curtain closes the stage while a "hidden light-and sound show" likened to extraterrestrial film Close Encounters entertains the crowd during set changes.[8] The stage reveals the "deranged madness" of the following "hallucinatory" segment, featuring Jackson in a jester's headdress and satin bustier, with dancers dressed as "flowers, Mad Hatters, and horny gnomes" in a "Wonderland" setting. Jackson performs an upbeat medley of "Escapade," "When I Think of You," "Miss You Much," "Runaway," and "Love Will Never Do (Without You)" across a "blindingly bright, poppy-induced set design" with varied props, which include a smiling clock tower, inflatable moons, mammoth chaise, vases, and books.[8]

The set transitions into a "steamy burlesque house" with a succession of "Alright," "I Get Lonely," and instrumental interlude of "Any Time, Any Place." Jackson strips to a black bra and tight pants during "Rope Burn," selecting a participant from the crowd at random, "pointing and demanding, "You!". The chosen fan is strapped into a chair as Jackson proceeds to pole dance and perform a striptease and lap dance, planting a kiss on the fan for the finale. "Black Cat" is followed by an emotionally charged rendition of the rock-influenced "What About," one of the tour's most controversial and praised renditions. Jackson narrates as four dancers demonstrate two vignettes of domestic violence in abusive relationships, including rape and physical abuse, concluding in a gun pulled on the abusers in self-defense. Proceeding is "Rhythm Nation," in which Jackson rapidly dances using martial arts movements and nunchucks, followed by the ballad "Special." The tour's encore includes chandeliers and a final outfit change, performing "That's the Way Love Goes," "Got 'til It's Gone," and "Go Deep" before concluding with "Together Again."[8] Piano ballad "Every Time" and "Whoops Now" were performed exclusively on selected international dates.

Critical reception[edit]

"The title of Janet Jackson's current album, The Velvet Rope, is intended to describe the emotional obstacles she perceives to exist in modern relationships, and to invite her fans behind her personal veil of the senses. There was not much chance to get up close and personal with Jackson last Thursday when she started her world tour, as thousands of screaming admirers muscled in on the act. The feeling was more like being welcomed into her customized entertainment complex."

—Paul Sexton, The Times[9]

Sean Daly of Rolling Stone commended the show's "Vegas-style glam" and Jackson's "pure showmanship" as providing "a hellzapoppin' spectacle that featured enough over-the-top special effects to make Armageddon look like Driving Miss Daisy." The concert was considered "a lust-driven fairy tale," featuring "a giant storybook, containing a massive video screen" which opened and closed the show. Its varied themes were contrasted with psychiatric thrillers A Clockwork Orange and Solid Gold, being "as damn freaky as it sounds," using a color scheme described as "a well-lighted explosion at the Crayola factory." The show's second segment was analyzed as "deranged madness," questioning "Can this really be little Penny from Good Times?" Daly praised Jackson's "breakneck speed" and favorably considered it "summer-entertainment bliss," adding "Janet's still as nasty as she wants to be."[8] Sean Piccoli of The Sun Sentinel applauded the tour as a "birth of a new form of entertainment," effectively taking "music-video fundamentalism to a new extreme in live performance." Jackson's "athletic, superchoreographed presentation" was considered "sheery sensory thrill," thought to have "made Spice World look like public theater." The show was analyzed to be "as much a broadcast as it was a show," transitioning through "a seamless whirl of songs, costumes and set changes." Jackson's performances were described as a "technicolor barrage," ranging from "punched-up, steely grooves" to "pillowy, whispered ballads." Piccoli declared highlights to include the opening number, "an eerie incantation on the strangeness and isolation of celebrity," and the "explosively colorful" Control medley incorporating themes of "children's theater." The tour's rendition of "Rope Burn," showcasing Jackson as she "coaxed a young man from the audience onstage for a veritable striptease routine - for which the fellow was strapped by wristbands to his seat," was also praised. However, the show's unplugged ballad segment was thought to be "the evening's most unadorned moment." Piccoli added the crowd's "animated cheering" had been the most the arena had mustered in his experience.[10]

Robert Hilburn of The Los Angeles Times favorably reviewed the tour, exclaiming "There is so much of the ambition and glamour of a Broadway musical in Janet Jackson's new Velvet Rope Tour that it's only fitting that the concert program credits her as the show's creator and director." Although "those aren't terms normally employed in the pop-rock world," Hilburn applauded Jackson's credibility in portraying "a dazzling package, complete with snappy choreography, a colorful array of costumes and often striking staging." Hilburn observed "there were several moments in the show when Jackson stepped beyond the production values and touched us in a way the best pop performers have done over the years." Emphasis was placed on the "playfulness of the fairy tale staging" of "Escapade," the "artful musical stretch" of "Got 'Til It's Gone," and the intimacy of "soul-searching" ballad "Special," adding "Jackson has put a personal stamp on this show that humanizes not only the music but also the performer too." Jackson's "radiance and warmth" was believed to be the result of "her own new-found self esteem," overcoming some of the insecurities plaguing her since childhood. Upon the show's encore Jackson "lingered, clinging to the thunderous applause" in a way which "demonstrated a personal vulnerability and warmth," considered its "real breakthrough." Hilburn stated "the tour and album should go a long way toward helping Jackson finally get the credit she deserves as an artist."[2] The tour's "computer design-phase" was considered "a marvel of precision" by Tom Moon of The Inquirer. Its "eerie, robotic aura of a video game" was thought to be complimented by pyrotechnics detonated "At all the right, surprising moments," a troupe of "lockstep" dancers likened to "a phalanx of marching insects," and "stylized stage sets," ranging from "a child's nursery to a swing-era street scene." The show's lengthy "high-concept medleys" and "power-as-aphrodisiac theme" where analyzed to be commanding and accentuated her physical presence, ripping off her blouse with "theatrical grandeur." Additionally, Jackson's rapid "clockwork" movement was thought to be "high price," declared as nearly mechanical in certain segments. Moon declared "The audience cheered throughout the lavish production; the glossy, every-note-in-its-place music hardly mattered: This was Janet, the noted control freak. The sexually ambiguous diva. The drill sergeant of the rhythm nation. She can do as she pleases."[11]

Paul Sexton of The Times, who reviewed the opening concert at the Ahoy Rotterdam in Rotterdam, Netherlands, compared her two-hour performance to that of Broadway theatre, calling it "an audiovisual banquet."[9] According to the Birmingham Post the concert at the NEC Arena was an "accomplishment."[12] As the show began "after the impatient fans had worked themselves into a frenzy, Janet finally arrived amid a barrage of space-age pyro-technics. Of course, at an event such as this, the overall spectacle is as important as the music itself. In true Jackson tradition, the costumes and choreography in this show made for theatre of the highest order."[12] Her vocal performance was complimented, as Let's Wait Awhile and "Again" "both showcased Janet's ability to belt out heartfelt, if slightly soppy ballads."[12] Richard Harrington of The Washington Post commented "Jackson looked fabulous, danced fabulous, sang as close to fabulous as she ever has and in the end provided a fabulous two hours of entertainment that was equal parts rock concert, Las Vegas revue and Broadway musical."[13] Steve Jones of USA Today remarked, "Janet Jackson had a sellout crowd for the kickoff of her first U.S. tour in four years, and she blew the fans away with imaginative staging and sheer exuberance."[14] J.D. Considine The Sun noted "on albums, Jackson's sound isn't defined by her voice so much as by the way her voice is framed by the lush, propulsive production of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. No surprise, then, that her concert took a similar approach, treating Jackson's voice as just one component in the overall spectacle ... But even though Jackson showed strength from time to time—her singing on "Black Cat" was commanding enough to hold its own against the wailing electric guitar."[15]

The tour's date at Madison Square Garden (pictured) in New York City was filmed and aired on HBO, drawing fifteen million viewers.

Natasha Kassulke of the Wisconsin State Journal stated "The concert captured the scope of Jackson's talent from songwriter to singer, producer, actress, dancer and fashion diva."[16] Similarly, Gemma Tarlach of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel observed, "A tiny dynamo of constant motion, Jackson strutted, slunk and grooved her way from one end of the stage to the other ... Her voice, sometimes thin and girlish on her albums, sounded fuller and more powerful than ever. Michael's baby sister? Nope, the commander of her own rhythm nation, in complete control. The show was as much a feast visually as musically."[17] Kevin Johnson of St. Louis Post-Dispatch commended the tour as "one of the flashiest on the concert scene."[18] Elizabeth Aird, who reviewed Jackson's concert at GM Place, wrote "If there's a show sexier and more polished than Janet Jackson's The Velvet Rope extravaganza, it's only on Broadway ... Saturday night's show at GM Place was two hours of thrills pumped out by Jackson, her never-say-die dancers and her powerful band."[19] James Sullivan of the San Francisco Chronicle observed her concert at the new arena "offered a career retrospective, punctuated by new material, periodic video diversions and fireworks." "The show was a lot like an '80s flashback, though to its credit Jackson's eight-piece band—bass, guitar, drums and percussion, two keyboardists and two backup singers—added some inventive layering to her older hits."[20] Charles Passy of the Palm Beach Post reported Jackson's show at the Coral Sky Amphitheatre emphasized style over substance, commenting her "two-hour set was about half hormones—and half pyrotechnics. Without much in the way of a voice, she has sold her persona throughout her career. And as that persona has evolved from girlish teenager to sexually sophisticated woman, her albums—and tours—have provided a road map."[21] Jet Magazine reported, "With wit, sass, dance and a whole lot of sex appeal, Janet turns her song and dance fest into one of the major musical events of the year. In fact, it has become the must-see concert of the year."[22]

Jeannine Etter of Youth Outlook stated "Janet takes us from ballads to hard-core dance beats, and from sex to politics. The set changes appropriately reflect some of the stages of her musical development, from the more playful circus/funhouse vibe of light and playful songs like "Escapade" to the sexual side of Janet's music that keeps getting stronger and stronger as the years go by. During the performance, one lucky man is picked from the audience, strapped to a chair and "tortured" as Janet performs a highly erotic dance for him." The excerpt concluded "Janet is extremely beautiful, but she also demonstrates a humility obtained from pain, reflection and a sense of spirituality."[23] Christine Robertson of Evening Post, who reviewed Jackson's concert in Wellington, New Zealand, exclaimed "The sleek choreography and superb dance spectacle saw Jackson seldom take a breath from one set to the next—her control of the stage complete. Most of the time she plunged into two decades of hits which give her the right to stand her ground" among her contemporaries.[24] Jane Stevenson of The Toronto Sun exclaimed "pyrotechnics, set pieces and inflatables combine with non-stop singing and dancing for two hours of exhilarating entertainment."[3]

Broadcast and recordings[edit]

The show's concert in New York City was broadcast on the HBO special The Velvet Rope: Live in Madison Square Garden. It received over 15 million viewers and surpassed the ratings of all four major networks among viewers subscribed to the channel.[25] It was released on DVD as The Velvet Rope Tour – Live in Concert, certified platinum in the United States and Australia. Selected performance footage was also aired on MTV. A live music video for promotional single "You" contains concert footage filmed in Glasgow and Manchester.

Influence in entertainment[edit]

Critics have observed Christina Aguilera and Rihanna have been influenced by the tour.

The tour's themes, performances, and choreography have influenced artists of various genres as well as several professional dancers and choreographers. The theme of Pink's Funhouse Tour was likened to Jackson's Velvet Rope Tour among several critics, considered to have "clearly learned her tricks" from studying Jackson's performances.[26][27] In particular, Pink's rendition of the Divinyls’ "I Touch Myself," depicting "a masturbatory fantasy brought to life," was considered "instantly" reminiscent of "Janet’s Velvet Rope gropes."[26] Christina Aguilera cited the tour as an inspiration, saying "I just love watching people's performance videos. And she, being an amazing performer ... I aspire to do my little shows like that one day."[28] The "flashy Roberto Cavalli-designed costumes and preternatural interest in the risqué" of Aguilera's Back to Basics Tour were later considered "ripped right off the pages" of Jackson's Velvet Rope Tour by LA Daily News.[29] The stage and props of Cher's Do You Believe? shows drew comparisons to Jackson's tour.[30] MTV News likened the circus theme, costumes, and atmosphere of Panic! At the Disco's Nothing Rhymes with Circus Tour to have "most closely resembled Janet Jackson's audience-dividing, hypersexual 1998 Velvet Rope tour — all that was missing was a chair dance."[31] The carnival theme and theatrics used in Japanese group Arashi's Arashi Marks 2008 Dream-A-Live shows were compared to Jackson's festival setting from the tour.[32]

The tour was among the first concerts attended by Britney Spears, who commented "I remember the first time I went to her show, I was just like 'Oh my God,' I wanted to be her." Spears added, "she just has this presence that you're so drawn to her, you can't keep your eyes off her."[33] Spears' rendition of "Stronger" on the Dream Within a Dream Tour referenced Jackson's performance of "You," performing in a similar vein among masked dancers wearing one-piece attire. Several performances and themes of Spears' Onyx Hotel Tour drew comparisons for its choreography and sensuality,[34][35] as well as a reworked lounge version of "Baby One More Time" sonically reminiscent of Jackson's "Rope Burn." Spears' following tour The Circus Starring Britney Spears used a circus theme, observed to be partially inspired by segments of the tour.[27] During "Lace and Leather" on the Femme Fatale Tour, Spears performed a lap dance for a selected fan while wearing a boa after a pole dance, considered a direct reference to Jackson's performance of "Rope Burn."[36] An analysis of Rihanna's Last Girl on Earth Tour observed there was "definitely a Janet vibe," particularly comparing Jackson's performance of "Rope Burn," "in which she tied an audience member to a bed and proceeded to seduce them," to Rihanna's rendition of "Skin." The critique added, "Fast forward 13 years later, and there was Rihanna, writhing around on a lucky audience member at the conclusion of Skin off her current Loud album."[37] New Zealand's praised Lady Gaga's Born This Way Ball as the best "pop-star show" since Jackson's Velvet Rope Tour.[38]

Tours from Panic! At the Disco drew comparisons to Jackson's show.

In a documentary, Jay-Z revealed being inspired by a segment of Jackson's tour in which she stood in silence and stared at the crowd for several minutes to massive applause; imitating the technique during his own concerts. Beyoncé has also been reported to emulate a similar tactic during several live shows.[39] JoJo praised the tour, tweeting "Janet Jackson Velvet Rope Tour DVD. Freaking out. Mesmerized. Living. Can't stop yelling at the tv screen. Omg."[40] JoJo later recorded the album Agápē while The Velvet Rope Tour played on a studio television for inspiration.[41] Canadian singer Anjulie became "obsessed with music" and "developed [my style] through watching" the tour, recalling "I remember seeing The Velvet Rope Tour and then getting the VHS of that, putting it on slow motion so that I could learn every single dance move."[42][43] British artist Rowdy Superstar commended Jackson's performance of "If" and "stayed up the whole night learning all the choreography from the Velvet Rope Tour."[44] BBC Asian Network presenter DJ Kayper called Jackson "hands down, the best female performer of all time," praising the tour's rendition of "Rhythm Nation" in which Jackson dances with nunchucks.[45]

Jackson's performance of "Rope Burn" has influenced numerous artists to incorporate a similar routine during live shows. An anecdote stated "Her performance of this song, when she brought a fan on stage for a strip tease during The Velvet Rope Tour has been co-opted by the likes of Britney Spears and Rihanna in later years."[36] Other artists observed to be inspired by the rendition include Pink, Beyoncé, Christina Aguilera, the Sugababes, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, and Chris Brown.[39] Nicole Brown of Vibe stated "Long before Rihanna and Nicki were handing out lap dances like hot cakes, Miss Jackson revolutionized dirty dancing with her “Rope Burn” routine in 1998. Janet works her way up and down a pole before laying a passionate kiss on an excited male fan."[46] A critique of Chris Brown's Fan Appreciation Tour remarked "Brown isn’t the only celeb getting freaky on stage with their fans, singer Janet Jackson was one of the first celebrities to get freaky with fans on a stage in front of thousands of on-lookers."[39] Katy Perry was also thought to emulate the performance on the California Dreams Tour, in which she brought a male onstage and "teasingly traced a finger down his bare chest and stomach."[47] The Guardian observed influence from Jackson in the Sugababes' performance of "Virgin Sexy" on the Angels with Dirty Faces Tour, "in which they lapdance around the sole member of the audience who is male and in his twenties," adding "It's a trick Janet Jackson did a few years ago, on her Velvet Rope tour."[48] In 2013, Wall Street International reported the performance inspired British artist Alex Da Corte's painting "Velveteen (Wilson Kelvin McQuade)," offering the analogy "a lap dance performed by one artwork for another may be crass, yet too fitting to be ignored."[49]

Jackson sought Justin Timberlake to open for the tour during his early career.

The tour notably promoted Justin Timberlake and Usher when Jackson selected both as its opening acts during their early careers, exposing them to a wider audience. Both artists credit Jackson as a major showmanship influence from both "an entertainment and evolution perspective."[50][51] While Timberlake was part of 'N Sync, Jackson personally selected them to open for the tour, helping to introduce the relatively unknown group to the public. Timberlake said "I had her poster on my wall so I'm psyched," later describing the experience as "fulfilling."[52][53] Jackson performed with the group on several dates, including joining them for a live a capella rendition of Stevie Wonder's "Overjoyed." A biography stated it was a "highlight" moment for Timberlake which "gave Justin a chance to show his family and friends how far he had come."[54] The tour was the largest audience the group performed for at the time; JC Chasez commenting "That was great because we got to see how a real professional tours. And not only that she is really sweet. We really enjoyed it."[55] Chris Kirkpatrick added, "She is very good at entertaining. We learned a lot — that if people want to hear just the music, they can buy the CD. But it's the whole live aspect of changing the songs every night or the whole theatrical performance that she puts on. She's definitely one of our mentors when it comes to touring and the stage show. Her show told a story, and that's what people like to see."[56] Timberlake was previously inspired to become a performer after attending Jackson's Rhythm Nation Tour, saying "She didn't just stand there and sing her song," fascinated by her "energy and exuberance". A friend commented "He was always into Janet."[57] Author Sean Smith stated, "Much has been made of Michael Jackson's influence on Justin's music, but he is only one of a number of influential artists who have shaped the musical style of Mr. JT, and he is not even the most influential member of the Jackson clan. That accolade firmly belongs to Janet Jackson," who was "one of the most successful artists of the last twenty years."[54] Following the tour, Timberlake and Jackson became "good friends," ultimately leading to Timberlake performing alongside Jackson during a segment of Jackson's controversial Super Bowl Halftime Show performance.[58] Usher described opening for Jackson as "the biggest event" of his career and an "honor," saying "She's a definite entertainer, works hard and sweats every night. I learned a lot about how to make an artist look like a star."[51] Nick Lachey and group 98 Degrees opened for several dates and experienced increased commercial success following the tour.[59] Upon the release of Never Gone, AJ McLean of the Backstreet Boys described his hair as resembling "Janet Jackson on the Velvet Rope Tour."[60]

The tour was one of the first concerts to feature split-screen LED technology, among the first developed at the time.[61] Espinosa stated "it was a great learning experience, she's the top of the top,"[62] commenting "Dance-wise, (she taught me) how to become a better dancer and performer, and that you also have your good and bad days. Most of all you can’t take things personally."[63] Backing dancer Tiana Brown was inspired to pursue a professional dancing career after watching the tour.[64] So You Think You Can Dance finalist Jessica King included the tour among her "favorite dance moments."[65] It was also the first concert attended by So You Think You Can Dance choreographer Travis Wall.[66] Choreographer Shaun Evaristo cited the tour as an inspiration, saying "That show changed my life and so did the dancers."[67]

Awards and nominations[edit]

The Velvet Rope Tour was nominated for four Emmy Awards.

List of accolades for "The Velvet Rope Tour"
Award Nominated work Result
Emmy Awards Outstanding Technical Direction/Camera/Video for a Special Won
Emmy Awards Outstanding Choreography Nominated
Emmy Awards Outstanding Lighting Direction (Electronic) for a Drama Series, Variety Series, Miniseries, Movie or a Special Nominated
Emmy Awards Outstanding Music Direction Nominated
Image Awards Outstanding Variety Series/Special Won
Image Awards Outstanding Performance in a Variety Series/Special Won
Performance Magazine Awards Creative Stage Set of the Year Won
TMF Awards Best Live Act Nominated
World Music Awards Legend Award for Outstanding Contribution to Pop Music Won

Set list[edit]

  1. "Video Introduction" (contains elements from "Someday is Tonight", "Rhythm Nation", "Livin' in a World (They Didn't Make)", "Special", "Escapade", "Black Cat")
  2. "Velvet Rope"
  3. "If"
  4. "You"
  5. "Every Time" 1
  6. Medley:
  7. Control Medley:
  8. "Throb"
  9. Medley:
  10. "Alright"
  11. "I Get Lonely"
  12. "Any Time, Any Place" (Instrumental Interlude)
  13. "Rope Burn"
  14. "Black Cat" 3
  15. "What About" 3 (contains an instrumental excerpt of Kool & the Gang's "Jungle Boogie")
  16. "Rhythm Nation"
  17. "Special"
  1. "That's the Way Love Goes"
  2. "Got 'til It's Gone"
  3. "Go Deep"4
  4. "Together Again"

1 Only performed in the final performance in Tokyo, Japan
2 Performed only on the European shows
3 Cut at some shows including Oakland, CA
4 Added to the setlist halfway through the European leg of the tour

Opening acts[edit]

Additional notes[edit]

  • The tour grossed over $139 million worldwide. Total grosses with inflation from 2011's average ticket price brings its gross equivalent to $240,200,000.
  • The tour's closing date at the Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii broke attendance records. The stadium's original capacity of 35,000 for a concert was expanded to 38,000 to accommodate additional ticket demands, making Jackson the only artist in the stadium's history to fill the venue over its intended capacity. Jackson currently holds the record for the most attended concert at the Aloha Stadium.[68]
  • The HBO broadcast of The Velvet Rope Tour garnered numerous accolades including 13 Emmy Awards nominations, winning in the category of "Outstanding Technical Direction/Camera/Video for a Special."
  • Jackson performed a private show at the Jerudong Park Amphitheatre in Brunei, South East Asia by request of Princess Hamidah of the Brunei royal family. An exclusive audio recording of the show was issued to attendees of Hamidah's twenty-first birthday party.[69]
  • Q-Tip made a surprise appearance during "Got 'Til It's Gone" for both dates in New York City.
  • Busta Rhymes's "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See" was sampled in a dance breakdown during "Nasty."
  • Portions of the proceeds from the North American shows were donated to America's Promise, founded by Colin Powell to help children and youth from all socioeconomic sectors. Jackson made several appearances with Powell to promote the organization. Powell attended one of the shows to briefly address the audience on stage.
  • A promotional interview disc in which Jackson answers thirty-four tour questions was released in Europe.[70]
  • A special edition double disc set was issued to Best Buy stores in Germany in other parts of Europe, including a seventeen-minute interview and tour photo book. Its second disc features thirteen songs selected by Jackson, mainly of the trip hop genre, including Massive Attack, Esthero, and Dario G.[71]

Tour dates[edit]

Date City Country Venue
April 16, 1998 Rotterdam Netherlands Ahoy Rotterdam
April 17, 1998
April 19, 1998 Ghent Belgium Flanders Expo
April 29, 1998 Paris France Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy
May 1, 1998 Munich Germany Olympiahalle
May 3, 1998 Vienna Austria Wiener Stadthalle
May 5, 1998 Milan Italy FilaForum
May 7, 1998 Stuttgart Germany Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Halle
May 8, 1998 Frankfurt Festhalle Frankfurt
May 9, 1998 Leipzig Messehalle
May 11, 1998 Copenhagen Denmark Forum Copenhagen
May 13, 1998 Turku Finland Elysée Arena
May 15, 1998 Oslo Norway Oslo Spektrum
May 16, 1998 Stockholm Sweden Stockholm Globe Arena
May 17, 1998 Gothenburg Scandinavium
May 19, 1998 Berlin Germany Velodrom
May 20, 1998 Dortmund Westfalenhallen
May 22, 1998 Zürich Switzerland Hallenstadion
May 24, 1998 Toulon France Le Zénith
May 26, 1998 Lyon Halle Tony Garnier
May 27, 1998 Ghent Belgium Flanders Expo
May 29, 1998 Birmingham United Kingdom NEC Arena
May 30, 1998 Newcastle Telewest Arena
May 31, 1998 Manchester Manchester Evening News Arena
June 3, 1998 Glasgow SECC
June 4, 1998 Sheffield Sheffield Arena
June 6, 1998 London Wembley Arena
June 7, 1998
June 9, 1998 Arnhem Netherlands GelreDome
June 11, 1998 Hamburg Germany Alsterdorfer Sporthalle
June 12, 1998
June 16, 1998 Paris France Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy
June 17, 1998 London United Kingdom Wembley Arena
North America
July 9, 1998 Washington, D.C. United States MCI Center
July 11, 1998 Cleveland Gund Arena
July 12, 1998 Cincinnati The Crown
July 14, 1998 Grand Rapids Van Andel Arena
July 15, 1998 Moline MARK of the Quad Cities
July 17, 1998 Detroit Joe Louis Arena
July 18, 1998
July 22, 1998 Camden Blockbuster Sony E-Center
July 24, 1998 Rosemont Rosemont Horizon
July 25, 1998
July 28, 1998 Milwaukee Bradley Center
July 29, 1998 Minneapolis Target Center
July 31, 1998 Maryland Heights Riverport Amphitheatre
August 1, 1998 Kansas City Kemper Arena
August 3, 1998 Denver McNichols Sports Arena
August 5, 1998 West Valley City E Center
August 8, 1998 Vancouver Canada General Motors Place
August 11, 1998 Portland United States Rose Garden Arena
August 13, 1998 Oakland The Arena in Oakland
August 14, 1998 Sacramento ARCO Arena
August 16, 1998 Mountain View Shoreline Amphitheatre
August 20, 1998 Inglewood Great Western Forum
August 23, 1998 Anaheim Arrowhead Pond
August 24, 1998 Frensno Selland Arena
August 26, 1998 Phoenix America West Arena
August 28, 1998 San Diego San Diego Sports Arena
August 29, 1998 Las Vegas MGM Grand Garden Arena
September 3, 1998 Greenville BI-LO Center
September 4, 1998 Charlotte Blockbuster Pavilion
September 5, 1998 Nashville Nashville Arena
September 7, 1998 Dallas Starplex Amphitheatre
September 9, 1998 San Antonio Alamodome
September 11, 1998 West Palm Beach Coral Sky Amphitheater
September 12, 1998 Tampa Ice Palace
September 15, 1998 Orlando Orlando Arena
September 16, 1998 Atlanta Lakewood Amphitheatre
September 18, 1998 Boston FleetCenter
September 19, 1998 Atlantic City Mark G. Etess Arena
September 21, 1998 Bristow Nissan Pavilion
September 22, 1998 Burgettstown Starlake Amphitheater
September 24, 1998 Columbus Polaris Amphitheater
September 26, 1998 Rochester Blue Cross Arena
September 27, 1998 Ottawa Canada Corel Centre
September 29, 1998 Toronto SkyDome
September 30, 1998 Montreal Molson Centre
October 2, 1998 Worcester United States Worcester Centrum
October 4, 1998 Hartford Hartford Civic Center
October 5, 1998 University Park Bryce Jordan Center
October 6, 1998 East Rutherford Continental Airlines Arena
October 10, 1998 New York City Madison Square Garden
October 11, 1998
October 14, 1998 Baltimore Baltimore Arena
October 16, 1998 Rosemont Rosemont Horizon
October 18, 1998 Auburn Hills The Palace of Auburn Hills
October 20, 1998 Raleigh Walnut Creek Amphitheatre
October 21, 1998 Virginia Beach GTE Virginia Beach Amphitheater
October 25, 1998 Atlantic City Mark G. Etess Arena
October 27, 1998 Memphis Pyramid Arena
October 28, 1998 New Orleans Louisiana Superdome
October 30, 1998 The Woodlands C.W. Mitchell Pavilion
October 31, 1998
November 14, 1998 Cape Town South Africa Green Point Stadium
November 19, 1998 Durban Kings Park Stadium
November 21, 1998 Johannesburg Ellis Park Stadium
November 27, 1998 Christchurch New Zealand WestpacTrust Centre
November 28, 1998
November 30, 1998 Wellington Queens Wharf Events Centre
December 1, 1998
December 3, 1998
December 5, 1998 Auckland Ericsson Stadium
December 7, 1998 Brisbane Australia Brisbane Entertainment Centre
December 9, 1998 Sydney Sydney Entertainment Centre
December 10, 1998 Newcastle Newcastle Entertainment Centre
December 12, 1998 Sydney Sydney Entertainment Centre
December 13, 1998 Perth Perth Entertainment Centre
December 14, 1998
December 15, 1998 Melbourne Melbourne Park
December 17, 1998
December 20, 1998 Adelaide Adelaide Entertainment Centre
January 12, 1999 Tokyo Japan Nippon Budokan
January 13, 1999
January 14, 1999
January 16, 1999 Osaka Osaka-jō Hall
January 17, 1999
January 19, 1999
January 20, 1999
January 21, 1999 Nagoya Nagoya Rainbow Hall
January 23, 1999 Hamamatsu Hamamatsu Arena
January 25, 1999 Tokyo Nippon Budokan
January 26, 1999
North America
January 30, 1999 Honolulu United States Aloha Stadium

Commercial reception[edit]

The tour's premiere concert at the Joe Louis Arena sold out within three hours, prompting Jackson to add a second showing for a later date.[72] It grossed over $33 million in the United States alone.[73] Its European leg had completely sold out. The tour had an estimated worldwide attendance of nearly two million, reported to exceed ten million by The Honolulu Advertiser.[74] The tour's closing date at the Aloha Stadium in Hawaii broke attendance records, exceeding its original capacity to accommodate additional ticket demands, making Jackson the only artist in the venue's history to do so.[68]

Commercial reception (released figures only)
Date Venue City Attendance Ticket Grossing
Tickets Sold Tickets On Sale Percentage Sold
July 9, 1998 [75] MCI Center Washington, D.C. 15,069 15,069 100% $1,383,142
July 24, 1998 [76] Rosemont Horizon Rosemont 26,204 26,204 100% $1,542,845
July 25, 1998
August 16, 1998 [77] Shoreline Amphitheatre Mountain View, California, Mountain View 21,420 21,420 100% $1,269,625
August 28, 1998 [78] San Diego Sports Arena San Diego 11,000 11,000 100% $1,052,910
September 3, 1998 [78] BI-LO Center Greenville 10,840 10,840 100% $1,054,344
September 5, 1998 [79] Nashville Arena Nashville 14,667 14,667 100% $1,007, 214
September 11, 1998 [79] Coral Sky Amphitheater West Palm Beach 17,000 17,000 100% $991,891
September 12, 1998 [79] Ice Palace Tampa 14,539 14,539 100% $1,095,560
September 29, 1998 [80] Skydome Toronto 16,314 16,314 100% $1,220,928
October 3, 1998 [81] Hartford Civic Center Hartford 12,500 12,500 100% $1,004,109
October 10, 1998 [82] Madison Square Garden New York City 28,930 28,930 100% $2,542,024
October 11, 1998
January 30, 1999 [83] Aloha Stadium Honolulu 38,224 38,224 100% $2,664,000


  • Musical Director: Rex Salas
  • Drums: Lil John Roberts
  • Keyboards: Rex Salas and Darrel Smith
  • Percussion: Terry Santiel
  • Guitar: David Barry
  • Bass: Sam Sims
  • Background Vocals: Stacy Campbell and Rebecca Valadez


  • Tina Landon (choreographer)
  • Kelly Konno
  • Gil Duldulao
  • Michael Andrews
  • Tyce Diorio
  • Teresa Espinosa
  • Shawnette Heard
  • Nikki Pantenburg
  • Robert Vinson


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External links[edit]