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NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Janet Jackson enthralled the Essence Music Festival audience Friday, kept them on their feet for more than two hours and reminded fans why seeing her in concert was worth waiting two years.

From the opening notes of "The Pleasure Principle" to "Control" to "Rhythm Nation," the Grammy Award-winning singer enticed, teased and brought her fans on a journey through her No. 1 hits.

"She was unbelievable," said Ed Downs of Miami. "It was definitely worth the wait. I'm happy to see her make a comeback. It was impressive."

Jackson marked her return by closing the festival's first night inside the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans. It was her first time at the festival, which runs through Sunday.

Former NBA player Anferenee Hardaway called Jackson's performance "absolutely perfect," and said no one could tell she had been off the concert circuit for any length of time.

"She definitely gets better with age," he said, smiling.

Photos: The Jacksons -- a year later

Fans got a glimpse of Jackson's new, sassy, short-cropped hair and her signature, shapely figure on the finale show of "American Idol"  where she rocked classics like "Again" and "Nasty" and her latest release, "Nothing," from the soundtrack of the movie, "