The Jacksons. Not the Jackson 5, for obvious reasons (sob). Last night was their much anticipated (by me) reunion show in London. I’ve always been a huge fan of The Jacksons and when it comes to Michael I’m one of those crazy, crying, hysterical fans, so I was pretty excited to go last night but also apprehensive that it would be like watching a load of backing singers, flailing without a lead. Well I needn’t have worried…
The show began with the obligatory warm up. A lady called Denise something or other, who told us afterwards that she’d be hanging around in the foyer, if we wanted to buy her CD. Sorry Denise, your singing was really good, but we’re Jackson fans. It was a tough crowd and we were there for one reason only.
Additionally, poor Denise was hopelessly scuppered by the appearance of Peter Andre in the audience at the back. Pete tried to sneak in without notice, but word spread round the auditorium that he was there and before long there were camera flashes going off in his face and people scrambling to shake his hand. Oh well, it provided a bit of interest while we waited for the show to begin when finally, at 8:30… the lights went down, the four microphones appeared on stage and suddenly, there they were…
Subtly choreographed and effortlessly slick, it was immediately clear that these guys were old pros. Tito on guitar, looking thinner than you’d except, Jackie the oldest and quietest, yet somehow more charismatic than Jermaine (the usual peoples’ choice) and then Marlon. Super fans will tell you that Marlon used to get the belt from Old Papa Joe Jackson more than any other sibling – apparently for his failure to dance correctly. I watched very carefully to see if he screwed anything up and can tell you that I think Joe was a being a little bit harsh.
The set list was a fabulous mixture of 25 tracks: Old favourites like ABC, I Want You Back, Blame it on the Boogie and Never Can Say Goodbye combined with lesser known songs from their enormous back catalogue of albums such as Push Me Away and Man of War.
Sharing the singing was Jermaine, who took most of the high stuff, Marlon who gave it his best shot (bless him – WHACK) and Jackie, whose smooth tone is clearly made for back up but nevertheless, did a pretty good job. Marlon interspersed the singing with little speaking interludes, telling us his memories from The Ed Sullivan Show, or occasionally busting out a ‘Michael Jackson spin’ which looked about 0.1% as good as Michael, but maybe was one of those things that was probably Marlon’s idea to begin with and Michael probably pinched it, like brothers tend to do with your stuff.
What was especially nice to see, was how much the brothers obviously enjoyed doing the show. I guess 50 years of singing back up for your electrified, super talented brother and then finally taking centre stage, was bittersweet.
Of course, it was unavoidable that Michael Jackson would feature heavily in the show. But it was done not with mawkishness, but with ownership. The space left by Michael was filled with tributes, images, glittery costumes and songs and the concert was not only a beautiful memorial to a clearly much loved relative, but a spectacular showcase of the group’s collective talent.
Jermaine sang Gone too Soon, to a background of Motown clips, stills and later photos of Michael looking unfortunately, progressively more drowsy. The obligatory kiss to the sky and subsequent applause, that lasted just that little bit longer than usual, was heartfelt, not indulgent. This was and is a real family.
The musicians forming the band were introduced towards the end, where they each took their turn to show off. Needless to say, these guys were the very best of the best. From guitars, to drums, to percussion to keyboards, not only did they sparkle but they made the Jacksons shimmer against a back drop of jaw-dropping musical ability.
The two hour show ended with Michael’s hits Wanna Be Starting Something and Don’t Stop Til you Get Enough. The audience, who’d been on their feet for most of the show, were enraptured. The Jackson’s had them in the palm of their hand, which was a situation they were more than familiar with.
I’m glad I saw them live for the first, and what I suspect will be the last, time (Jackie is 61 years old, not that you could tell) and I can certainly see why they’ve stuck around for so long. In a boring era of transient, vapid and disappointing pop music, where a fast buck is more important than a developed talent, The Jacksons are real life singing relics from a time when music was really music. Ten out of ten from me and if you’re in Germany or Australia where the tour is rolling onto, I’d recommend catching this special moment in music before it’s over.