By David Tingley
I must confess to being something of a closet fan of the late, controversial and bizarre musical genius that was Michael Jackson. I wasn’t lucky enough to have seen him in concert back in the day – and I had assumed I had missed it. Until, that is, a friend recommended the tribute show Jackson Live in Concert. I looked them up and, as luck would have it, they were about to play The Martlets Hall in Burgess Hill. I was booked!
The show, which consisted of six band members and three dancers, opened with an incredibly powerful rendition of Gotta Be Starting Something. The band was tight and sounded great from the off. The first thing that struck me about the show in that opening number was how much of a show it was. Clearly MJ always brought a huge show when he was performing in stadiums and arenas, but I had imagined that this would simply be a band playing the hits. The in-sync dancers, the lighting changes right on cue, the false endings on songs; all made a fantastic live show.
The professional musicians all played their part in the imitation. The mysteriously mono-named ‘Ben’ has been a Jackson tribute artist for ten years and he really takes the role seriously, complete with ‘hee-hee’, ‘sha-mon’ and some very odd facial expressions which I could easily imagine Jacko doing! In Earth Song he donned the legendary white shirt and took on MJ’s somewhat misguided saviour position for the chorus. And the lead guitarist too; for Black or White he performed the solo triumphantly and walked amongst the audience with MJ while excited onlookers grabbed selfies while they could.
The dancers really added to the production, whether it was the start of The Way You Make Me Feel and seductive slow moves by one in a sparkly blue dress, suited for Smooth Criminal or jumping off the stage as ghosts in Thriller for the second half.
It was especially great to see an almost packed house of a local theatre on a Saturday night in ‘X Factor season’ – sadly almost unheard of these days. The reputation of this formidable tribute show went before it and the crowd came in droves, shouting ‘we love you Michael’ as they did!