The Jacksons: Music’s Royal Family Down Under

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Michael Jackson was alive in spirit tonight. Four of the King of Pop’s brothers – Jermaine, Marlon, Jackie and Tito – recently re-formed as “The Jacksons” in a bid to stage a tour for their fans around the world. I was privileged to be one of those fans, attending the final Australian-leg concert of their “Unity Tour” at Brisbane’s Riverstage.

It almost wasn’t to be! At 6pm, less than two hours before the concert was scheduled to kick off, a vicious tropical storm hit Brisbane. Strong winds, heavy rain and relentless thunder and lightning forced promotors to consider the devastating possibility that they may have to cancel the show. Normally a storm wouldn’t affect the evening’s proceedings as for most of their tour The Jacksons have performed at indoor venues and theatres. However Riverstage, located in the heart of Brisbane, is an outdoor venue offering audience members absolutely no protection against the weather.

Luckily for fans the storm quickly disappeared. It was as if Michael had pulled some strings from above to allow the concert to take place. By 7.30pm you’d never have known there was anything to be concerned about in the first place. And so, the show went on…

At 8pm the lights went down and the crowd erupted as The Jacksons appeared on stage. From the opening number, their 1981 anthem “Can You Feel It”, to the funk-tastic finale, 1978’s “Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground)”, the brothers were in control, delivering a performance that had the audience on their feet, singing and dancing for the duration of the concert.

Despite the nasty weather before the show, the house was packed with people of all ages from across Queensland. I attended the show with my partner – both of us in our mid-20s. To our left was an elderly woman and to our right was a young couple with their newborn baby, proving the widespread impact the Jacksons have made on all demographics.

The brothers were in top form all night long. Vocally they were outstanding. Their harmonies were as tight as ever and their solo spots, especially Jermaine’s, were flawless. Marlon’s dancing was also impressive, busting out all kinds of funky moves – many of which were made famous in the 1960s by “Godfather of Soul” James Brown, whom the group idolized growing up.

The show, backed by a brilliant 9-piece band including Michael’s “This Is It” guitarist Tommy Organ, featured a plethora of popular titles from the Jackson 5 (“ABC”, “I Want You Back”, “The Love You Save”, “Never Can Say Goodbye”), The Jacksons (“Lovely One”, “Blame It On The Boogie”, “This Place Hotel”), Michael Jackson (“Rock With You”, “Wanna Be Starting Something”, “Don’t Stop Till Ya Get Enough) and even Jermaine Jackson (“Let’s Get Serious”).


For the more hardcore Jackson-enthusiast there were a number of lesser-known gems in there, too, including the Jackson 5’s “Looking Through The Windows”, The Jacksons’ “Show You the Way to Go” and Michael’s “Can’t Let Her Get Away”, from his 1991 solo album “Dangerous”. The atmosphere in the venue during “Can’t Let Her Get Away”, which was used to introduce the band and backing singers to the audience, was electric.

I was pleasantly surprised when the brothers performed “Man of War” – a personal favourite of mine. Another noteworthy moment comes during “I’ll Be There”. If Michael was there, he’d have asked us all to “look around” to see thousands upon thousands of fans swaying back and forth as one. “It’s beautiful!” he’d say – and it was.

But perhaps the most touching moment of the evening was Jermaine’s tear-jerking solo performance of “Gone Too Soon”, which he sang while a montage of footage and images of Michael played on the video screen behind him. We’ve all seen that moment in videos on Youtube, but it’s a whole different experience seeing it live. The way Jermaine emotes during that performance will break your heart all over again.

Notable exclusions for me were “Dancing Machine”, “Things I Do For You” and “Who’s Loving You” – all of which I’d hoped and expected the brothers would perform. Another track I’d love to have seen them do live is “Destiny”, one of my favourite songs from their 1978 album of the same name.

Overall, The Jacksons hit it out of the park, far exceeding everyone’s expectations. They managed to compensate for the loss of their lead singer with absolute class. The vocals were equally shared among the brothers, with Tito and Jermaine rocking their guitars throughout. Michael and his message of love was ever-present – his legacy honored with respect and dignity.

The “Unity” show would have to be one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to, if not the best. Granted I never had the opportunity to see Michael Jackson himself perform live, I have seen some other quality acts. As far as live concerts that I’ve personally attended, I’d put The Jacksons up there with Coldplay, whose “Mylo Xyloto” tour is the most spectacular concert experience I’ve ever been part of, and Neil Diamond, one of my all-time favourite artists who I’ve seen multiple times. I’ve also seen the likes of Janet Jackson and Prince live – but in my personal opinion The Jacksons, even without Michael, were better.

I envy those who got to see the entire group, including Michael, live in concert while in their 70s and 80s prime. THAT would truly have been something to behold.


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