Forty years ago, I was a twelve year old kid, just starting high school and, like most kids my age at the time, my idols included pop stars like David Cassidy, The Osmonds and another group of brothers known collectively as The Jackson Five. Five very talented siblings, featuring a 13 year old boy who astounded the world with his vocals on his debut solo single, a love song for a pet rat called ‘Ben’. When The Jackson Five toured Australia in 1973, I was lucky enough to be there at their Sydney show at The Hordern Pavilion. It was my very first concert experience. As fate would have it, the first of many, many concert experiences. This is where it all began for me so, when the opportunity came my way to relive that night, forty years later, I couldn’t resist.
Waiting in the foyer of the WIN Entertainment Centre in Wollongong, you couldn’t help but smile at the fans that had gone all out to dress appropriately for the occasion. There were young children, wearing sequined vests and hats, and one white glove in honour of their late idol, Michael Jackson. One rather tall, lanky gentleman was dressed in purple velvet pants and wore a brightly coloured hat and sunglasses. He kept the waiting fans entertained with a ‘moonwalk’ demonstration. It was encouraging to see the crowd getting into the spirit of things. There was a good cross section of ages in the audience. Ironically, many of these fans would not have been born when I first saw the Jackson brothers sing and dance their way into the hearts of Australians.
We settled into our seats, eagerly anticipating what was to be, for me at least, a dance down Memory Lane. And once The Jacksons hit the stage, it was too hard not to dance! The band and backing singers took to the stage first, followed by the brothers we had all come to see. Dressed mainly in black, with Jermaine wearing a red jacket, The Jacksons brought the house to its feet with ‘Can You Feel It’, and we did. I think it’s safe to say that we felt it all the way down to our bones. Here they were, the brothers we had virtually grown up with, sadly now four instead of five, but still with the same passion and the same soul that made them stars forty odd years ago. The crowd stayed on their feet for ‘Blame It on the Boogie’ and that’s pretty much what everybody did.
The set was a mixture of old and newer songs, some recorded by The Jacksons/Jackson Five and some were Michael’s solo hits, including ‘Rock With You’, ‘I Wanna Be Where You Are’ and, as a touching tribute to their late brother, ‘Gone Too Soon’, sung by Jermaine, which was accompanied by photos of Michael on the screen behind them. It was clearly a hard thing for him to do and the audience knew it, feeling every emotional note that he sang.
But while there was some sadness in the memories they shared with us, nostalgia can also be uplifting and that was definitely the case when the band of brothers took us way, way back to the early days of their musical career with a medley of hits including ‘I Want You Back’, ‘ABC’, ‘The Love You Save’, ‘Never Can Say Goodbye’ and ‘I’ll Be There’, a song sung with such emotion by Jermaine, that it brought tears to my eyes. My only grievance here is that these songs, some of The Jackson Five’s biggest hits, deserved more of an airing rather than being abbreviated versions entwined in a medley, as superb as it was.
The Jacksons have aged well. Marlon, in particular, still has the moves and he hasn’t forgotten how to use them. His energy and his rhythm made him truly a sight to behold. Jermaine’s voice sounds even more soulful now, perhaps a legacy of his life experiences. Tito, with guitar in hand and oldest brother Jackie, hold the group together. Together, their slickly choreographed dance moves and soulful harmonies, and sparkling sequined suits, made this show a delight for the senses in every respect. The nine piece band supporting them were tight and flawless and the guys spent a reasonable length of time acknowledging each musician and backup singer for the part they played in making this show the spectacular event that it was.
The show ended with a couple of Michael’s solo hits ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ and ‘Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough’. The crowd clearly had not had quite enough and apparently neither had The Jacksons. They managed one more song which demanded audience participation ‘Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)’. A directive that most of us in the room obeyed willingly, keen for one last boogie before saying goodbye.
You can still catch The Jacksons at Newcastle Civic Theatre on 21 March 2013 and Brisbane Riverstage on 24 March 2013. You won't be disappointed.
by Sharyn Hamey
To view full gallery click here