Tuesday, April 16, 2024

St Lucia rocked by the Jacksons

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As an all-singing, all-dancing fivesome, the Jacksons were, perhaps, the original boy band. Now, with the oldest of them aged 61, they’re back in the groove.
Soulful groove and fierce funk brought the remaining members of the Jackson 5 to St Lucia to mark an emotionally-charged tour for the family.
It’s almost four years since the “King of Pop” Michael Jackson died. And for the Jackson brothers – Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Marlon – even taking to the stage without their beloved younger sibling remains tinged with sadness.
As they called on their audience to remember Michael the entertainer, the Jacksons rolled back the years to have Pigeon Island grooving to the beat on their first tour in 29 years.
By doing a call and response, they got the audience more involved and by song No. 4 the sweat dripping on the floor required a costume change.
Even though the crowd was not as big as expected, they cheered and danced as the four-piece group showed their class as the masters of Motown in a night pulsing with nostalgia and celebration.
They bounded onto the stage on Friday night last week with all the gusto which made the group such a spectacle when they arrived on the scene more than four decades ago.
Jackie, 61, Tito, 59, Jermaine, 58, and Marlon, 56, now have a combined age of 234, but, in their glittering outfits, pulled off spinning dance moves which would put their younger successors in hospital.
Tito had on a white shirt with sequins on the elbows and black pants and was never without his guitar. Jackie had on a black sequinned shirt and black pants with chains hanging off the side, and Marlon had on the white version to his shirt.
Jermaine was the more flashier of the four with a red tailcoat jacket with lots of bling and chains and carried a blinged-out guitar for some of the songs.
Although many years of performing have passed for the brothers, they proved they’d lost none of their vigour and swagger during the 90-minute show.
Marlon showed it wasn’t just Michael who could execute deft manoeuvres. The only dance he didn’t do was the moonwalk.
Much of the set list picked itself. As the Jackson Five and then The Jacksons, they had a string of hits right through the 1970s and into the early 1980s.
But opening stompers Can You Feel It – the 1980 hit – and Blame It On The Boogie provided early reminders of the Jacksons’ formidable strengths without Michael, and turned the Pigeon Island stage into a disco.
These two songs brought the audience to their feet and set the tone for the energetic evening.
Thoughts of Michael were never far away and after they sang his classic Rock With You the show moved to a more reflective mood. Poignant photographs of the young group just starting out interspersed with footage showing just how far the group had come from those early days and this gig somehow reached another level when Michael was in the room in some form – whether as songwriter or on screens, which prompted audience cries of “We love you Michael”.
As their musicians skipped from funk to soul to rock to honeyed balladry, there was an innocence about songs such as Heaven Knows I Love You Girl and Michael’s blissful Rock With You which combined with nostalgic images – the Jacksons on the cover of long-forgotten pop mags or piled up asleep together on a bus as unwitting children in the midst of a global pop phenomenon.
They were never a political band, but Man Of War sent a timeless pacifist message.
There were moments of real emotion. A near-tearful Jermaine, whose vocal range was near perfect throughout the night, sang Michael’s 1991 song Gone To Soon under images of his departed sibling, and the same brother’s rendition of I’ll Be There touched places few pop songs can reach.
Some of the biggest cheers from the audience were reserved for the group’s early hits, I Want You Back, ABC, Never Can Say Goodbye performed as a medley.
But it was their choreographed dance moves, backed by a tight, well-rehearsed seven-member band and two female backup singers which added gloss and panache to the night.
As more and more of the audience were allowed to come to the front of the stage and one female fan was lucky enough to be greeted with a handshake from one of pop’s original pin-ups – Tito. She also stealthily took up a towel he dropped after wiping off the dripping sweat.
The show built to a soaring crescendo with pop perfection including acknowledging Michael’s own more hit-filled solo career with his singles Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’, Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough, Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground) to have the audience in raptures.
They ended each set in dramatic poses and the only thing missing from their overwhelming performance was fireworks – but they didn’t need it as they brought their own heat and sparks to the stage.
The Unity Tour – the first since 1984 has already made stops in England – and in St Lucia the Jacksons’ songs, Michael’s songs, 10-minute funk jams and stellar early 1970s hits showed that despite the gaping hole in their lives and their famous group, the Jackson brothers proved the passion for their music will live on.

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