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Whether or not you’re a fan of Michael Jackson, few wouldn’t recognise his distinctive vocals. With 13 Grammy Awards, a record 26 American Music Awards and 13 number-one singles to his name, plus estimated sales of over 350 million records worldwide, Michael Jackson truly is the undisputed King of Pop.
It’s no surprise then that years after his death, fans are still coming together to celebrate his music and legacy. Thriller Live has been delighting audiences since 2007 and rainy night in Manchester in 2020 was no exception!
I have always been a fan of MJ’s music; it transports me back to dancing around the kitchen on my mum’s feet as a kid, but until I was surprised with tickets to Thriller for my birthday, I hadn’t taken much interest in the man himself. In typical me fashion, I proceeded to eat, sleep and breathe everything, Michael Jackson, in the weeks running up to the show and was blown away.
Despite the controversy surrounding this undoubtedly complex figure, this was a man who gave millions to charities, changed perceptions through interacting with AIDS patients and personally sought out a kidney donor for a child in need. His positive messages of peace reached people everywhere, as did his music crossing genres, transcending race boundaries. Despite the fame, I saw only a quiet and passionate individual who was devoted to his fans (judging by one story of him ordering pizza to feed the masses gathered outside his hotel in the rain!) and determined to use his talent for good. Funny, charming and undoubtedly affected by a less than loving childhood, Michael Jackson has to be one of the most complicated and fascinating people to research.
Going into the show, I found myself almost nervous; ‘please let this be good’, I thought, ‘please let it do him justice’. Having grown even more attached to his music over the past weeks, I was suddenly aware that I had high expectations for a show purporting to pay tribute to a musical icon I wasn’t sure anyone could authentically replicate.
I needn’t have worried. Despite taking a while to warm up due to a poor turn out courtesy of storm Dennis, left in the capable hands of a cast who clearly took their duties seriously and were as devoted fans as the audience, the performance was legendary, and the spirit of the music prevailed. Taking us through the hits, from the early 60’s Motown days with an adorable rendition of ‘Rockin’ Robin’, through the Disco era with ‘Shake Your Body’, to the ground-breaking Thriller and Bad albums, the performance was a simple celebration of one man’s remarkable legacy. With superb costumes and second to none dance routines lovingly created based on the original music videos, there were no unnecessary frills attached, and the whole thing felt truly authentic.
Vocalists Kieran Alleyne (X-factor 2016 Finalist), Jason Brock, (Pop idol semi-finalist and member of 5boyz), Shaquille Hemmans, (MTV’s Awkward), Joseph Thomas, (X-factor 2013 finalist), Britt Quentin (Resident musical director and Jazz-vocal group M-pact), and Ceante Harris (Backing vocalist for Black Eyed Peas and Ceelo Green), performed outstanding renditions of the hits. Including, one truly memorable and tear-jerking performance from Jason Brock of ‘She’s Out Of My Life’. ‘I’m so glad he got to see this’, I thought smiling as I later watched a rare clip of Michael himself attending a performance before he died, clapping and pointing at the lead singer grinning. One thing’s for sure, regardless of opinion, Michael Jackson’s unprecedented impact on popular culture will never be forgotten.