AU ABROAD

Live Review: The Jacksons - Sydney Entertainment Centre (16.03.13)

The Jacksons

The King of Pop's untimely demise in 2009 may have left a void deep within the hearts of many a music lover, but rather than stray from the stage four of Michael Jackson's remaining brothers - Jermaine, Marlon, Jackie and Tito - instead decided to don their diamantes, bust out their dancing shoes and pay homage to their fallen band mate. Australian audiences were this week granted the chance to catch one of the original soul family bands live and in the flesh after almost 30 years when The Jacksons brought their Unity Tour to town. And who are we to say no to an unabashed night of Motown?

From the moment The Jacksons strode out on stage in their glittering get-ups, the 5,000-strong crowd instantly felt as though they’d been transported back to the days of flares and ‘fros. The R'n'B powerhouse of a track “Can You Feel It” instantly had three quarters of the crowd on their feet, trying in vain to match the never-miss-a-beat choreography of The Jacksons themselves. For men in their late 50s and early 60s, their movements were effortless and only improved as they rolled into “Blame It On The Boogie”, said dance moves looking remarkably better than the ones myself and two friends concocted for the school talent show when we were eight.

With two classics out of the way early, it was time to honour the legacy of their youngest brother Michael with “I Wanna Be Where You Are” and “Rock With You”, Jermaine, Marlon and Jackie all taking turns in replicating Michael’s own vocals while Tito worked the guitar. Most astoundingly, they moved with all the youthful vigour of their younger days, which is no mean feat when you're nearing your fifth decade in the game. The crowd were spurred on by the famed performers and enveloped the stage, clearly in the mood to make like a dancing machine and get down – and the security didn’t seem to mind.

The brothers then took things down a notch and gave themselves the chance to have a bit of a breather while they brought some heartfelt sentiments to the evening. Perched on stools in the middle of the stage they talked about auditioning at Motown, home to the likes of Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, The Four Tops… It was a who's who of American R'n'B and around the same time the audience collectively realised that they were witnessing one of the definitive bands of the past century. Slower numbers “Lookin’ Through The Windows” and “Time Waits For No One” followed as The Jacksons reached out and shook the hands of those clustered at the front of the stage. Fittingly, the tribute to Michael came in the form of his own 1993 track, “Gone Too Soon”. For anyone skeptical, even in 2013 The Jacksons were never going to be a parody of their former selves.

“Are you enjoying yourselves?!” beckoned Marlon with all the gusto of a gospel preacher. “No, no, Marlon, they can’t be enjoying themselves until they hear the earlier stuff!” hollered Tito. And with that, they ran through a momentous Motown medley of funk, pop and disco – kicking off with the band’s major label debut and subsequent number one “I Want You Back” mimicking their original American Bandstand dance moves. It ran seamlessly into their follow up hits “ABC”, “The Love You Save”, “Never Can Say Goodbye” and “I’ll Be There" – all markers of the band’s immense back catalogue. Tito wasn’t kidding.

While it’s par for the course for vocalists to introduce their band members, The Jacksons made it far from a mere roll call. Each band member was granted a solo and some serious interaction with the guys as they jived around the stage, air guitaring and grooving in impeccable fashion to the extended “This Place Hotel” the band was serving up.

The Jacksons were now on the home stretch, but not before they threw in a few early Michael hits that myself – and much of the younger portion of the audience – never thought they’d get to experience live. “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” saw the crowd chanting “Mama-se mama-sa mama-cu-sa” in unison while “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” took us back to Michael’s hit 1979 release Off The Wall.

Come 10.40pm, it was time to shovel the funk. And yes, that’s exactly what it sounds like. The band and back-up singers gathered alongside the brothers and moved with enviable rhythm as they danced, shouted, and shook their bodies down to the ground in what was the perfect amalgam of ‘70s disco and funk. There wasn’t an encore, but with a near perfect setlist and the grandiose way they went out, The Jacksons would have been hard-pressed to top what they'd already delivered.

See the full photo gallery here.