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Taking the Michael

Did it matter that it wasn't the actual Jacko on the Phil stage at the weekend? Not a bit, says Ben Patey who joined the Thriller seekers

Published on May 21st 2007.

Taking the Michael

SURE, it may not have been the real Michael Jackson performing but, still, only in Liverpool would someone show their appreciation of a breathtaking rendition of Billie Jean by shouting “Go on lad,” and sending the packed Philharmonic Hall into stitches.

Thriller Live was billed as a celebration of the work of Michael Jackson and The Jackson 5. It didn’t disappoint.

Only in Liverpool would someone show their appreciation of a breathtaking rendition of Billie Jean by shouting “Go on lad”

Over 40 performers, including a full company of West End singers, a gospel choir and dancers, took the audience on a magical journey of hits, onto Jacko’s seminal Off The Wall record before bounding through Bad, Thriller, Dangerous and Blood On The Dancefloor.

A young “Michael Jackson” started the show. It was a little eerie how much he sounded like the real deal as he sang Ben. As I looked around, I noticed at least five people were crying. Only Michael Jackson could have written a song about a rat, and have it nominated for Grammys.

The compere was none other than Jackson’s ex choreographer, the former Shalamar singer, Jeffrey Daniel. Daniel’s occasional appearances gave the singers and dancers time to change into new outfits and made for an insightful respite from someone who had worked with Jackson for over 20 years. Daniel is also credited with teaching Jackson how to moonwalk.

As we entered the Bad and Thriller years, the audience were treated to several brilliant Jackson look and sound-alikes. The dancing was as you would expect: incredible.

One female singer in particular had caught my eye. It was ironic that my feelings for her gained momentum during the duet; I just can’t stop loving you.

By now, the packed out Philharmonic were all on their feet dancing to such classics as Smooth Criminal and Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough.

The band seemed effortlessly tight. It was easy to forget that a backing track wasn’t being played. The lighting – wonderful. The choreography – dazzling. The multimedia – tremendous. The atmosphere – electrifying. It was going to be difficult not to go into adjective overdrive.

During Earth Song, there were three different Michael Jacksons on stage at one point, as well as a gospel choir and a backdrop of the video.

I started to ponder…. How many pop singers would be having a night dedicated to their hits at the Phil in 20 years time? Justin Timberlake perhaps? Not a chance. Nobody comes close.

Forget the bizarre persona and the allegations...tonight was all about the music of, quite simply, the most outrageously talented performer ever to live. I think Wacko himself would have given the one-gloved thumbs up to the performances of those at The Philharmonic. I’m convinced there’d still be those shouting for an encore now given the chance.

Young, old, scally and otherwise had come to celebrate the work of a musical genius, the likes of which we may never see again.

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