Michael Jackson (of the Jackson Five) doesn’t fool me for a minute. No 12 year-old kid is that good at singing, dancing and controlling a crowd. Michael is really a 36-year-old midget.
I know because I saw him and his brothers put on their pandemonium-prone show Tuesday night at the International Amphitheatre. And what a show it was.
After the Undisputed Truth (of “Smiling Faces” fame) had finished their set, the venerable E. Rodney Jones (of radio station WVON) made the first of his several appeals to the audience, telling the crowd, “Please stay in your seats or the show will stop.” Jones, however, could not dampen the electric ardor and once the lights went out, non-stop screaming and stage rushing began in earnest.
When the J-5 bounded on the stage in matching white suits with silver piping, the crowd went looney. So much screaming filled the Amphitheatre I never could figure out what was being sung. Immediately after the first number, the house lights came up and E. Rodney Jones made another appeal. He got a lot of laughs.
Usually at shows drawing a very young audience there is an inverse relationship between the kinetic energy generated in the audience and the amount of talent on stage. Young kids are easily suckered, falling head over heels for some super-processed, slicky junk that offers about as much nourishment as sugar-coated breakfast cereal.
But the Jackson Five sing a different song altogether. They go through all that stylized Motown choreography, but underneath their undeniable layer of hokey “showmanship”, they really are an exciting act.
And they know how to plug into an audience. In addition to the inevitable thousands of little girls who bounced, boogied and beckoned from their chairs and the aisles, Michael the Midget successfully turned on quite a few mothers over twice his age.
Thus, the J-5 show was actually two good shows rolled into one. While the five brothers (Jackie 21, Tito 18, Jermaine 16, Marlon 15 and Michael) were dancing their way through such songs as “I Want You Back,” “I’ll Be There,” “Goin’ Back to Indiana,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “Look Through the Window.” I was also fully enjoying the audience.
For me, the high point came when seven-year-old Randy Jackson joined his brothers on stage for some dancing and conga-playing. His presence triggered a charge by a wave of kiddies, some of whom were small enough to dash between the ushers’ legs.
But while all the brothers are handsome, Michael is the real heart-throb of a J-5 audience. His brothers may call him “big nose,” but to the fans he is as pretty as fantasy can be. He is also a dynamite lead singer and when he dances, he certainly knows how to strut his stuff.
Toward the end of the show Michael sang four of the songs he has released independently of his brothers. “Rockin’ Robin” is my fave, but according to the audience scream-o-meter, his new single, “I Want to be Where You Are,” was the evening’s biggest hit.
Conveniently enough, the last song was “Never Can Say Goodbye.” Then it was every man, woman and child for himself. Some of us merely tried to slip away into the night, but if we didn’t move fast enough, we were trampled by little people on their way to the stage door for one last grace-giving glimpse of the biggest teen-age soul act in the business.
But most of the fans were out of luck. It takes the Jackson Five exactly 30 seconds to dash from the stage, out the door and into the waiting limousine. It’s hard to be a big star. Passionate fans are very scary – especially for a 36-year-old midget.
--- Jack Hafferkamp