Michael Jackson Presents..."This is My Life"
A Review of Michael Jackson's 30th Anniversary Concert Special
Although I'm probably the only person in America who doesn't own Thriller, I actually did try to get tickets to the two Michael Jackson 30th anniversary concerts. With all the big names on the bill and the promise of a Jackson 5 reunion, it just seemed too big an event to miss. Well, Ticketmaster has never been a friend of mine, and I got locked out of their website for the first 15 minutes of the onsale. Then, when I did get through the only tickets left were in the $1000 and up range. I considered it, but I have been saving my money in the hopes that the skeletons of famous siamese twins Cheng and Eng will show up on Ebay, so I passed.
So, like most of America, I had to settle for watching the 2-hour televised compilation of the two concerts. First up was Usher, looking very Clan of the Cave Bear. Or was he referencing vintage Sonny and Cher? Whitney Houston, looking as bad as everyone said she did, strutted through "Wanna Be Startin' Something" on toothpick legs. Whitney and Usher performed with gusto and got the thumbs up from Michael, who was seated in a box with Liz Taylor, Macauley Culkin, and Liza Minnelli. They were like some twisted Royal Family watching Wimbledon from the Royal Box.
Destiny's Child sounded and looked great, but why did they sing "Bootielicious" instead of a Jackson song? That seemed to be a trend for the night. Shaggy did it as well, saying he was singing one of Michael's favorite songs. Perhaps this is Michael trying to support new talent, or perhaps this concert is just one big commercial?
And now "the one and only" Liza Minnelli, looking like she just stepped out of Kiss of the Spider Woman. Many people were introduced as "the incomparable" or "the one and only." The show was big on hyperbole. I found Liza inspirational. Despite her health problems, made obvious by her muumuu, shaking, and slurring, she really gave it her all. She's a belter, just like her mother before her. Gloria Estefan didn't look too healthy either, or maybe she found the freakshow in the box at stage left unsettling. Michael gave everyone the same thumbs up sign after their performance. He looked sedated and sad. I started to wonder if he'd be able to get through his performance without getting winded, the way he seemed to on the MTV Awards.
Finally, after sitting through this dreck for an hour, I was rewarded with the much-ballyhooed reunion of the Jackson 5. They jammed through 3 of their classic tunes. I was struck by how handsome and, um, normal, Michael's brothers seem. Michael could have gotten by and gotten laid with that old nose. Now I wonder how he can even breathe through that narrow protuberance in the middle of his face these days. Jermaine still has the flattop fade haircut, looking as if he's still on the "Victory" tour. At one point, Michael sidled up to Jermaine and Jermaine visibly stiffened. The brothers were spread across the stage and the distance between them was palpable. It's a shame because they can still create magic together as this performance proved, making the crowd go ballistic.
Next, Michael performed his solo set, making me pause to ask, "Why is he wearing gold shin guards?" Was he planning to go play catcher for the Yankees after the show? I guess the shin guards are the sequined glove for the new century, but I have a feeling kids won't be wearing them to school. In fact, I was surprised to see young women in the audience actually crying and hyperventilating during MJ's set. I can only conjecture that the network edited the special to replace the reaction to Michael with crowd reaction shots from the Usher and N'Sync performances.
Michael kicked off his set with "The Way You Make Me Feel", a tune that always gets my groove on. He pursued a mysterious aloof female around the stage, generating no sexual sparks whatsoever. If Michael had brought back Billy Gilman, the kid who sang "Ben", and chased him around the stage, that might have been more convincing. Michael covered his mouth a lot. Either he was having microphone problems, lip synching, or trying to do something with his hands to avoid grabbing his crotch.
N'Sync joined Michael on stage for the great summit meeting of Dirty Pop and the King of Pop. Then Michael rocked out with "the one and only" Slash. I'm thinking, somewhere in a cave in a desert that must be wired with digital cable, Axl Rose is laughing. Like Michael, Slash is stuck in the past, still wearing that big hat and playing the big metal riffs.
Michael pulled the hat, the sequined glove, the moonwalk, and all his other old moves out of a trunk. He can still perform and dance amazingly. There was nothing fresh about his performance but it was well-executed and served as a nice trip down memory line. He was actually more entertaining that I expected him to be, but not entertaining enough to make up for that nose. In the end, he sang his new single "Rock My World" notable for its bloated, Brando-studded video which seems to be a remake of "Smooth Criminal," but isn't nearly as much fun as Alien Ant Farm's remake of that same song. Michael didn't seem to rock his own world with this tribute and I turned off the TV feeling that my world had remained completely unrocked as well.
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