A Michael Jackson concert has about as much spontaneity as a space shuttle launch, and probably costs just as much. Saturday’s concert from Bucharest, Romania, was a spectacle of epic proportions, utilizing a mammoth stage, precision lighting and illusions worthy of a David Copperfield special.
Fortunately for HBO, the event was taped last week, as Jackson is now home in Los Angeles after canceling his remaining European dates due to a cold.
A tightly choreographed, “Jam,” the current single from Jackson’s “Dangerous” disc (Epic), kicked off the show as the self-dubbed “King of Pop” gave spirited readings of tracks from the current album and past discs, changing clothes to reflect the period he was drawing from.
Jackson sported monster make-up as he delivered the title track from “Thriller” in an almost note-for-step regurgitation of the video. A disappearing coffin, which viewers were supposed to believe contained Jackson, closed the segment of the performance before segueing into the “Billy Jean.” A mid-set Motown medley featuring several “Jackson 5” charttoppers caused the only sag in the otherwise kinetic presentation. Somehow these songs don’t hold up with Jackson’s post-puberty pitch replacing the higher end vocals of the child star. Black & White (pre-surgery) photographs of Jackson are interspersed among the verses, images and sounds which are probably unfamiliar to the mostly teenage audience.
A duet featuring back-up singer and solo artist Siedah Garrett on “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” was a welcomed respite from the hyper-speed camera switches, and allowed both artists to deliver a quality vocal performance, sans any techno-chicanery.
Concert closing numbers “Heal The World” and “Man In The Mirror” voice Jackson’s humanitarian concerns, with its “It’s a Small World” feel delivering a powerful, albeit politically correct, message to those in attendance.
Just when you thought Jackson was getting serious, out rolls a jet-pack which is strapped to someone dressed like Jackson. (The artist subtly switches places with the stunt-person prior to blast-off.) The astronaut is launched above the heads of the audience and out of sight. And like at concerts of that other King, we hear the announcer inform that “Michael Jackson has left the stadium.” Hype and largess included, somewhere Col. Parker must be smiling.