Thriller Live!

It is difficult to know what to expect when you are invited to attend the opening night of Thriller Live at the Grand Theatre in Leeds

My first experience of Thriller was on 2nd December 1983 when Channel Four had a special edition of their (Oh so cool!) music programme The Tube hosted by the Leslie Ash and Jools Holland.

The release of a new video by Michael Jackson was a major event and Channel Four as the coolest broadcaster in the UK had to be the first to broadcast it. So, after the pub it was back to Steve’s place for what promised to be quite an experience.

That was in the days when Michael Jackson was still the King of Pop, with albums like Off the Wall, Thriller,  and Bad all produced by Quincy Jones; before living the image, the prescription drugs and the sex crime trials took over the public’s perception of this immeasurably talented performer.

It is easy to forget what a ground-breaking artist Michael Jackson was, how he broke down the barriers that made it possible for non-white artists to access the new satellite music channels. Before Michael Jackson, music videos were usually a recorded performance and those satellite music channels were private clubs for the long-haired white boy rock bands. That all changed with Michael Jackson. He redefined the music video in a way that made it impossible for the satellite channels to ignore black/dance/soul/R’n’B music artists.

If you expect Thriller Live to be like those videos, you will be disappointed. Even Michael Jackson was not able to reproduce live the perfection that the ability to do numerous retakes facilitates. Although he got pretty close during his 1992 Dangerous World Tour visit to Roundhay Park in Leeds.

I suppose he was only human 😊

Thriller Live may not be breaking new ground in the way that the original did. It isn’t supposed to, and I don’t want it to. Every aspect of the production references some part of the Thriller legacy, even the stage design is remenisent of two stair case format used at the 30th Anniversary Jacksons Concert at Madison Square Gardens, in New York.

What I want and want I get with Thriller Live is a talented and enthusiastic cast of singers, dancers and musicians paying homage rather than attempting to replicate the original performances. Of course, the classic moves are all there, the Thriller zombie dance and that anatomically impossible Fred Astaire inspired lean forward from the Smooth Criminal video.

There is something particularly impression about watching five men doing a perfectly synchronised moon walk across the Grand Theatre’s stage.

As a member of an audience that is as diverse as the cast of the Black or White video including every-one from children in Jackson outfits who were not born during his lifetime to people who may very well have been in the audience for those Roundhay Park concerts.

I did feel the excitement that those fans in the Park must have experienced when they saw Michael Jackson live. Thriller Live is an exuberant fun filled evening that is successful because of the way in which the cast who obviously love the music involve an audience who share that love in the performance. By the end of a show, which does not last long enough, I am thoroughly exhausted and exuberated in equal measure.

April 14th, 2017 by