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The Jacksons rekindling the fire at St Lucia Jazz

Published: 
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Marlon Jackson dances while brother Jermaine sings for the audience at St Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival. PHOTOS: ANDREA DE SILVA

Jermaine Jackson and his brothers had it right when they said technology was the greatest challenge of the music industry today. The question arose at a media conference on the afternoon before The Jacksons put on a memorable performance for their audience at the St Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival on May 10. Jermaine lamented that in their time of entry to the music business artistes had to have genuine talent to sing, dance and play an instrument to become a “star”. “The whole idea was to be able to perform with the showmanship and all that…now you have Auto-Tune so even though they can’t sing at all, the technology makes them sound great,” he said, affirming that he was not a fan of the American Idol, X Factor or The Voice shows because while the contestants have talent, they sing the compositions of other artistes and not their original material.

 

 

Big brother Jackie said the group intended to “have a party on stage, have a great time and get our audience involved,” on what was the first leg of their 2013 Unity Tour. Tito said it was “exciting to be back on stage as brothers,” and Jackie added, “It’s like riding a bike you know, because we’ve been doing this our entire lives and being brothers it’s that much easier, so it’s great, it’s great.” The Jacksons did rekindle the fire of a music era never to be forgotten with a performance that spoke volumes of the calibre of music they served the world in the past. It was their first time on a Caribbean stage for more than 35 years and brothers Tito, Marlon, Jermaine and Jackie did impact their audience. There was the collective raising of pores and tears welling in the eyes, as Jermaine sang Gone Too Soon during the segment of the show in tribute to the most famous Jackson, Michael, who died in 2009 on the eve of relaunching his music career. 

 

Within this segment too, emotions ran high as the brothers showed their strong family ties, openly embracing and appearing to be genuinely having fun with each other even as images of their family history showed on the overhead LED screen. They ramped up the energy again with a series of well-choreographed and executed moves that showed professionalism in the untiring performance by the four “old men.” Jermaine took the lead role as the group escorted the audience down memory lane with such numbers as ABC, I Want You Back, Never Can Say Goodbye and I’ll Be There, to name a few. Then they served up Michael’s hits and several times Jermaine hit the trademark shrill “Oouuuhh!” that Michael was known for, which he acknowledged to the spirit of his brother on stage with them. The Jacksons closed the show with as much high energy as they started, coming on with the pump of the bass, drums and brass of Can You Feel It and ending with a jazzy funk rendition of Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground).

 

 

By the next day the words of The Jacksons ran true to form as Akon lived up to his name with an entirely lip-synced performance that left the more mature in the audience gasping at the audacity of it all. Indeed, such was the boldfaced treachery of the art form that he did not even flinch when the microphone was not within reach of his mouth but the audience continued to hear him singing. The teenyboppers lapped it all up, though. American jazz/R&B/funk musician and instrumentalist Brian Culbertson was the find of the festival with the most energetic of performances as he played the keyboard literally like Boogsie Sharpe would play a double tenor, infusing energy and passion into each touch of the keys. His equally-matched playing of the trombone accompanying back-up singer Selina Albright was fantastic and then the Barry White number just had the audience urging him to show more.

 

Alas, it was over too soon, much the same as the lead act for the night, R Kelly, a vocalist par excellence, whose music, loaded with sexual undertones, had the 20,000-plus crowd of mainly women screaming with delight. He drew them in with hit after hit built up from 27 years of experience in the business, and the croon of “it’s hot up here, can I have a towel, someone, please throw me a towel” was, well, divine to the women. He got what he wanted, of course, and then had the women gathered stage side gasping for breath with his melodic soft singing, “please wipe my brow with this towel,” as he bent over to reach them, adding to the appeal of the female masses who could not get enough. Organisers of this year’s festival did go back to the drawing board and included “arts” in the billing, with displays of local sculptors, painters and photographers being held at various venues as much as the sideshows for the jazz purest. The Pigeon Island Landmark venue, however, is pretty similar to Chaguaramas, and no doubt getting 20,000 people off a land mass with one way in and one way out will always amount to a traffic nightmare and does rob one of the time to savour the great experience of the festival.

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