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Concert Reviews:
The Jacksons bring memories of Motown and Michael to the Fox Theatre

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Sunday, June 24, 2012

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DETROIT -- The Jacksons may hail from Gary, Ind., and reside in southern California, but they consider Detroit "a second home," as Marlon and Jermaine told their fans on Saturday night, June 23, at the Fox Theatre.

And why not? Detroit is where the Jacksons got their big break, auditioning for and signing with Motown and even doing some preliminary recording at Hitsville USA before being relocated to Los Angeles as the vanguard of the company's westward move. That certainly gave the quartet's show at the Fox a warm, homecoming kind of feel as well as a chance for a legendary Motown act to play a theater that has such a strong place in the label's history.

But, of course, quite a bit has changed since those days, and since the Jacksons last came to the area together 28 years ago for three sold-out Pontiac Silverdome shows on the Victory Tour. Oldest brother Jackie, who missed most of that trek due to a broken leg, was on stage at the Fox, while youngest brother Randy was not. And neither, of course, was the late Michael Jackson, the force-of-nature frontman and singular super talent whose absence makes seeing the Jacksons in 2012, in any configuration, a dubious proposition.

To their credit, the Jackson 4 -- Randy, Tito, Marlon and Jermaine -- didn't run from that 800-pound gorilla. Michael was an unavoidable presence in the repertoire, which packed truncated versions of 26 songs into the show's 90 minute, and on the video screen. The brothers acknowledged him a few times during the evening, even noting where he should be standing on stage, and Jermaine, who took most of Michael's lead vocal parts, performed an emotional rendition of his "Gone Too Soon" accompanied by a montage of historic photos and videos.

And to their further credit, the Jacksons still managed to pull off an entertaining and clearly crowd-pleasing nostalgia trip even without Michael, traipsing through a dozen years of recordings -- from the first Jackson 5 hits in 1970 to Michael's "Thriller" album in 1982 -- in a manner closer to a slick, high-end nightclub show than a stadium spectacle.

Backed by a tight nine-piece group -- including three backup singers that did a lot of the harmonic heavy lifting (especially when the brothers' vocals were curiously low in the mix) -- the Jacksons played to both the casual fans and the aficionados, reaching into their catalog for "deep cuts" such as "Wanna Be Where You Are," "Show You the Way to Go," "Looking Through the Window," "Time Waits For No One," "Push Me Away" and "Man of War" alongside hit fare like "Blame It on the Boogie," "Lovely One" and "This Place Hotel." The early Motown era got its due, too, though the brisk medley of "I Want You Back," "ABC," "The Love You Save," "Never Can Say Goodbye," "All I Do Is Think of You" and "I'll Be There" felt a bit like a kiss-off -- especially when more time was devoted to Jermaine's three-song set of solo favorites ("Dynamite," "Let's Get Serious" and "Do What You Do").

The Jacksons also delved into Michael's solo catalog, covering the likes of "Rock With You," "Can't Let Her Get Away," "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' " and "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" -- accurately if not spectacularly. And the show-closing "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)" remained a party-in-a-song gem whose extended vamp provided a reminder of just how fierce a stage act the Jacksons put on back in the proverbial Day.

Where the Unity show heads from here remains to be seen. There's talk of more touring, a live album and DVD, even brand new music from the quartet. But on this one night in a "second home," the Jacksons presented memories that were durable and sweet, and with beats that, yes, you could dance to without reservation.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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