Sources: CT Now.com – By Michael Hamad | All Things Michael
Michael Jackson died tragically six years ago. But did he ever really go away?
In 2011, Cirque du Soleil’s “Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour” started circling the globe, offering the specter of MJ’s voice surrounded by live musicians and aerial acrobatics. (An immersive spin-off, “Michael Jackson: One,” took up residence in Las Vegas in 2013.) Every year, Jackson is the subject of several new books, while his music reaches millions daily on FM and satellite radio. Just last year, Jackson’s estate released “Xscape,” a set of previously unheard vocal takes, recontextualized by producers like L.A. Reid, Timbaland and Rodney Jerkins.
Still, we don’t expect to see people moonwalk at the classical concert hall, a space usually reserved for Mahler, Beethoven and the occasionally living composer.
After Jackson’s death, James “Delisco” Beeks (also known as Delisco James), who won the 2005 E! Network reality show “The Entertainer Starring Wayne Newton,” developed “The Music of Michael Jackson” with conductor/arranger Brett Havens. On Saturday, Feb. 28, Delisco and Havens will perform Jackson’s music at The Bushnell in Hartford, backed by the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, a pop-rock rhythm section and supporting vocalists.
The show, Delisco said, consists of 19 hits, spanning Jackson’s career from the Jackson Five to his blockbuster solo albums. In Havens’ arrangements, Delisco thinks you’ll hear new perspectives on Jackson’s music. “It really brings it to a whole different level,” he said. “There are so many different parts to it. For me, it was exciting to hear, and I’m sure it was for audiences too.”
Delisco, a Florida native, first encountered Jackson’s music in ninth grade. “I did ‘Bad’ with my show choir, and I also choreographed the show,” Delisco said. “He was a huge influence on me.”
After winning “The Entertainer,” Delisco earned a million-dollar contract to perform in Las Vegas. He’s also a veteran of shows at Disney World and Universal Studios and on Broadway. For “The Music of Michael Jackson,” he sings, dances and wears MJ-inspired costumes while retaining his own vocal range and phrasing; this isn’t an impersonation, but rather a loving tribute to an artist whose work has influenced generations of fans.
Delisco and Havens perform the show up to 10 times a year. Audiences, Delisco said, always respond enthusiastically, and with no shortage of nostalgia. “People say, ‘You brought me back to a time when I met my first girlfriend,'” Delisco said.
Half of every crowd consists of symphony subscribers, Delisco said. But the other half tends to be the Michael Jackson fanatics, who wear T-shirts, sequined gloves and kinds of MJ gear. They dance in the aisles. “It can be infectious,” Delisco said. “One time in Dallas, this five-year-old kid came down to the front of the stage. He knew all the Michael moves. He stayed there all night.”
Chances are, you’ll hear “Beat It,” “Billie Jean,” “Smooth Criminal,” some “Off the Wall” numbers, and probably “Thriller.” And if you don’t get out of your seat, Delisco might help you with that. (Also: watch for Havens wearing a sequined glove, which he’s been known to do.)
“[Havens] and I came up with the setlist,” Delisco said. “It’s a well-paced show. I have to pace myself to the ballads when I’m huffing and puffing, but it’s a great show.”
HARTFORD SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA POPS! SERIES: THE MUSIC OF MICHAEL JACKSON takes place on Saturday, Feb. 28 at Mortensen Hall at The Bushnell in Hartford. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Tickets begin at $20 ($10 for students with ID). Information: hartfordsymphony.org or 860-987-5900.
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