Sources: Go Erie | All Things Michael
Michael Jackson was one of the most electrifying performers of the 20th century. Multitalented and mesmerizing, his gift for singing and for movement seemed supernatural. But it doesn’t diminish his gifts one bit to state the obvious: He had great material to work with.
That’s what makes the title of Saturday’s Erie Philharmonic Pops concert, “The Best of Michael Jackson,” more than a marketing slogan or an empty boast. The best of Jackson’s songs are very good indeed.
“Just hooks and hooks and hooks,” said Peter Brennan, the founder of London, Ontario, collective Jeans ‘n’ Classics, which originated the show and will perform it.
Saturday’s concert is organized more or less chronologically beginning with early Jackson 5 songs and building to an irresistible peak before intermission with “Rock With You” and “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.”
The latter two monster hits appeared on “Off the Wall,” which Brennan believes is Jackson’s best album. It’s also an example of the kind of glossy production by Quincy Jones that employed a large studio orchestra of strings and horns, a concept that seems easy to impart to a pops orchestra. And it is, to a point, Brennan said.
“After ‘Thriller’ the challenge is to take the synthetic stuff and bring it back into the realm of orchestral instruments, being respectful of the original while giving the orchestral guys a nice face in the picture.”
The other challenge, of course, is how to conjure the singular art of Jackson himself. For that unenviable task, Brennan calls on Gavin Hope, who, he said, “loves the material. To quote him, he would stand in front of the mirror looking like a toothpick with an Afro, and he had the jacket on and practiced the moves.”
Hope, a Toronto native, is an experienced stage and music performer. He’s a member of a cappella group the Nylons, and starred as Simba in the Canadian company of Disney’s “The Lion King.” The Springfield (Mass.) Republican had good things to say about Hope’s recent show there.
“Hope earned his buck, both vocally and choreographically, channeling the ‘gloved one’ from the innocent, chirpy Jackson Five days of ‘Rockin’ Robin,’ ‘ABC’ and ‘I Want You Back’ to the dark, throaty whisper of ‘Beat It,’ and ‘Thriller,'” wrote Clifton Noble Jr. “Throughout the show, Hope gyrated across the stage with irrepressible joy.”
Hope might not be the only one in the house who will be moving.
“The (audience) can’t wait to dance, actually, and the girls always start it,” Brennan said. “You’ll have people dress up as Michael. I remember a concert where the two bassoonists had gloves over the top of their instruments. Everybody gets into the party atmosphere.”
And they don’t stop till they get enough.
“The Best of Michael Jackson” with Jeans ‘n’ Classics and the Erie Philharmonic Pops will be presented Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Warner Theatre. Ticket prices range from $45 to $56. Call 455-1375, Ext. 4, or visit www.eriephil.org.
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