The Jacksons couldn’t have picked a better evening to perform at the Greenwich Music Time Festival. With temperatures set at a positively tropical mid 20s during a gorgeously balmy Thursday evening, it created the perfect mood for a night where feel-good nostalgia would reign supreme for 90 minutes.
Greenwich Music Time is a fairly new outdoor festival that hosts a six day series of concerts in the grounds of the stunningly opulent Royal Naval College, located in the centre of Greenwich in close proximity to the River Thames. Unlike other festivals, instead of having a multiple bill, each act gets to perform a full set for one night. This year’s line-up included Sir Cliff Richard, Little Mix, Alexander O’Neal and Michael Ball.
The Jacksons are currently celebrating an impressive 50 years in showbusiness and have been pretty active on the summer festival circuit, having just performed at the Love Supreme Festival less than a week ago and Glastonbury the week before. It was against this backdrop that Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Marlon took to the stage to deliver a solid set which aptly demonstrated what a quality and extensive discography the super group have amassed throughout the decades.
Opening with the iconic bassline of the post-disco classic Can You Feel It, the brothers confidently strutted onto the stage decked in sparkly black shirts with matching trousers. If you’re an eighties kid like myself, no doubt the video to accompany this track will hold a special place in your heart, as it was so ahead of its time stylistically speaking.
Released in 1981, the band had regrouped briefly following MJ’s game-changing and hugely successful Off The Wall album. The track was a triumphant return to form for the brothers, and in the futuristic promo clip they looked like larger than life black superheroes, sprinkling magical gold dust on us mere minions hoping for a single iota of that innate wonder they appeared to have by the bucketload. Having survived so long in what is often described as a ruthless and unforgiving business, in 2017 unsurprisingly the group have lost a little bit of that zeal captured so magnificently in that iconic video. Those famous dance steps, once so fluid and effortless, seemed more staccato and cumbersome, which is totally understandable.
But in truth, it mattered not to the enthusiastic audience comprised mainly of middle aged folk with smatterings of young children no doubt coerced by their parents to attend. The brothers then powered through their soul/funk hits, indelible classics like Enjoy Yourself, Dancing Machine and Blame It On The Boogie fired off in quick succession, giving the audience no time to catch their breath.
Although the music was great, at times the show did feel a bit flat, as if the group were a tad fatigued behind the choreographed routines and smiles. It wasn’t until mid-way through when Jermaine performed a rousing rendition of his brother’s tear-inducing ballad Gone Too Soon that I felt a true connection was created between the band and the audience. Jermaine’s tender alto is a thing of beauty. Whereas he seems to struggle somewhat with having to match MJ’s pitch perfect soprano on the songs where he sang lead, this particular track allowed him the space to do things his way.
The performance was accompanied by gorgeous images of the group dressed in typical ’60s and ’70s outfits with a beautiful, beaming Michael placed centre stage. Jermaine spoke of what a difficult time it was for the family this time of year as it marks the anniversary of Michael’s death. He also spoke of the sadness he felt over the Grenfell fire tragedy and offered words of comfort to anyone who had recently suffered loss, which was was a touching gesture.
The special tribute seemed to be cathartic for the brothers because almost instantly the energy of the show moved up a notch. They danced a little more joyously, bantered with the audience, and Marlon made us chuckle with his enthusiastic reenactments of Michael’s famous dance moves. By the time the show began to wind down with a well placed performance of Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground), sunset had long descended upon the hallowed grounds of the Naval College and it was time to wrap things up.
The Greenwich Music Time Festival is a real treat for Londoners and I only hope it continues to grow from strength to strength. With breathtaking scenery, an eclectic line-up of performers and a crowd made up of music lovers of all ages, it ticks all the boxes and should be pencilled in as a ‘must-attend’ for your list of festivals for 2018.