Three truths are as simple as A-B-C:
A) Comparing Planet Hollywood residencies, this one puts the Baby, Lip-Sync For Me One More Time act to shame. B) No Motown-ies are more fabled than this foursome. C) As much joy as these four generate, the sadness of the missing fifth still haunts them. And us.
That makes RockTellz & CockTails Presents the Jacksons a bittersweet, can’t-miss-even-though-we-still-miss-Michael show.
Sharing the PH Showroom with Meat Loaf through late April and building on their 2012 Unity Tour stop at the Cannery, the Brothers Jax—Jermaine, Tito, Jackie and Marlon—take a supply of signature songs (“Can You Feel It,” “Show You the Way to Go”) and a cache of classics (“The Love You Save,” “I Want You Back”) and synthesize them into a two-hour block that’s surprisingly fresh, not just nostalgic.
Though it’s ridiculous to suggest anyone could approach Michael magic—and each brother gets his individual shining moment—it’s seemingly battery-powered Marlon who keeps us jonesing for the Jacksons by the finale that’s got the crowd up and gyrating for nearly 30 minutes.
Hindered only by an oversaturated sound system that occasionally overwhelms them, the Jacksons materialize out of a dramatic haze of shadow and smoke onto a rather unadorned stage that, wisely, doesn’t visually compete with the silver-and-black-jacketed brothers. Backed by a propulsive seven-piece band, they launch into a string of way-back-when pearls, also including “Blame It on the Boogie,” “Rock with You,” “Never Can Say Goodbye,” “I’ll Be There,” “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” and “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough.” Though it could easily tip over into treacle, Jermaine takes the thrust stage to deliver a delicate “Gone Too Soon” tribute to Michael.
Woven into the repertoire are video career highlights, including interviews with Motown guru Berry Gordy Jr. and matriarch Katherine Jackson (Papa Joe is notably absent from interviews in the gauzy, glazed-over family history). As dazzling as the music is, the genuine charms of the evening are the brothers’ live reminiscences—their back and forth so easygoing, playful and sentimental that it sends waves of warmth over the crowd.
By the time sweat-drenched Marlon takes the lead in the extended, exhilarating climactic medley—including striking some head-back, arms-outstretched stances eerily evocative of Michael’s Christ-like images—something resembling a pop possession grips the house.
Ironically, the Jacksons are the most complete, yet incomplete Motown nostalgia act. Nearly every other group has seen severe turnover, some no longer sporting even one original member. On this stage, there are no substitutions—just Jermaine, Jackie, Tito and Marlon in their well-toned, AARP flesh. Yet none of those others have to overcome The Big Empty the way the Jacksons do, especially in a Michael-memorializing town rife with impersonators and an entire Cirque spectacle celebrating him.
Want a phantasmagorical Michael-palooza? See Cirque’s Michael Jackson One. Want to feel the real-deal dynamism born of the era when he was one of five? See the Jackson Brothers Four.
Got an entertainment tip? Email Steve.Bornfeld@VegasSeven.com.