Newmarket Racecourse, Suffolk – 30th June 2017 – Tickets from £35.00
The weather forecast for last night in Newmarket was dire. Torrential rain dire. Not the kind of night to pop out for a pint of milk, much less to stand in the middle of a grassy field for two hours. But then last night was no ordinary night, because the Jacksons were in town!
That’s right, just ten minutes from my front door were Motown wunderkinds-turned-global-chart-slayers of American pop whose youngest, sorely-missed member (turned solo sensation) has been my icon since I was 7 years old (for context, I’m now 33). Needless to say, ‘excited’ was an understatement when describing my mood ahead of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – and I wasn’t going to let a bit of rain dampen the experience.
Poncho purchased, the rain thankfully stayed away during the gig, aside from a pre-stage time downpour. At 9:15pm, a quarter of an hour after the last horse race had been won at Newmarket’s world-famous stud, the four brothers promptly took to the stage for a blistering and energetic “Newmarket Nights” performance which encompassed all eras of their prolific half-century-long career – even touching on some of Michael’s iconic hits.
Opening with thumping power-anthem “Can You Feel It” following an introductory video which spliced family and tour footage with rampant fan testimonials, the 90minute set list replicated the Jackson’s Glastonbury roster from last weekend, with the only addition being vigorous encore “State Of Shock,” which was a welcome-if-surprising choice given how it is a Jacksons’ song in name only (it’s principally an MJ and Mick Jagger duet).
Encompassing funk, soul and pop, Marlon, Jackie, Jermaine and Tito rolled back the years by singing live throughout and busting out many an MJ-reminiscent dance move which totally belied their advanced years (they must all be at least late 50s-60s). While their voices weren’t always as full-mouthed as they are on the album cuts, there were no microphone issues such as those which blighted their televised Glasto set.
Jermaine shone brightest on the ballads (“I’ll Be There” and soaring MJ tribute “Gone Too Soon” from 1991’s Dangerous), while Marlon exceeded my expectations as a sparky and vibrant lead who often liked to groove when the music took him. Two-thirds through, Tito took over for a couple of funky tracks from his recently-released solo album (while the others took a short breather), but otherwise this was wall-to-wall hits.
Personally, the most welcome selection of the night was the left-field inclusion of “Can’t Let Her Get Away,” another MJ Dangerous cut which was never released as a single. This was a prime indication that the brothers know precisely how to milk a chooon of maximum funk. And with closer “Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground)” lasting at least three times longer than the original track, it certainly wasn’t the last!
While the Jacksons will always be cast somewhat in the shadow of their legendary younger brother’s colossal and enduring solo career, by embracing and celebrating his legacy as well as their enviable-in-its-own-right own, they have orchestrated a killer concert experience which is as close as many will now ever get to experiencing the King of Pop live. This 50th Anniversary extravaganza certainly had Newmarket dancing and shouting last night – even if Marlon did mistakenly address the crowd as “Cambridge” at one point!
CR@B’s Claw Score: