Friday, November 12, 2010

The Jacksons Victory Tour: August 18, 1984

This is the one that started it all, my first concert. I was 12 years old and like most kids of that era, a massive Michael Jackson fan, even though I'd definitely started shifting my allegiance to my ultimate teen idols, Duran Duran. It was symptomatic of the control his parents still exerted over him that Michael did not tour for the blockbuster that was Thriller but instead toured with his brothers for their album, Victory (although, bizarrely, they didn't perform any songs from that album).

My friend Becky Withrow's parents got the tickets and took us to the show, in Pontiac, about an hour away from where we lived. Becky and I were frequent partners in crime back then, and I still recall my mother, who had taken us to see the R-rated Purple Rain at the Wayside Theater in Ypsilanti, telling Becky mom's afterward that it "wasn't too bad except for one scene." Oh, to be underage in the 1980s.

I don't remember much about the opening act, a magician. Given that we were in the lower bowl of a football stadium (since sold for a paltry $583K!) I doubt we really saw much. I do recall a couple of the Jackson brothers peeking out at the crowd from behind the curtain and I think Tito even ran across the stage at one point. Once the show began, there were Jacksons songs and Jackson 5 songs and Michael Jackson solo songs and moonwalking and tearful prepubescent girls. I don't remember anything specific but I remember a palpable sense of hysteria.

Something really fantastical happened on the way home. Getting onto the expressway, we saw a plain vehicle (it was a van or trailer, something with several windows) alongside us. Becky and I were looking and - no it couldn't be - could it? It sure as hell appeared to be Jackson brothers inside. And then one of them saw us looking and waved so we waved back, me with my hand decked out in some KMart version of the famed Michael Jackson sparkly glove. It seemed unbelievable then, but I recall thinking that really famous people would be in a plain vehicle, just as they were. All these years later it seems totally unbelievable, but I'm 99% sure it really happened.

As an adult, I've read a lot of criticism of that tour. The ticket price was astronomical for its time - $30. (What I find inconceivable now is that there were no service fees. Look at the zeroes on that ticket - you don't see that nowadays!) A lot of people didn't want to hear Jacksons material; they just wanted Michael's solo hits. That's understandable, but I sure wasn't disappointed at the time. It was the first of many magical nights to come.

According to someone on the Interwebs (!), this was the set list:

Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'
Things I Do for You
Off the Wall
Human Nature
Heartbreak Hotel
She's Out of My Life
Jermaine Jackson Solo: Let's Get Serious/You Like Me Don't You/Tell Me I'm Not Dreamin'
Jackson 5 Medley: I Want You Back/The Love You Save/I'll Be There
Rock with You
Lovely One
Working Day and Night
Beat It
Billie Jean
Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)

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