Monday, June 25, 2012

Cirque du Soleil's Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour

Posted By on Mon, Jun 25, 2012 at 10:21 AM

If you missed Cirque du Soleil's "Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour," June 23 at AT&T Center, I feel sorry for you. I feel even more sorry for the fact that there was only one performance in San Antonio, but you can't blame Cirque du Soleil for it: ours was a near sell out (not a complete sell out, as it should've been and as is the case in most major cities worldwide), which says more about San Antonio than the show itself. 'Immortal' is as spectacular as you would expect from the Cirque, but the level of emotion and the expertise by which the troupe completely nailed Michael's essence (music, peace, and love) was astounding and exceeded the expectations of even the most optimistic fans.

The show begins with just one dancer, who is then joined by four, and gradually it turns into a bombardment of sounds and images that make you think "they can't top this," and yet the next scene is even more spectacular than the previous one. These people are not just dancers: these are some of the world's best athletes, and the fact that they're joined by a 12-piece rock band (with some members veterans of Michael Jackson's band) doesn't hurt. What you hear is Michael Jackson's real voice (from the Jackson 5 all the way through the end of his career), and what you see on the big screens are images of him or inspired by him. At times, there's so much magic going on that you can't decide whether to see the dancers or what's on the screen.

But forget about all the colors, the great sound, the amazing dancing (which even included a one-legged dancer) ... That was all there, but the best two moments of the Immortal World Tour happened onscreen: with little Michael singing "I'll be There" ("if you should ever find someone new/I know he'd better be good to you/'cause if he doesn't/I'll be there") as if he was singing especially for each one of those present (he was, especially if you were a sobbing guy sitting next to me who said he was divorcing his wife), and in the astounding images of "They Don't Really Care About Us."

Cirque du Soleil's decision to include those (and other) images from the Spike Lee-directed videos of Michael's most underrated (and one of the most controversial) song took guts from the Cirque. Originally, the song's lyrics offended Jews ("Jew me/sue me/kike me"), so Michael corrected the lyric and apologized, but it was too late. The song and videos, one of his best ever, were obscured by the controversy. It took this risky move by the Cirque to make justice to one of Michael's finest moments. The level of perfect execution made me feel that's why Michael recorded the song in the first place: because he somehow felt something like Cirque du Soleil would one day come along and make justice with the track and videos. If regular TV and radio didn't do the trick, Cirque du Soleil did: it reminded us that Jackson wasn't just an American pop star, but a cultural and ideological icon for the whole planet. And kudos to Spike too: those videos are as good, if not better, today than they were in 1996. And, as usual, he had to go through a lot of shit to make them.

At the end of the day (at the end of his life), all that remained was his art, his music. All the put-down jokes he had to endure through the latter part of his career were suddenly gone. The worst thing you could ever say about Michael Jackson is that he was weird. But he was also a genius and, in death, he proved that every single one of us were full of it.

That, Cirque du Soleil understood. Perfectly. And if the crowd wasn't on their feet the whole time of Immortal it was because we were all frozen in astonishment facing so much beauty, so much perfection.

This is It was going to be the name of Michael's last tour, and is the name of his posthumous documentary. But that's all wrong. As far as I'm concerned, only Cirque du Soleil captured Michael complete. That show I saw Saturday night, that was it. — Enrique Lopetegui

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