Michael Jackson’s ‘This Is It’ tour, which would have seen him perform fifty shows at London’s O2 Arena, sold out within hours in March 2009.
Then, on June 25th, less than three weeks before Michael was due to perform the first date of the tour, he died, aged 50. For many, the ‘This Is It’ tour would have been their only chance to see the legendary performer on stage, and when his death was announced, there was a worldwide outpouring of grief.
However, Michael was in the strange position that, as a living performer, he had a West End show dedicated to his work. ‘Thriller Live,’ has been performed in twenty-two countries to millions of fans since its inception in 2006, and its popularity has only increased since Michael died, with many desperate to get a feel of what one of his concerts was like.
‘Thriller Live,’ is the brainchild of Adrian Grant, a man who started off as a Michael fan, and became one of the star’s closest confidants.
“It all started with my fan magazine ‘Off the Wall,’ that I set up in 1988,” said Adrian. “Michael saw it, and loved it, and invited me to LA in 1990 when he was recording his ‘Dangerous’ album, and everything snowballed from there really.
As a fan, it was very surreal, and being in the recording studio watching him at work was a privilege. He was joking around and having a great time and, at the end of the day, he invited me back to the Neverland Ranch to write a feature, and it was a magical place. It was madness, but really fantastic.
For me that was an unreal experience, but for Michael Jackson it was reality, as his security guard said.”
Over the years, Adrian had access to Michael’s world, working with him during the ‘HIStory’ album, world tours, photo and video shoots, exclusive interviews, lunches, dinners and much more. Michael has personally acknowledged Adrian’s work many times, and in 1998 granted Adrian an exclusive interview for his third book, ‘Making History.’
“I was very fortunate to get to interview him. Michael did trust me, we were friends, and he talked to me about personal stuff as well as his career. He got used to seeing me around,” said Adrian.
As well as producing his magazine, Adrian began organising annual Michael Jackson tribute concerts at the beginning of the 1990s, and having taken an interest in them, Michael attended the tenth show in 2001.
“We were very nervous as it was the first time he had come and there were thousands of fans there,” said Adrian.
“We had to build a special tent at the side of the stage so that he could watch the show without being mobbed. He came over straight after the show and said it was beautiful and incredible. It was the ultimate compliment. That became my inspiration for ‘Thriller Live,’ because I realised it could be a show that appealed to everyone, not just the hardcore fans.”
So in 2006, ‘Thriller Live,’ opened in London’s West End. Now the show is on a UK tour, visiting HM Theatre, Aberdeen, from Monday.
“We bill it as a concert, as a celebration of Michael’s music. It’s not a look-a-like show or an impersonation show,” said Adrian. “It’s a fully-fledged stage production with over twenty performers. It’s a musical journey through Michael’s life from ‘I Want You Back,’ through to ‘Thriller,’ ‘Bad’ and ‘Black or White. It’s a two-and-a-half-hour show. It could even be twice as long with all of his material. Casting was the biggest challenge. While we didn’t want to impersonate Michael, we needed someone that had his range, so we split the role. We start with a young boy, and then a female who sings the sexy songs like ‘The Way You Make Me Feel,’ and then the rock Michael who does ‘Beat It,’ and ‘Dirty Diana,’ and a dancer who does the moonwalk, and other iconic Jackson moves.”
Adrian said he’s sure ‘This Is It,’ would have been Michael’s best show to date, and felt it was appropriate to update ‘Thriller Live,’ when Michael died.
“He was always looking to better himself; his best work was still to come and I think that would have been proved with ‘This Is It,’” he said. “In our show, when he died, we felt that ‘Thriller,’ became even more of a celebration, so now we go right up to his latest recordings. We also pay tribute to him verbally in the show, and we pay respect to him each night.”
Adrian said he’s looking forward to taking the show to Aberdeen as one of his original colleagues from the Michael Jackson Fan Club still lives in the city. No doubt though, many people will take the chance to see a world-class show on their doorstep.
“I think people know that they can’t see him now, so they want to see what he could have been like,” said Adrian. “Michael was planning on coming to see the show in 2009 when he was here for ‘This Is It.’ He was planning on coming dressed up so no one would recognise him, and it’s so sad that he never got the chance.”
‘Thriller Live,’ is at HM Theatre, Aberdeen from Monday, May 16 to Saturday, May 21. For tickets or more information call 01224 641122, or visit www.boxofficeaberdeen.com