10th Anniversary

Paula In Vegas

Paula has recently visited Vegas. She saw the Cirque show then interviewed Jonathan Moffett on behalf on MJWN. Here is her report.

MJ CIRQUE DU SOLEIL ‘THE IMMORTAL’ TOUR AND JONATHAN MOFFETT IN VEGAS.

I have just returned home from America and one of the highlights of my trip was ‘The Immortal’ MJ Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas. I had travelled from Australia to see this show and the anticipation and expectations were high, but I was not disappointed. It was well worth the very long flight and me having to overcome my fear of flying.

The show was dazzling and stirred my emotions many times over. I am glad that I did go to more than one show as I had a chance to see what I may have missed the first time around. There was so much going on around me that I knew that one show wasn’t going to be enough!

Michael’s music was predominant and pounded throughout the whole show, but the clarity in his voice seemed to have been intensified ten times over, if that was possible. It was as if he was standing next to me, singing in my ear. It was all Michael singing, no impersonators and no fakes here, but his songs had been remixed with a twist for the show. The result by Jamie King who had been given free reign of Michael’s songs was brilliant. I know that Michael would have approved.

There was also some very impressive dancing to songs like ‘Thriller,’ ‘Smooth Criminal’ and ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ as well as a beautiful romantic deliverance of “I Can’t Stop Loving You’’ by two of the aerial performers. Their bodies moved magically together, as if making love up in the air. The show covered many of Michael’s music ranging from songs from his early years like ‘ABC’ and ‘Ben,’ to his later songs such as ‘Is It Scary’ and ‘Threatened.’ A truly entertaining and amazing show, capturing the true essence of Michael Jackson and I hope an education to many on what Michael was all about. Michael’s presence was felt strongly throughout the show and I know that ‘The Immortal’ tour will help keep this extraordinary man’s music and legacy alive for many future generations.

This quote that you can find in the official ‘The Immortal’ tour programme just sums up the whole concept of the show. How ironic that these words come from ‘the Immortalized’ himself.

“WE ONLY LIVE ONCE.
since we are given the gift of life, it should be our persistent endeavour to immortalize ourselves no matter what field of endeavour
we choose.”

Michael Joseph Jackson

Another highlight was seeing Jonathan ‘Sugarfoot’ Moffett, Michael’s long time drummer and friend for over thirty years. He was an integral part of Michael’s touring life, during the ‘Victory’ and the ‘History’ tours and what was to be the forthcoming ‘This Is It’ tour, but he is also an integral part of ‘The Immortal’ MJ Cirque du Soleil show.

Jonathan was amazing with his live drumming on the stage and he gave depth and energy to the show. His every beat was in unison once again with Michael. Along with the other musicians performing, a concert like atmosphere was created. I have been lucky to have seen Michael and Jonathan perform together live during the ‘History’ tour, and this would have to be the closest thing to it.  Jonathan brought a reality to the show and for a while one is able to sit back and imagine being at a Michael concert.

I was fortunate to catch up with Jonathan in Vegas with a couple of friends and he was kind enough to accept a gift on behalf of fans that love him in Australia, as well as answer a few questions about the show for all the fans. Please see below an interview that he kindly agreed to do.

Paula – Jonathan, can you tell us how you came about to be involved in ‘The Immortal’ tour?

Jonathan – I got a call from the musical director, Greg Phillinganes on one Monday afternoon in January of this year (2011). He asked me if I was sitting down, then told me to do so. So I did, and he proceeded to tell me that, I had been chosen to be the drummer for the Cirque Du Soleil Michael Jackson ‘The Immortal’ World Tour! “Welcome to the Circus!!!” I responded. “No Way! Really? You’ve got to be kidding? That’s unbelievable! Thank you for choosing me for it!” He then told me, “Who Else would we get? You’re the best choice for the gig, and Michael loved you and always wanted you. Who better to be a part of this tour and project honoring him? You’re his drummer! There’s no one better for it. You’re right for his music, and understands it.” I was stunned, surprised, and shocked to have gotten the call. I knew I was up for it. But, in this business, you can’t count on anything. Nothing’s guaranteed, though a lot is promised. So, that was a great day for me. Great day…indeed.

Paula – Jonathan, that is amazing and a great day indeed, but not surprising at all that you were picked for this show. If you had to tell us one of your favourite parts of this show so far, or a favourite moment on or off the stage, what would that be? Can you share that with us?

Jonathan – Well…one of my favourite moments and parts of the show is ‘Human Nature.’! I loved the way it’s been staged. I also love the song arrangement that sound and Music Designer Kevin Antoons did on the song. Wonderful! But the puppetronics and mystical theme is what I like most! It’s truly beautiful!!! I love when we get to that song in the show. I also like the ‘Scary Suite Medley.’ It’s a combination Michael’s song ‘Is This Scary,’ ‘Threatened’ and ‘Thriller.’ I like the ‘Dancin’ Machine’ song and routine too! The groove is infectious and the visual staging is captivating, thrilling and exhilarating! People flying up to the air like ‘spinning tops or human drills and sailing like Tarzan across one another without colliding! Awesome!

Paula – Two shows a night at times, wow…that must take a lot out of you. How do you do it? I mean you have to have one of the most strenuous parts in the show. I have seen you go, and you go one hundred miles an hour. In fact, at times, I lost site of your hands. They just disappeared.

Jonathan – I must admit it is very hard on me. I play so very physical. I put absolutely ALL my heart and soul into every beat. All my focus and concentration into every measure of every song. My mind is focus and concentrated to the tenth degree, to keep the band in the right place, and guide and motor them through the arrangements of every song, top to bottom of the show! But, most of all…physical and emotional stress is what take the toll most. As you mentioned in your question what you observed. It’s very hard on me. In fact…I’m sick right now with bronchitis, from my resistance having gotten so low, from the eight shows in four days! and ten shows in six days on the final weekend of the Vegas run. Each show being two hours and twenty minutes each! I’m on my way to mending, though I had a show last night while sick and another tonight. But…what can I do? Nothing! They’re counting on me. “The Show Must Go On” as they say in Hollywood. I must be like one of the three hundred in the movie of the same title!  ‘Invincible!’

Paula – Firstly, I wish you a speedy recovery from your bronchitis and secondly, I know that you will be tied up with the MJ Cirque du Soleil show for a while now and after what you have just told us, will have earned a good rest after this tour, but Jonathan, we can’t get enough of you so I have to ask, do you have any plans in mind for any other MJ associated shows or events, in the future?

Jonathan – Well…this is touted to be a five year venture but, I do plan on working on some or many of my own projects simultaneously while out here on the road, and during some of our scheduled short break periods. Hopefully, some of my ‘Tribute To Michael’ drum clinics, which you had witnessed in Australia in October of 2010. I hope to be able to squeeze some of those in there somewhere! My coffee table book project as well and a children’s book based on my life and career, called ‘Sugarfoot.’ We’ll see just how much I can ‘multi-task’ during all this time! Wish me luck!

Paula – There are a lot of amazing remixes to Michael’s songs in the show. Yourself being a musician, what are your thoughts on this?

Jonathan – Yes, you’re right! There are a great deal of remixes in the show of Michael’s songs and music. That’s the creative process they, Jamie King and Kevin Antoons decided and designed for the shows presentation, to give a fresh approach to Michael’s music. To “Re-Liven” the songs for this effort and new presentation. Well…I must admit that at first, I wasn’t that happy or fond of the new approaches. After thirty years off and on, of performing Mike’s music with him in the known traditional arrangements, I was so use to them and being close to Michael in a personal family way…I felt to tamper with them as classic as they were and are was taboo!  So, I wasn’t so happy about it and it was not only me feeling that way! Other of the former MJ musicians on this show and tour who had worked with Michael too felt the same way too! We all talk about it on the way back to our apartments from rehearsals. Griping, venting and expressing our opinion but, I must admit that after learning and working on them day after day after day after day, they began to grow on not only me, but on us! Then we all began to see the vision they had for it, the music, the approach and the show. We go it at last then we began to like them even more, the more we played them, and we also got to see the visual choreographed dancers and the costumes! Now…It’s awesome playing them that way and the people in the audience really love them, even though we originally felt and thought that the fans and people in the audience may rebel against the changes and changing iconic, much beloved songs and music, so, I guess the moral to this story is…To keep an open mind – You might just be surprised! Pleasantly, like I, and we were.

Paula – Jonathan, I can certainly vouch for that, the remixes are amazing. I am a long time Michael Jackson fan and I loved them and so have other fans that I have talked to that have seen the show. Finally, Jonathan, have you a message to the MJ Fans about ‘The Immortal’ tour, and what would you like them to take away with them from the show?

Jonathan – I’m hoping that all the Michael fans out there will come to see and hear the show honouring him. For it is events such as these which help keep him and his music “living!” Also, to help celebrate him, his life, and his contributions to music, entertainment, his incredible influence on dance with ‘his’ style and influence to it, plus the senses of caring, of loving, of the world of imagination, his sense of fantasy…and most of all, through our unprecedented inclusion    homogenization of a great many of the world’s cultures, religions, faiths, creeds, colours and ethnicities…All coming together, to unionize and do something together as ‘ONE’ for a special cause. The cause…to bring Michael Jackson’s vision of the world through his transparent, cellophane unprejudiced view of “Inclusion” for and of all. His love for and of all. Presented now…To all who love him and still want to be and feel close to him and, at our, this show called ‘The Immortal’ they most certainly will…

Paula – Jonathan, I would like to thank you so much and am very grateful for having spent this time with you and for you giving up some of your precious time to be here and to answer these questions for MJWN and for all the fans. We wish you nothing but luck in everything that life brings your way and look forward to any new projects that you take on and share with us all. Most of all I look forward to catching up with you and the show again soon.

For me, it will not be the sound of coins in the casino machines, the bright city lights, or the action on the strip that I will remember about Vegas, it will be the MJ Cirque du Soleil show and the time I got to share with Michael’s friend, brother and drummer that I will remember the most and always treasure.

Paula Katsikas

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