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Michael Jackson ‘This is It’ – Movie Review

3 Nov

‘This is It’ couldn’t possibly replace the 50 concerts Michael Jackson was supposed to be performing at the O2 Arena in London this year. It is made up entirely of rehearsal footage where at best Jackson gives only 75% of what he may have at London. Costumes were not sorted, singing was restricted to keep his vocals fresh, dancing was still in the experimental stages and music and backing videos were still be worked on. Was Jackson alive there is no way he would have allowed this footage to be shown, the perfectionist that he was. However we all know what happened there and so to give the fans what they want (and to make some much-needed cash)  Sony have released this rehearsal footage in the shape of a movie.

And in fairness they haven’t tried to replace the actual shows. This is a sketch of a concert made up of different rehearsal footage, interviews, backstage banter and video footage Jackson was recording to accompany his performances. And as a behind the scenes making of this works very well indeed, and it will certainly please the fans who so desperately wanted to see him live.

What we get here is basically the full concert (Although some songs weren’t included, probably because the quality wasn’t good enough) made up of various days work, recorded on decent cameras and edited pretty well. The singing is live on all but about 2 songs, and the music sounds so fantastic, brought up to date but still kept largely as we remember it. During these songs the director has tried to feature as much of what would have actually appeared at the concerts as possible, so we do get to see the footage of what he had planned in terms of special effects, video and costumes. In between songs there is brief behind the scenes footage that is very insightful, if kept rather minimal. Below is the setlist as well as I can remember it.

1. Wanna be starting something
2. Jam
3. Don’t stop till you get enough  (we didn’t see Jackson perform this, but they played the instrumental which suggests it was planned to go here)
4. They Don’t Care About Us/ History/ She Drives Me Wild
5. Human nature
6. interlude
7. Smooth Criminal
8. The Way You Make Me Feel
9. Jackson five melody
10. I’ll Be There
11. Shake Your Body Down To The Ground
12. I Just Can’t Stop Loving You
13. Thriller/ Threatened
14. Beat It
15. Black Or White
16. Dirty Diana (we know Jackson was planning on performing this, though it isn’t featured in the film)
17. Earth Song
18. Billie Jean
19. Man In The Mirror

As setlists go this is a pretty amazing selection of songs. My one complaint would be the distinct lack of ‘Off The Wall’ material; his best album in my opinion. I also expected to see at least one brand new song performed live, but oh well. Highlights include Wanna be Startin Something, in which he would have opened with  explosions and stunts before hovering above the audience in a ‘video’ suit – it looked incredible but we only got to see a cgi mock-up. The suit would then be opened and he would step out and kick into a storming version of the opening track from Thriller.

Jam impressed; it was a vast improvement on the new jack swing influenced studio version that never really apealed to me. Smooth Criminal and Earth Song had impressive video sections and on Human Nature and I Just Can’t Stop Loving You Jackson proved he was as good a singer in 2009 as he was in 1989.

Thriller was the undisputed highlight of the movie; there was a short film that would have played behind Jackson that was basically a modern remake of the original video (minus story) that would have been in 3D! There was also a huge spider on stage that Jackson could climb into and ghosts and ghouls on wires would have flown across the audience and down the isles. The costumes on the dancers were so well designed and the music was excellent, plus new spoken part!

If there was a disappointment it would be Billie Jean, which was a world away from his famous Motown 25 performance. Here Jackson seems only half interested, only marking out dance steps, singing occasionally and not performing his legendary moonwalk or wearing the well known costume. It is here that we are most reminded of the nature of this film; it is nowhere near a finished product, merely the footage of a man in preperation for a concert that was never to be. It left me tantalised, wanting more and wanting to see the finished product.

For what it is ‘This Is It’ is virtually flawless. The fact that they were able to do anything with some simple rehearsal footage is an achievement in itself, and fans are extremely grateful for just this. The film has been edited almost perfectly with a tasteful opening and ending, and just the right amount of behind the scenes footage and interviews edited in. Overall I couldn’t have asked more from this film but that isn’t to say I didn’t want more. Go into this expecting to see a man in preparation for the greatest show on earth but don’t expect to see a finished concert because you will be disappointed. This truly was it for Michael Jackson, and if this movie proves one thing it’s that he left some amazing songs as his legacy.


Reading and Leeds 2009!

6 Sep

Reading and Lees festival took place over the Bank Holiday Weekend and I was lucky enough to attend the Northern Leg. 2008’s festival was the best yet and I had doubts that 09 could ever beat it but if anything it was even better.
Over the weekend I saw a good mix of new and more established bands, kicking of the weekend on the Thursday with some new music from Wild Beasts, Bear Hands and Holy State. Wild Beats put on a great show on the back of their recently released (and hugely acclaimed) album, ‘Two Dancers’ whilst New York City’s Bear Hands were even better, showing why their debut album is so highly anticipated.

Other new bands to impress over the weekend included The XX, who put on a great show despite being all but drowned out by Leathle Bizzle on the NME stage. It was impossible to escape The XX’s simple but effective T Shirts that seemed to be everywhere (including on Vampire Weekend’s singer!). Their sound was lo-fi and emotional, just as it is on their album and I think they left everyone impressed. Hockey were also hugely impressive with thier blend of funk, pop and indie over on the FR stage. Their debut album is out next month and judging by this performance it is going to be massive (or deserves to be!). The Virgins put on a simple but high energy performance on the Sunday, bringing a fairly large crowd with them despite declining weather conditions. They performed most of their recently released album although many of the songs were disappointingly chopped or changed, and despite rudimentary playing and off key vocals it was an entertaining show. They were followed by Little Boots who brought some pop sparkle to the festival and The Horrors who may well have stolen the day with their already classic songs from their albums ‘Strange House’ and ‘Primary Colours’. They have improved a lot since the last time I saw them, 3 years ago, although they may have lost some of the raw punk energy that made their original show so great. Nonetheless this was one of highlights of the weekend, in particular their frantic version of ‘Count in Fives’ and the more laid back charms of ‘Who can Say’. I skipped Jack Penate and Jamie T after two disappointing sets last time I saw them, whilst the hottest new band in the world, The Soft Pack, unfortunately had to pull out leaving a space for fellow cool young things Amazing Baby, who alas could never compete. I also had to sacrifice The Golden Silvers due to bad weather; disappointing but hardly the end of the world.

Over on the mainstage Noah and The Whale took a more relaxed approach which was a nice change pace. Their new album is brilliant and they played some of its best tracks, such as ‘Blue Skies’. However I was pretty stumped as to why they didn’t play ‘5 years Time’, a summer anthem that would have set the Saturday off in style. Of the harder acts Fightstar impressed with their blend of melodic / screamo rock, knocking the crowd back with songs such as ‘The English Way’.  Enter Shikari were the weekend’s biggest disappointment, appearing unfortunately muted and worn throughout their short set, although it may have been me who was worn out by then!  The Prodigy warmed up the stage for Arctic Monkeys in truly electric style blasting through their hits in high octane warfare approach. ‘Firestarter’ and ‘Breathe’ were particularly mad, and newer material stood up very well alongside it. However Things got to much during ‘Voodoo People’ leading to mass crushes and people climbing ice cream vans to escape the masses!

Luckily Friday headliners Arctic Monkeys were a lot calmer, and much more sophisticated. They were apearing off the back of their sensational new album ‘Humbug’ so it’s fair to say I was looking forward to them more than any other band. Their set was a lot more ordinary than we have come to expect, in terms of songs. Whilst previously they may have played the odd B Side or in the case of 2006 kicked of with their biggest hit, here they kept things simple by opening with first song on their new album ‘My Proppeler’ before running through a setlist made up of classic oldies and newer album tracks. Even the 7 new songs they played have all been previewed live before so I was a bit annoyed we couldn’t hear ‘Dance Little Liar’ or ‘Jewelers Hands’, nonetheless the ones they did play were excellent. Compared to their highly energetic 2006 set, this headline slot was a lot calmer and composed. They swapped fast tempos for a considered pace and though the results were less exciting, they were equally enjoyable. If only some other people in the crowd could have appreciated their new subtleties. Whilst they danced and screamed to ‘When The Sun Goes Down’ or ‘Still Take You Home’ They yawned and talked though ‘Secret Door’ and even the new version of ‘Fluorescent adolecent’. More fool them because their whole performance was a real delight.

Bloc Party have played for 4 times in 5 years, so excuse me If I wasn’t to excited about seeing them. I was, however, pleasantly surprised as this was by far their best performance yet. Whilst ‘Silent Alarm’ remains their best album by a country mile (and they played considerably less material from this album than in years gone by), the band seemed very much at home playing their more dance influenced newer material. New Single ‘One More Chance’ went down very well and ‘Flux’ was another crowd pleaser. Lets face it though, Bloc Party were a means to an end. Saturday – heck, the whole weekend – was all about Radiohead. They Were every thing they could have been and more, possibly the most sublime live experience on the planet. Their set list was as perfect as I thought possible (until I saw their Reading set) with a fantastic mixture of new songs and classic sing alongs. Their opening couldn’t have been better – 15 Steps, Airbag, There There, Nude and Lucky all coming in the first 25 minutes. They did some great versions of songs from my favourite album of theirs (Kid A) including the highlight ‘National Anthem’. The conclusion was a stunning version of Paranoid Android before the frenzied ‘Just’ and the soothing end of ‘Everything in It’s right Place’. The light show was out of this world, the crowd were brilliant and the sound quality was better than I thought you could get at a music festival. I couldn’t have asked for any more – except maybe creep or fake Plastic Trees…but then again they could have played anything from their huge back Catalogue and I would have been happy. I can’t wait to see them again now.

Kaiser Chiefs on the Sunday were a must see despite the fact I have never been a big fan of theirs. Luckily I know how good they are live and I was not disappointed by their greatest hits set (despite only having three albums). They were up for it and so were the crowd, especially on ‘I predict a Riot’ and ‘Angry Mob’. The choice of who to see headline was not so easy, and it was a decision I fretted over. Kings of Leon or Faith No More? In the end I went for Kings of Leon and I don’t regret it. I have since heard of their bizarre Reading show in which they insulted the poor crowd and threw guitars at security. Well they couldn’t have been more gracious at Leeds, praising and thanking the audience at every turn and playing a much better setlist than they did when they played two years ago. ‘Red Morning Light’ was the highlight but it was the newer songs that most people had come for (something that so clearly grated Caleb at Reading.) Overall it was a very good end to a brilliant weekend. I would have loved to have seen Faith No More, and I only heard good things about thier show, but I am glad I saw KOL’s final performance of 2009.

Of course this festival wasn’t just about the music, and I saw some great comedians, films, shoops, food, and had a lot of fun over the 5 days I was there, but I would be here till christmas if I started on that…Bring on 2010!