I was a 23-year-old university graduate when I saw Michael Jackson at Milton Keynes Bowl. By then, I was no longer a die-hard fan but acknowledged that I knew his music as part of the soundtrack of my life.
Another Part of Me
As a black child growing up in the UK in the 70s, where National Front thugs regularly spewed messages of racial hate in high profile marches through immigrant neighbourhoods. I’d seen the mobs’ anger-filled faces, seen their jackbooted swagger, carrying misspelt but vitriolic placards telling me and my kind to ‘go back home!’
At that time Jackson was a balm for all that intolerance, living and incontrovertible proof that their dangerous slurs were a lie.
To hear Michael Jackson sing was to know he was a musical genius. It didn’t hurt either that he was globally feted and a successful businessman to boot. All this was a real bloody lip for the British National Party and all those other died in the wool bigots.
Swept along by the hype, I couldn’t resist my chance to hear the King of Pop and Milton Keynes was only a couple of miles away from my home town, Watford.
The gig, part of Bad, his first solo world tour, both began and ended my ticket touting career.
I clearly remember buying eight tickets for the 10, September 1988 show. And, despite placing a pretty non-descript ad in the local paper, my precious consignment was snapped up in a matter of hours – at a very handsome mark-up.
I went with my college sweetheart, who I later married. Even though we got there in good time we were instantly lost, swallowed up in a sea of adoring, glassy-eyed fans.
‘Michael, Michael,’ they screamed, by now desperate to see their idol who was touring with British pop princess Kim Wilde. I couldn’t help but be swept away by the electricity of the mood.
When he eventually made it on stage it didn’t matter that he was far away. A lone figure dressed in black, on the vast stage he looked vulnerable – that was until he hailed the crowd and they roared back. It was deafening, terrifying and thrilling. That was it, like a light had been switched on behind those large aviator sunglasses: Michael the showman, the King of Pop, appeared.
It was, for me, a perfectly sung and choreographed show. I sang myself hoarse to Man in the Mirror, Smooth Criminal and The Way You Make Me Feel. I fell in love with him all over again.
The singer visibly fed off the crowd, held us mesmerised by the audacity of his performance. Huge screens brought us 12-foot-high MJ. It was, without doubt, the best concert I’ve ever seen.
Leave Me Alone
A couple of months ago, I was half disappointed to learn that his gigs at London’s O2 Arena were sold out. I’d be back in the UK but too much that was ugly had happened to really want to go.
I comforted myself then, as I do know, that I saw Michael at the very height of his powers, unsullied by the later allegations that were to mar the rest of his singular career.
A lone figure dressed in black, on the vast stage he looked vulnerable – that was until he hailed the crowd and they roared back.