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Arts and Entertainment

Michael Jackson’s coming to town
Cirque du Soleil show pays tribute to King of Pop
Published Thursday, March 27, 2014 10:00 am
by Michaela L. Duckett

Cirque du Soleil's "Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour" stops in Charlotte April 8-9 at Time Warner Cable Arena featuring 49 international dancers, musicians and acrobats.

It’s been almost five years since the death of Michael Jackson. Yet, his legacy continues to live on.

As one of the greatest performers and musicians of all time, Jackson’s influence on pop culture is undeniable. He was a revolutionary who changed the game in so many ways from music to dance, fashion and videography. He’s had an impact in some way or another on every artist that has came after him.

Jackson’s music and inspirational lyrics, underscoring his global message of love, peace and unity, are being brought to life in Cirque du Soleil’s production of “Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour.”

The tour stops in Charlotte April 8-9 at Time Warner Cable Arena. Tickets range from $45 to $150 each and are available through Ticketmaster.

The show, which is presented in a rock concert format combined with Cirque du Soleil’s signature acrobatic style, features 49 international dancers, musicians and acrobats.

The band includes artists who previously worked side by side with Jackson. Among them is percussionist Bashiri Johnson, whose resume reads like the Who’s Who of the music industry. Johnson has worked with everyone from Jay-Z to Celine Dion, Eric Clapton, Whitney Houston, Luther Vandross, Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige and Miles Davis.

In the following Q&A, Johnson discusses what he learned working with the King of Pop and which contemporary artists he believes are legends in the making. Some questions and answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Q: What was it like to work with Michael Jackson?

A: It was a quite incredible and very surreal. It’s sort of like being in orbit, in his orbit, and you’re orbiting around the Earth and everyone is watching what you do up in space. Then after the show is over or the rehearsal is done, you return back to Earth. But for a short time, you get to enjoy being in orbit with him.

Q: Did the opportunity to work with Jackson change you as a musician? What did you take away from the experience?

A: It didn’t change me as a musician, but it helped me to realize that there is a bar that is set even higher than what I can envision because his bar is kind of set in outer space. He had a very, very high standard of excellence, and in order to be on stage with him you have to meet that level of excellence.

One thing I learned is to never think that you have reached the pinnacle musically or in life. There’s always another level above and beyond what you think is the ultimate.

Q: You worked with Jackson on the “This is It” tour before his death. What was his energy like at the time?

A: His energy was upbeat. He was totally involved in all aspects of the production. He would check in on the dancers. He would check on the lighting. He would check in on the sound, and then he would spend the rest of the evening with us in the band. He was highly present, and he seemed like he was in great shape and excited to go out and do the 50 shows in London just like we all were.

Q: Even at his age, Jackson was an incredible performer. What was it like to see him in action?

A: It’s interesting because the movie “This is It” is really a documentary portrayal of what we went through during rehearsals. So it’s amazing to see how incredible the movie is with all of this excitement and energy and we’re only doing rehearsals. We didn’t even have a live audience.

Michael Jackson, I liken him to Bruce Lee. He’s sort of like this real slender type of athlete that is able to perform at the highest level, and that’s what he was like even during rehearsals… There were a few moments when he actually dances full out and sings full out, and it really got a lot of us excited when we witnessed it.

Q: How does it feel to be a part of the Cirque du Soleil “Michael Jackson The Immortal” tour and to pay tribute to the King of Pop?

A: It’s a great honor to be here. This is a magnificent show. It’s doing great all over the world. It’s the number 2 grossing show on Billboard Top 25 World Tours. The audience has been really enjoying every aspect of the show. We have great film clips. We have great dancers and an amazing band.

It is a show not to be missed. I don’t know how long the tour will continue, but while it’s up and running, I think everyone should run and see it. It’s a great interactive and participatory show celebrating Michael Jackson.

Q: Michael Jackson is one of several artists that you’ve worked with that are no longer living, including Whitney Houston, Ray Charles and Luther Vandross. Are there any artists living today that you think will also become legends and that are blazing a trail for artists of the next generation to follow?

A: There are a lot of artists that I think are paving their way towards legendary status. I think Beyoncé is one. I think that Esperanza Spalding is another. I really love what Bruce Springsteen is doing. I love what Bono is doing. I also love Adele. I like how she sounds. I think she’s on the way to greatness. I also like Angélique Kidjo. I love what she’s doing. So there is going to be a new league of greats and legends coming around soon enough.

Q: As a musician, you’ve experienced a lot and met a lot of different people. What is some the best advice you’ve ever received?

One of the best pieces of advice is to just be you. Be the best you, you can be. Don’t compete with anyone else. Don’t compete with anything else. Just be the best you, you can be and you will always win.


Posted on March 28, 2014
Wait to he really comes to town.... beLIEve

Posted on March 27, 2014

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