Left – Kenny Wizz
It is possible to argue that there are few groups of people in this world more fanatical and committed than those of Michael Jackson's fanbase, which is why the number of people dressed in costume at last night's HIStory II concert shouldn't have surprised me. Still, as I rushed into the QPAC's Concert Hall just as the doors were pulled shut, stepping over their legs and tripping on their bags, I was caught off guard by the number of patrons just in my row who, sans irony or embarrassment, were donning sequined gloves and hats, their pants rolled two inches shorter than today's accepted fashion standards, with some even combing through, I'm sure of it, especially grown long, black and curly locks. Admonishing myself now not only for lateness but a severe lack of research into dress-code for the event, I took my seat amidst the buzzing crowd awaiting their annual Jackson-fest.
HIStory II is the second instalment in the Michael Jackson tribute concert series bought to Australia from Las Vegas by Showtime as part of a wider world tour and performed by Jackson impersonator Kenny Wizz. Touted as "The Ultimate Michael Jackson Experience", HIStory II aims to present a biography of Michael Jackson through his songs, though Wizz put it better when he introduced the show as a tribute to Michael through "song, dance and production". In terms of story-line, a biography wasn't really delivered and anyone coming for a crash-course in the details of Jackson's life would have been disappointed. Luckily, though, it didn't seem like anyone with those expectations had shown up. As a fantastic tribute to a great entertainer the show was spot-on, and this seemed to more than satisfy the majority of the audience.
Impersonating someone who many would consider the greatest entertainer in modern history is a hard ask and something Wizz seems to have dedicated his life to perfecting. The amount he looked like Jackson, aided by costumes, make-up and maybe prosthetics, was at first glance a little eerie, but also quite phenomenal. While no one will ever sing or dance with the exact and exceptional talent of Michael Jackson, Wizz has achieved a remarkable feat in perfecting the slightly coy, at some times childlike and at others just-so-crisp mannerisms of Jackson, something to me much more captivating than hearing him hit every note perfectly. His showmanship won the crowd over within seconds and he delighted them many times over by running down aisles and up to balconies to hug and kiss the most excited of fans.
Over the two and half hour show, Wizz, The History band and half a dozen dancers surged through all the big Jackson hits. A beautifully simple version of Ben was among my favourites, though a shiver-inducing Smooth Criminal, a moon-walk packed Billie Jean and, of course, a zombie costumed Thriller were all highlights of a show with very few low-points.
The best part of the show wasn't the crash-hot band, the really exceptional dancers or even Wizz himself, though. It was, in the end, the audience who stole the show, the many for whom seeing Michael Jackson himself perform is either now a dream unachievable or the dearest of memories. The absolute joy these people; young, old, male, female, in groups and alone, experienced from seeing the show was, in all corniness, frankly heart-warming. Aside from the cranky old woman seated behind me who admonished the two girls in front every time they tried to get up and dance, the group who packed the Concert Hall last night were full of a common happiness and spirit that isn't always easy to find these days. Singing in unison, faces lit up and feet doing their best moves surely rehearsed over hours and years, part of me wished I was Jackson-fan enough to be one of them.
And who knows, perhaps by the time the show rolls around next year I could be packing a sequinned glove and moonwalking my way back to QPAC. Wizz, after all, promised a return of the show next year, presumably HIStory III, and the temptation to return to such a dazzling, spectacular evening may just get me.
Michael Jackson HIStory II
Venue: Concert Hall, QPAC, South Bank, Brisbane
Date: 1 Sep 2012
Tickets: $79 – $89