James Delisco. Photo:Jamesdelisco.com
The Music of Michael Jackson
Presented by The Louisville Orchestra
Conductor & Arranger, Brent Havens
Lead Vocalist, James Delisco
Background Vocals, Kelli Reisen & Felicia Barton
Bass, Dan Clemons, Drums/Percussion, Powell Randolph, Guitar, George Cintron, Keyboards, Justin Avery
Review by Annette Skaggs
Entire contents are copyright © 2018 Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.
It is an undeniable fact that during the 1980’s and 90’s there was a person who when you mentioned their initials, MJ, there was a good chance that others would know who you were talking about. You know who I’m referring to…..Michael Jordan. While that is true, I am referring to the other great MJ, the one who became King of Pop, the one who showed us dance moves never before seen….the one, the only….Michael Jackson.
Oh yes, I was one of his millions of fans back then, complete with pictures on my bedroom wall that I ripped from Tiger Beat, and listened to his records (yes, records) until they were worn out. I knew each album backward and forwards. He was larger than life and had talent coming out of every pore.
With a career that spanned 40 years, there is a large catalog of work to be sure and you could spend hours combing through some of his best work. While he had amassed dozens of Top 10 hits, some of his lower charting songs were some of his best writing.
The Louisville Orchestra, with the help of Windborne’s conductor Brent Havens and vocalist James Delisco, helped to bring a bit of the Michael Jackson magic back into our collective lives with an homage to the Gloved One featuring some of his best-known hits. So how appropriate to start the evening with “You Gotta Be Startin’ Something”.
The evening was a slingshot through the superstar’s historic career, including his start with The Jackson 5. After highlighting such notable songs as “Rock With You”, “Human Nature”, “Got to Be There”, and the soft ballad “Ben”, Mr. Delisco donned an Afro wig and delighted the audience with the Jackson family classic “A-B-C”, inviting us to get up and dance along.
The arrangement of “The Way You Make Me Feel” had a jazz-infused beginning that was borrowed from the movie This Is It and was a high energy romp. As Mr. Delisco slowed the evening down for the emotional “She’s Out of My Life”, a number which highlighted keyboardist Justin Avery’s command of the instrument.
When the lights came back up, there it was, the donning of one of the most iconic costume pieces in recent history, a bejeweled glove. Not just Mr. Delisco wearing the glove but the Maestro and one of our talented Louisville Orchestra violinists (sorry I could not see who it was). So, I am sure you could surmise that “Billie Jean” was performed next along with some of MJ’s masterful dance moves.
The second half of the evening gave us “Smooth Criminal”, without the unbelievable and famous lean forward dance move. With a pair of duets, we got to hear a bit more of the talented and versatile background singers. “I’ll Be There” with Mr. Delisco and Kelli Reisen was pleasant and childlike while things heated up vocally with “I Can’t Stop Loving You”, infused with an R & B-like riff between Mr. Delisco and Felicia Barton.
While “Bad” (a great guitar solo from George Cintron), “PYT” and “Beat It” were a lot of fun, Mr. Delisco was at his best when he could slow down, not worry about dance moves and show off a bit of vocal prowess that did not involve a falsetto that seemed to be a problem for him this evening. “Man in the Mirror” was delivered with heart and sincerity while “What About Us” was taking us to church, having a gospel-like delivery. You could feel Michael Jackson’s and our performers’ emotions coming from the stage.
Before the last song, Mr. Delisco, who had been singing and dancing throughout the evening, asked that any audience members under the age of 13 join him on stage to show off their dancing moves. Kiddos jumped from their seats and made their way to the stage as the familiar bells of “Thriller” began to ring. Soon Mr. Delisco made his way back to the stage, complete with the famous Thriller jacket and proceeded to dance with several sets of children brought on to the stage by his background singers to enjoy a little time in the spotlight. While some were a little shy, there were quite a few of the new dancers that were all too eager to show us their moves. Speaking of Dance Off, violinist Patricia Fong-Edwards dressed up like MJ from his “Bad” period and had a little dance with our talent too.
Our Louisville Orchestra really added some great punch to some already familiar music. While some of the arrangements seemed a little safe, there were others that took things to another level of appreciation.
As the performance went on Mr. Delisco explained that he was not there to impersonate Michael, but to celebrate and honor his storied place in musical history. I was a bit relieved to hear that since Mr. Delisco’s voice and dance moves, while impressive, were never spot-on imitations.
Mr. Delisco shared many things with the audience that evening, such as he was a $1million winner of a show called “The Entertainer” which led him to his current career, and how he would never have gotten there had it not been for Michael Jackson who, with every concert, would reserve a section in every audience for disadvantaged children. It was at just such a concert that a scared, shy, and partially mute child named James Delisco began the journey to become the talent that he is now.
Just goes to show how powerful the gift of music can be and how Michael Jackson’s music continues to inspire today.
The Music of Michael Jackson
April 21, 2018
Whitney Hall, Kentucky Center for the Arts
501 W Main St
Louisville, KY 40202
Annette Skaggs is heavily involved as an Arts Advocate here in Louisville. She is a freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe and in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career, she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York City Opera, and Northwestern University. Her knowledge and expertise have developed over the course of 25+ years’ experience in the classical arts.