Newsweek Review of the Opening Night of The Victory
Tour July 16, 1984
what NEWSWEEK - July 16, 1984 - had to say about the legendary
Victory Tour's opening night in Kansas City and more. NEWSWEEK
is one of the most important US magazines]:
After months of anticipation, Michael Jackson's troubled
and controversial tour has finally kicked off in Kansas
City and the enigmatic star is living up to his reputation
as the reluctant Pied Piper of pop.
It was Michael Jackson's kind of crowd - mothers with toddlers,
teenagers with parents, blacks and whites together, low-key,
sober and friendly. They had paid dearly for tickets and
now here they were, filing quietly into Kansas City's Arrowhead
Stadium last Friday night for the debut of the most widely
touted and hotly debated tour of the recent year - Michael
Jackson's "Victory" tour, his last with his brothers, the
the sun set and the lights dimmed, excitement mounted. When
the Jacksons finally appeared, rising on a waffle grid of
blinding lights, Michael bestowed a benediction with a job
of his trademark sequined glove, and the crowd of 45'000
roared its appreciation. Racing at full throttle, the band
launched into "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'?" - and Michael
leaped into nearly two hours of the griddy showmanship that
has made him perhaps the most popular musician in the world
After months of confusion, controversy and sporadic outbursts
of popular histeria, often fanned by frenzied media coverage,
the Jackson's tour - billed as the most lucrative rock and
roll roadshow ever mounted - was officially under way. The
tour is currently scheduled to visit some 13 cities, with
a few more sites yet to be announced. Most of the dates
- perhaps nearly 50 in all - will be in large outdoor arenas
like Arrowhead. The tour is expected to gross around $ 50
million - though estimates vary wildly - perhaps edging
records set by the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Who.
"Even my mom talks about the concert," laughs Bob
Case of Seattle radio station KUBE. "This is going to
be THE event of the next 10 years. It's like the Super Bowl
- you don't care about who's playing, you just want to see
In many cities, the Jacksons concert will climax months
of feverish anticipation - and, in some cases, increasingly
vocal complaints. Everyone had assumed that the tour would
present complicated logistical and security problems - particularly
since most preparations had been marred by byzantine, behind-the-scenes
tourmoil. Before last Thursday, when Michael announced new
ticketing plans and the donation of his profits to charity,
reports of greed and incompetence had outraged some fans
and perhaps contributed to sluggish ticket sales in Dallas.
But other fans loyally demonstrated their enthusiasm.
In Kansas City, the hoopla began in June. When newspapers
containing the first official ticket order forms rolled
off the presses in early hours of June 19, fans were lined
up to buy them.
"It's rediculous!" said disc jockey Roy Leonard,
who has been following the Jackson craze for the Chicago
radio station WGN: "People were stealing papers off other
people's front lawns."
every newspaper thief soon learned, Michael's show
was no easy market. Anxious fans were instructed to
mail a money order [four tickets for $ 120.--], with
no guarantee of a specific date, a good seat - or
even any tickets at all. Despite the stiff price and
chancey prospects [tickets were to be randomly distributed],
customers in Kansas City jammed into post offices
to buy money orders - 15'000 in one day.
Elsewhere in the country, civic leaders and local
media petitioned Michael to make their city one of
his stops. In staid Boston, the local tabloid sponsored
a coupon drive that garnered over 30'000 signatures,
and a radio station organized a rally of 5'000 fans,
who milled about on Boston Common beneath an outsize
billboard of Michael - a 25-year-old Wizard of Funk
looking uncomfortably like Big Brother.
In Jackson's native Gary, Ind., some 30'000 citizens
petitioned Michael, at the behest of Mayor Richard
Hatcher, to come home - at least for a ceremony. Even
the president got into the act: when Jackson visited
the White House last May, Ronald Reagan personally
urged him to perform in Washington. Not to be outdone,
presidential candidate Jesse Jackson made a point
of meeting him last Saturday in Kansas City.
Such is the magic of America's newest Pied Piper of
pop. The most explosive phenomenon since the Beatles,
he defies easy categorization. Like James Brown, he's
the pre-eminent black pop musician of his era, a master
of soulful singing and impassioned stagecraft, able
to dance with a furious precision that is innovative
yet steeped in black tradition. Like the early Beatles,
he's a master of upbeat musical confections, sometimes
created in collaboration with the most popular ex-Beatle
of all, Paul McCartney. Like Pat Boone, the prototype
of rock teen idols, he's cute, wholesome and pious.
He's a virtuoso of the modern recording studio; but
like Fred Astaire and Frank Sinatra, he aspires to
be an old-fashioned entertainer.
He's a stunning live perfomer, but also a notorious
recluse with an otherworldly mystique - imagine Howard
Hughes and E.T. rolled into one. Like Judy Garland
or Johnny Ray, his appeal is freakish - he's utterly
unlike you and me, with a streak of wildfire that
unpredictably lights his eyes.
In Kansas City, first stop on the tour that goes to
Texas Stadium outside Dallas [July 13-15], the Gator
Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla. [Aug. 2-5], and Madison
Square Garden in New York [Aug. 2-5], Michael presided
over one of the gaudiest, most grandiose spectacles
in the history of pop music.
show opened with a curious costume pageant involving
large, lumbering pastel-colored Muppet-like monsters,
a magically glowing sword, and a visored knight in
shining armor - King Arthur meets Luke Skywalker.
[The knight was Michael, of course]. There were lasers,
strobe lights and smoke bombs. There was a spidery
mechanical gizmo that nearly ate Michael. [He escaped].
There was magic, illusion, and fireworks - flares
and explosives onstage during the show and in the
sky overhead to end it.
But is was the music, after all, that had brought
the crowd here - and the smartly paced set included
a little bit of everything. There was something old:
the classic popcorn funk of "I Want You Back", the
Jackson 5's first Motown hit 15 years ago. There was
something new: four songs from "Thriller", Michael's
blockbuster solo album. Amid all the razzle-dazzle,
there was even someting blue: an earthy, extended
gospel coda to "I'll Be There" sung by Michael a cappella
- a touching reminder of his roots in the soul stylings
of Jackie Wilson. Michael moved effortlessly from
ballads [a luminous "Human Nature"] and rock [a ferocious
"Beat It"] to skittish funk [the salsa-spiced "Lovely
One"]. On "Working Day And Night" the group flashed
some whirling dervish choreograhpy, while by the show's
finale, "Shake Your Body", Michael had become a freelance
blur of spins, stops and body-popping turns.
There was no material from the new Jacksons album,
"Victory", - perhaps because, disappointingly, it
is such a spotty effort. Jermaine Jackson, a solo
recording artist in his own right, did perform three
of his songs; but he was in poor voice, and often
seemed off pitch.
start to close, there is only one real star of this
show; it may be billed as a Jackson's tour, but it's
Michael's all the way. When he sings a lachrymose
ballad like "She's Out Of My Life", he makes sentimental
tripe seem like honest passion. And when he performs
"Billie Jean", he seems to glide weightlessly. He
dances with the breathtaking verve of his predecessor
James Brown, the beguiling wispiness of Diana Ross,
the ungainly pathos of Charlie Chaplin, the edgy joy
of a man startled to be alive. The crowd gasps and
screams, savoring not a fussy high-tech stage but
the grace and beauty of a brilliant entertainer.
No wonder the crowd in Kansas City screams in gratitude
simply to behold him, watch him move, bask in his
bodily presence: people want proof that he's not simply
a conjurer's trick - all pixie dust and phosphor traces.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Michael Jackson. He's a
wonderful singer, a geat dancer, a mesmerizing performer!
He's there on stage now, gliding across his Star Wars
stage set, going through his moves. As Michael would
say, "It's magic." In a few minutes, he will
be whisked back to safety and the cocoon he feels
comfortable in, waiting to be airlifted to the next
stop on his most peculiar of rock and roll odysseys.
Maybe your town will be next.