x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

The Jacksons: reunited and reflective

The siblings are touring again for the first time in more than 20 years, and their itinerary will take them to the UAE for the first time.

Tito, Jackie, Marlon and Jermaine Jackson are touring partly in homage to their brother Michael. Courtesy Flash
Tito, Jackie, Marlon and Jermaine Jackson are touring partly in homage to their brother Michael. Courtesy Flash

The Jackson family are probably the most famous dynasty in the world of popular music. They began in the late 1960s as a troupe of supremely talented youngsters performing catchy funk-pop hits matched with slick choreography. Of course, the achievements of The Jackson 5 - renamed The Jacksons when they switched record labels in the mid-1970s - were eventually overshadowed by the monumental career of their youngest member, Michael.

But now, partly in homage to Michael following his death in 2009, his four older brothers have agreed to reunite for the Unity Tour, which will hit Yas Island on Friday. Jermaine, 57, converted to Islam in 1989 and is a constant visitor to the Emirates, but for the other three members - Jackie, 61, Tito, 59, and Marlon, 55 - it's their first time here. Via a conference call with Tito and Marlon from their hotel room in Antwerp, Belgium, we asked what motivated this gathering of the Jackson clan.

I Want You Back

Marlon says fan pressure galvanised their decision. "It wasn't really one brother or the other who pushed us to do it. We were just getting so many emails from our fans asking when we were going to tour again," he recalls. "In the end, this tour is about giving our fans what they wanted."

The last time The Jacksons went on the road together, however, was for the infamous Victory Tour in 1984. After 55 concerts in the US, the tour was cancelled before a scheduled European leg because of increasing rancour among the brothers.

But Tito says he prefers not to dwell on the events of yesteryear. "It was a different time for us all and so much has happened since then," he says.

"The Victory Tour ended in America while this is a world tour. So we get to play for and meet our fans in Europe and the East. And we are so excited about that possibility."

But have the old tensions resurfaced?

"We're fighting right now," jokes Marlon. "I'm putting on my gloves and me and Jackie are about to slug it out over two rounds. We've hired Don King as a promoter.

"No really, we're too old too fight with each other. Maybe we fought when we were eight, but we leave the fighting to the younger generation."

State of Shock

In fact, this is their second shot at reunifying the band in recent years. In 2009, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Marlon filmed a reality television show documenting their attempts to bring the original line-up back together. Michael's death halted these plans, and Tito says it's taken them three years to recover from the loss.

"After [Michael's] death we took a hiatus for three years while we mourned and tried to get enough courage to go on tour. Actually, courage is the wrong word. We just wanted to heal and mourn.

"But we realised that touring together was something that Michael would have supported us in and wanted us to do it, so we all decided it was time to make it happen."

I'll Be There

The show features a moving tribute to Michael, in which they sing a number of his tunes. Tito says this section of the gig brings mixed emotions: "It's very bittersweet when we play his songs. We miss him dearly, but playing his songs brings us such a warm, beautiful feeling. And it brings back so many memories of the good times we all had together."

Marlon adds: "When you lose a sibling, it's tough. But then this tour is giving us a chance to reminisce and look back at the good times we all shared together.

"It's really a heartfelt and emotional thing when we perform his songs on stage. We kind of feel he's there with us."

Can You Feel It

Surely the passage of time means the energetic dance moves that defined the band must be getting a bit taxing on the old joints?

Not so, claims Marlon. "It's not that demanding on us physically. We've been performers all our lives so singing and dancing is just second nature to us.

"We all feel healthy and keep in good shape, so it's really not that tough on us. It's a very energetic type of show, but we don't believe in cutting corners."

Tito adds: "Mick Jagger's still on tour and he's a lot older than us, so why shouldn't we keep touring?"

The Jacksons play the du Forum, Yas Island on Friday at 8pm. Tickets cost Dh250 to Dh450. Visit www.thinkflash.ae or call 800 35274 for more information

hberger@thenational.ae