Thursday, 26 November 2009

1. Main Titles - 'Brace Yourself' / 'The Toaster'

First off, and before we even get to any of the 'songs' on this setlist of blog posts, I think it's important that you watch this video.  'Brace Yourself' was a 3 minute intro video that was played at the beginning of every show on the Dangerous tour.  The video is basically a montage of the billions of people MJ has played to, the places he's visited, the albums and movies he's released, and is basically a pre-show propaganda piece designed to warm up the audience and get the girls screaming.  And scream they do:

I hope you'll forgive the hackneyed use of Carl Orff's 'Carmina Burana', a dramatic choral piece that has since been used everywhere from movie trailers to 'Pop Factor' TV shows. This was my first time hearing this piece of music and every time I hear it now, my mind drifts back to this opening scene from the show.

A point you'll probably hear me re-iterate over and over again over the course of this blog is just how much MJ inspired me, but possibly not in the ways he inspired most. I'm pretty sure I'll never be able to sing, dance, perform or create anywhere near as well as him, but the way he set up his live musical performances to be so much more than just a 'gig' was truly spellbinding. Most of my songwriting and ideas for live shows stem from wanting to create a tangible feeling of emotion, whether it be awe or elation, but all in a kick-ass rock and roll style. This, in essence, was what MJ did. The intro video was all part of gearing the crowd up for the next two hours, an experience which might just change their lives, and I don't think it's naive to think like that.

Maybe I'm alone in this, but a good show really stays with me - like the fist coming at the fans at the very end of the video, a good show can really knock the wind out of me. After seeing U2 perform in Cardiff this year, the only show I've ever seen to come near the realm of MJ proportions, I couldn't get the images and sounds out of my head for days. All I wanted to do was view countless YouTube videos and listen to live bootlegs, desperate to regain some of the feeling. Maybe I'm over-sensitive, but there's not a lot else that does that to me, not even movies.

The other thing this video hopefully does is show you MJ how he was viewed in 1992 - and how I remember him. For me, everything after that time was moot; he'd already written more outstanding songs than any other artist I've ever known, he'd played to countless millions around the globe, he'd tried his hand at so many things. His was a life well-lived. I hope this doesn't sound too weird, but for me, that was kind of like the pinnacle of MJ. After that time, I don't think I would have minded if he'd never released another great record. Every time he'd resurface with new material, I was less and less interested. I don't mean that in a derogatory sense, but I think a part of me wanted to remember the almost faultless string of hits he'd had, and not let them be tarnished by whatever the next musical direction or media scandal was.

Whatever was said about him, it is undeniable that he was a truly great performer and possibly the greatest entertainer I will ever see. His entrance shortly after the intro video is proof positive of this. MJ is basically 'launched' into view from beneath the stage via a pneumatic lift in a move that was dubbed "The Toaster". With a cat howl he explodes onto the stage into a hail of sparks and explosions. What better way for a man this big to make his entrance. Check this out:

I can only imagine what this must have been like to observe first hand.  MJ knew that one of the most powerful moments of the whole show was the anticipation of greatness, and he totally played on this.  Who else could have leapt onto a stage, then stood statute, completely still, for the next FOUR minutes, captivating their audience?  Four minutes is a LONG time to watch a guy not move, and all the while keep cheering.  The crowd lapped it up.  This would most definitely have got me in the mood to jam, but more on that in the next post....

For now I'll leave you with a final video I just stumbled across, a Pepsi-propaganda-piece about the Dangerous tour which, even by today's standards, would probably be considered quite a show.  Thank goodness this was all done back before they'd invented the carbon footprint....


Until next time, Jackson fans!

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