THRILLER – LIVE at the Bristol Hippodrome

You can’t really argue with this. Thriller Live delivered what an eager crowd wanted – hit after hit from the great Jacko catalogue. It had to be tight, sassy, had to be ON it. Anything less… well, I dread to think.

Backed live by the superb Thriller Band, Shaquille Hemmans, Michael Kavuma, Rory Taylor, Angelica Allen and Sean Christopher all took the night by storm to deliver a pulsing 30 plus songs to an adoring audience. Afterwards, streaming into the high-rise car park, some in the crowd were still singing and dancing. They had clearly had the soul for ‘getting down!’

Adrian Grant’s original concept allows us to simply enjoy Jackson’s artistic output without the backstory of the singer’s emotional challenges, especially towards the end of his life. Thriller Live exists simply to revel in some of the singer’s best songs and dance moves. In this it succeeds without question. As well as the lead singers, an extraordinarily athletic dance troupe mashes up the stage with Jacksonesque twitches, kicks and turns but then takes things yet further with gravity defying leaps and somersaults, adding perfectly timed circus to the show. This really felt like a celebration.

The evening started with a look back to Jackson’s musical beginnings with only the briefest of historical sound bites about his artistic achievements before the music kicked in. There were faithful renderings of I’ll Be There, I Want You Back, ABC, Rockin’ Robin and Shake Your Body. In these early stages it was understudy Angelica Allen, stepping in for Cleopatra Higgins, who took centre stage, conveying the young Jackson at his exuberant and youthful best through the Motown era.

Things started to get funkier with Shake Your Body. Clever use of LED lighted panels animated the space with disco swirls cutting up the straight lines of the stage. We even had an old fashioned panto-like splitting of the audience into halves to participate in some raucous shout out loud chorus singing. Then on we swept into Remember the Time, for which the ancient Egyptian theme in Jackson’s original video of the song was reprised by the dancers. But the first half belonged to the truly talented Sean Christopher whose version of Dangerous had you wondering if Jackson himself was on stage. Rory Taylor then impressed with his heartfelt version of the poignant She’s Out of My Life.

After the break we hurtled on with a thunderous version of Smooth Criminal heralded with police sirens. Again it was Christopher who impressed with Billie Jean, with a moonwalk that had the crowd spontaneously shouting and clapping, before we finally hit Thriller itself. We were not disappointed. With a kinetic zombie dance, and dear old Vincent Price’s eerie voice, “Darkness falls across the land, the midnight hour is close at hand…” Thriller Live certainly made this graveyard bop.    ★★★★★  Simon Bishop   16th February 2016