Niagara Gazette

Features

July 30, 2012

Michael Jackson show shuffles back to Buffalo

Niagara Gazette — Nostalgia notwithstanding, pop music is a product for the young folks. Yet a generation of Americans came of age without ever getting to see the "King of Pop" perform his particular brand of musical magic in a live venue.

A child born in the U.S.A. on the same day as Michael Jackson's classic Thriller album would've had to begin attending concerts before attending elementary school or become a world traveler as a teenager to have seen him perform live.

Jackson toured nearly nonstop between 1969 and 1989. A 1970 show at Buffalo's Memorial Auditorium was canceled due to threats on Michael's life, but he and his brothers returned three times in the late 70s and early 80s (portions of The Jacksons Live! album were recorded during one of two visits here in August, 1981) and once at Rich Stadium after Thriller turned Jackson into the world's biggest pop star. But Jackson's lone U.S. solo tour never came closer than Cleveland.

Over the last two decades of his life, Jackson performed almost exclusively overseas, only playing stateside on an occasional television show. At the same time, the quality of his music eroded, as did his popularity among young listeners who grew to know him more for his eccentric and sometimes scandalous behavior than for his song and dance brilliance.

"By the time I was of age to be interested in music, I viewed MJ as too much of a freak show personally to want to become a fan," said Derek Browning, a 30-year-old who grew up in Tonawanda and Detroit, home of the Motown record label that spawned Jackson's career.

But Jackson's death in 2009 has shifted the focus away from his lifestyle and back to his music.

"When I made it about the music only, I became an instant fan," said Browning, now a luxury car salesman in Toronto. "I then continuously played MJ records for three days straight, thinking to myself, wow, I wish I would've been able to focus on just the music a long time ago, because his records really are classics and still hold up to this day."

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