I WAS THERE . . . Q-Tip Presents: "Long Live the King! A Birthday Celebration for Michael Jackson" @ Nokia Theatre, 8/29/09

For any who grew up feeling he was the height of cool on-point entertainment, what a summer to remember. The relentless media attention and sheer cultural importance of Michael Jackson’s passing has spawned a renewed interest in the King of Pop, his beginnings, his legacy, and celebrating his amazing accomplishments.

Such was the vibe that this event, sold out in advance, was throwing down; a vibrant honoring of an artist, entertainer, and musical icon that has influenced and impressed a certain aesthetic on at least two generations.

Doors were at ten for this late show, organized by Q-Tip, yet another musician who came to prominence in the generation after Michael, who got the party movin’ round bout eleven.

Standing in the midst of a packed house of fans devoted to showing their love to the departed King and sharing emotion with one another, I can only describe the pervasive feeling as one of adoring euphoria.

Q-Tip and his partner in shaping and guiding this outpouring, DJ Spinna, were immensely skillful at showcasing a string of Michael’s hits along with lesser known tracks, though most were tweaked in some way to evoke the original glory by adding a contemporary edge. DJ Mark Ronson also provided some support, playing self composed beats.

The crowd’s dancing and energy was of course remarkable and while the crowd was extremely diverse, all were bound up in the elation that this artist’s body of work evoked in them.

Checking the tragic aspects of Michael’s fame and life at the door, this was a crowd in the mood to honor a fallen hero who had awed us all as children and/or young adults. Some amazing moments were the arrival of Grand Master Flash on stage, Quincy Jones phoning in via cell and broadcasting a few great messages to the crowd (Don’t stop till you get enough!), and the amazing Marsha Ambrosius formerly of Floetry belting out some vocals over a sick groove.

By the end, even my tie was sweat drenched, while I was half deaf, and exhausted but wishing all love and respect to Michael, happy birthday.

Kenneth Joachim

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