3T, La Cigale, Paris
Saturday, September 1st, 2018
It is no secret that the « HIStory » era remains my favorite of Michael Jackson’s career, from a musical point of view as well as for the many memories that come with it. The 3T’s « Brotherhood » album is undoubtedly a part of it too, especially since it contributed to the last large promotion that the King of Pop would never know again for an opus.
Like many fans, I had not resisted the famous sticker saying « A Michael Jackson production » and announcing that the first 3T album was produced by their uncle under the MJJ Music label. Believe me, this had a very efficient marketing effect, especially on the 17-year-old boy I was back then ! One of my favorite hobbies in 1995 was reading the ‘Black & White’ magazine. That’s how I heard that Tito’s sons (Taj, TJ and Taryll) had an album project but I could not imagine that it would be so successful and that it would be a part of the fabulous period that would ultimately remain the most beautiful in my memories.
Of course, I am thinking back on the singles « Why » and « I Need You » featuring their Uncle Doodoo (as his nephews used to nickname Michael Jackson), with the video of the first song being shot in the summer of 1996 at the same time as « Stranger In Moscow ».
The memories of the 1996/1997 era were buried inside me and I could not foresee that they would resurface in 2018, but it was without the announcement of the 3T being back on stage in Paris, more than twenty years after their last tour in France.
I had not attended the « Brotherhood Tour » at the time, so that could be the opportunity to discover another facet of the band, something necessarily different from the albums and video clips. Let’s face it – the 3T appeared in a decade when there were so many Boys Bands that it’s easy to put them in this category. The average person (that I am not !) only needs a bit of ignorance on the subject with a zest of prejudices. Except that you cannot deceive when you’re on stage, so that’s why I had the curiosity to discover them in the flesh, and differently than in my memories as a King of Pop fan daydreaming to embellish my teenager life.
And so, on September 1st 2018, I make my way to La Cigale, a Parisian venue that I have never been to before, only a few steps from the Elysée-Montmartre, another famous place for concerts in Paris. A queue is already in place for the Meet & Greet scheduled at 6 pm, just before the show.
Among the crowd that is starting to gather, I can spot a few people I know including male sex friends ! No, I won’t be the only representative tonight, even if we must admit that the affluence is predominantly female. It is in this context that Rachel from Warrior Prod welcomes me and gives me the precious door opener – a red bracelet that will allow me to meet Tito’s sons before the show for a signing session and a souvenir photo, not to forget getting a few goodies (including a 3T mug that will give a special flavor to my herbal tea !). I take this opportunity to thank Rachel and the entire Warrior Prod team for organizing the Meet & Greet.
I am lucky to be in the first group of about twenty people that immediately heads to an annex room of La Cigale as soon as the doors open. Taj, TJ and Taryll are there, sitting at a table and ready to sign items. This is when I realize that my friends have been put into other groups, and therefore I am the only male representative, even if it means I might be the only one not to ask for a kiss or a hug, and thus disappoint my future new American friends ! So, in this queue, I can feel a lot of excitement and also a hint of stress. I would like to relax the atmosphere and say that these three men are in their forties and responsible fathers, but I only dare to tell the security guy…
Sometimes, in certain situations, you doubt about your own sense of humor…
Well, let’s be serious – now it’s my turn ! We start with handshakes (manly ones, since we are finally between men !) before I give each of them an English copy of my book « Let’s Make HIStory ». I take this opportunity to explain my fondness for the era related to this double album, and I also tell them that to me they are an integral part of it. Finally, I mention that I have just given a copy to their father a few weeks earlier after one of their summer concerts in Spain. Maybe my book will become a conversation topic at one of the Jackson family’s barbecues, one Sunday afternoon in Calabasas… (but I forgot to tell them that Jermaine received the book twice… Arf…) Still, I have the nice surprise to learn that Taj was already aware of the existence of my work, and I wish them all to enjoy reading it. The latter even takes the book with him for our souvenir photo without me having to ask. They already seem to remember my name which is the same as one of Taryll’s sons. I thank them for this beautiful meeting, shaking their hands once again, and that’s how I head proudly to the front of the stage with my signed « Why » maxi-single record.
And now, let the show begin ! The red curtain is still closed but the first notes of « Heartbreak Hotel » by The Jacksons suggest that the brothers are coming up on stage very soon. This is a way to call one’s shot – the Jackson codes and allusions will be de rigueur tonight ! The opening of the curtain confirms those first impressions since the group, wearing « Billie Jean » style glitter jackets and Ray-Bans, comes up to a delirious crowd that nearly covers the first track « Party Tonight « , aptly named in that circumstance. I immediately notice that Taj, Taryll and TJ are accompanied by four musicians in order to offer a live and quality performance.
This extract from the second album entitled « Identity » is not the only one to be played tonight since the songs « Sex Appeal », « Stuck On You » and « Someone To Love » are also on the program. So this concert is revisiting the complete discography of the band. It would have been easy to mostly surf on the good era that were the 90s but far from it, this is for me the occasion to dive back into the middle of the years 2000, in a more favorable atmosphere to enjoy these tracks today. While « Brotherhood » was released during the best years of my life as a fan, the era related to « Identity » was the most delicate and difficult one I have ever experienced. I am certainly not denying the quality of the songs, but sometimes the memories and the context of an era contribute to enjoying them fully or not. Now I have to acknowledge the fact that the first two albums by the 3T were released at totally opposite times and contexts and that it can affect my own perception but still it remains a very personal feeling.
Their latest album, « Chapter III », that was released in 2015, is not put aside either and shows that they don’t want to keep looking in the rearview mirror but rather moving forward. This night’s ambassadors are the tracks « Gotta Have You », « Forever Girl » and « Fire » that confirm the values that have always accompanied the three brothers’ journey – a fair sharing of the singing parts, with each of them contributing to the unity of the formation, and the trio producing and composing on their own to better demonstrate the artistic maturity that they now assume.
Still, it does not prevent them from assuming their status as the new Jackson family generation that is proud to bear this name and ready to pick up the torch of their father and uncles. Plus, among all of Katherine and Joseph Jackson’s grandchildren, the 3T seem to be the most legitimate to take this role. Some of their cousins are active in the fields of art and music, but from an artistic point of view, they remain the ones who collaborated in a memorable way with the King of Pop, sharing a complicity and closeness with their « Uncle DooDoo »!
You can still feel all this on stage in 2018 ! With the rhythmic section of « Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough », Taryll takes the front of the stage to perform « Sex Appeal ». But the hit song from the « Off The Wall » album ends up taking over with the musicians faithfully playing the bridge while a few « Don’t Stop » and « Keep The Force » come out of the mikes !
They were only giving us a taster though since this mix of ingredients from the best Jacksonian cuisine is now going to present another new recipe. The 3T take their shaker back to offer the lyrics of « Gotta Be You » with the music from « Jam ». It is a pleasure to hear that track from the « Brotherhood » album again which was released as a single and had its own video clip at the time – the opportunity for the general public to see that the 3T’s world was not limited to ballads and could also excel in up-tempo tracks. Unlike the previous version, « Gotta Be You » and « Jam » seem to share this performance fairly. Except that Taryll is recreating Heavy D’s rap section instead of Herbie’s one, thus giving a short advantage to the extract from the « Dangerous » album…
Taj, Taryll and TJ’s tribute to their elders shall not be limited to those allusions, and they are going to make it last with a Jackson medley performed later in the evening, starting the same way as the Jacksons show did in Santander last July – that is with the song « Can You Feel It ». I feel privileged to have the opportunity to listen to this classic track for the second time within a few weeks and yet from another formation of this illustrious family. In this version Taj takes Randy’s part while TJ has the difficult task of handling that of Michael. It works like magic and we can feel the full dimension of that hit that has built its reputation over time.
The party continues with « Shake Your Body » and at that moment, I can not help but think about its being performed on the last date of the Victory Tour in Los Angeles in December 1984.
Fans who are the same age as me have to remember the VHS you could buy at supermarkets to immortalize that moment. When MJ announced that it was the « final curtain » for The Jacksons, the whole family, including three little boys, came up on stage for a HIStorical moment. I would never have imagined that one day I would see them singing that same song while I am reaching 40 years old… That is the opportunity for the public to clap their hands in unison because you just have to keep a recipe that tastes good, especially when it feels like it’s brand new.
While I am reflecting upon my philosophical thoughts, it’s a familiar drums introduction that takes me back to Earth ! Again, it’s a track that was played during the Victory Tour, but from Michael’s repertoire ! This is « Rock With You » followed closely by « Human Nature » with a « We Love You Michael » uttered in a simple way by the group as a logical conclusion to that trip back to the 80s…
One could easily think that the tribute to Michael had reached its climax with this medley. Nevertheless, discovering some of the gems from the « Brotherhood » album played live allowed me to feel, in a more subtle way, their proximity and artistic link with the King of Pop, especially with the song « Words Without Meaning ». The strings were recorded by Bruce Swedien under the direction and arrangements of Jeremy Lubbock at the Hit Factory in New York, as it was the case for « Childhood » and « Smile ». I shall not forget to mention some prestigious credits like Jonathan « SugarFoot » Moffett on drums and Dean Parks on acoustic guitar (he also played on « Billie Jean » and is credited with composing « Dancing Machine »). This is a King of Pop production full of implication for a composition by Taryll at the beginning.
Since it is so melancholic, that song remains one of the poignant moments on the album and it is very surprising to note that it was never released as a single. Being quite aware of its importance, Taj Jackson had also announced on social networks that he was rehearsing it (more than 20 years later…) and he asked the public to support him.
Of course, we will do it, but it is on « Why » that the audience shall really sing in unison, so that we can no longer hear Michael’s voice in the chorus. The latter is present as a soundtrack because his absence seems impossible as he is so much related to this Babyface’s composition. Everyone here knows the lyrics by heart and I suspect they bought number 19 of Black & White magazine of September 1996. In it one could read the text including its translation on page 22. And more than twenty years later, it feels like I am seventeen years old again when I realize that I haven’t forgotten any of these lyrics… The group finally let the audience sing a capella before a long moment of applause and cheering that even seems to pleasantly surprise the three brothers. The atmosphere is over-excited as if we were traveling back in time to 1996. I only miss my VCR and VHS recordings of the King of Pop on MTV, all of those memories from a not-so-remote era when I could listen to music on a loop on the radio without trying to catch the news… I would never have imagined that in 2018 I would hear this song that I love so much being played live for the first time… So I’m taking this opportunity to send a message : John Branca, if you read me (that would be surprising but who knows !), I would really like to hear Michael’s solo version before my beard turns completely grey !…
Actually, I feel good in 1996 and it seems like I am not the only one since the band is coming back for an encore that completely keeps up with that path. Everybody sings along « Anything » in unison, and again lots of memories are coming back to me. That song was the first single from the album and I can still see those 2-track-CDs that were sold before the Internet era. That is the opportunity to say that this song was produced and composed by the brothers as they were 17 to 22 at the time. Therefore it was unfair to confuse them with the Boys bands of the time, made from scratch with their physique and build being more important than music. Still I don’t mean that the 3T were ugly and that girls were not responding positively ! By the way, Taryll wipes his face with a towel and throws it towards the crowd.
Fortunately I am standing a few meters from where it has landed – I could have gotten an ear ripped off in such a situation…
One last encore, but there is still one song missing ! Of course I mean « I Need You », the perfect track as a conclusion ! That cover of an Eric Carmen song (he used to sing « Hungry Eyes » in the Dirty Dancing soundtrack ! You know that movie, girls ? No, don’t scream, please !) is yet another track in which Michael’s soul is flying over above our heads. It seems so inescapable that I could say this is the 3T’s « Billie Jean ». It almost seems like we can hear Michael’s part in the soundtrack but it is covered by the public singing, which is fine. It is in this context that the 3T greet and thank the audience. We can feel that they did not expect such a warm atmosphere for their return to France, and we can feel their sincere emotion.
The red curtain of La Cigale is closing and here is a mission accomplished by Tito’s three boys. It is also the case for many fans who were delighted to be together. Good ! This passion in the Jackson world must go on !