Adrian Grant, author of 'The Visual Documentary' and producer of the tribute show 'Thriller Live', has been a fan of Michael Jackson since 1988. He recently spoke with The Nothern Echo about 'Thriller Live.' The show will open in the West End of London (UK) next Wednesday. Additionally the touring version will come to Newcastle and York as well as Czechoslovakia and Poland celebrating the extraordinary music of one of the greatest entertainers of all time.
Adrian Grant met Michael Jackson personally for the first time back in 1990.
“When I first went over to Michael Jackson’s Neverland ranch and there was monkeys running around inside and a tiger, a giraffe, llamas and everything, I was thinking ‘this isn’t real’. His security guard told me ‘it is real for Michael Jackson, he’s grown up with that, that’s his reality’.
When you do spend time with him you realise he’s as very down to earth as much as I’m talking to you now. He’ll joke around and he’s very knowledgeable about his music and his craft, but away from all that he’s just a normal guy who has had massive success. His life has been lived under a microscope unfortunately and he’s been naive and been let down by people and made mistakes which he’d hold his hand up to.”
Grant says that his many meetings with Michael Jackson shows that the “reclusive” side of the singer is more of a media myth.
“At the end of the day he’s one of the most open pop stars I’ve met. Prince is reclusive, but Michael will open his doors to the public and fans. I once offered him a few dance moves which he laughed at. His advice to me was that you need rhinoceros skin to be in this industry.”
In the eighties Adrian Grant started by launching the Off The Wall fan magazine selling 200 copies. But subscriptions grew fast to 25,000 and led to an annual Michael Jackson tribute show from 1991 with the tenth anniversary event attended by Michael Jackson.
“We had over 3,000 people there and it came into my mind that it would make a stage show in its own right. At that time a one-off event cost us about £30,000 up to £100,000.”
So Grant gained the investment of the Flying Music production company in 2006 to develop the show. He admits it was hard handing over “his baby” to the commercial experts:
“On the creative side I work hand in hand with the director (Gary Lloyd) but he provides the choreography and staging.”
'Thriller Live' features several singers representing Michael Jackson over the decades of his career:
“We could never emulate Michael Jackson as one person because of the expansive career he’s had which has lasted 40 years so we’re going from having a young Michael Jackson and split his material across five lead singers including a female version (Denise Pearson of Five Star).”
Is the controversy surrounding the superstar a problem?
“The funny thing is that when one of his records, like Billy Jean, plays people aren’t talking about the allegations against him. We don’t touch on any of the controversy.
People are just dancing and having a good time. We’ve had people as young as five and as old as 70 dancing in the aisles.”
Michael Jackson hasn’t seen this latest version of the show but his older brother Tito visited last week “and was complimentary”. Meanwhile a taped version will be sent to Michael.
"When we first started touring he gave me a message of congratulations. Otherwise, there is no direct deal with Michael Jackson.
It’s a concept presentation of his music, not a book musical where you’d need planned rights. With tribute shows you’re free to put on a presentation.”
What does Adrian Grant expect from Michael Jackson this year?
“He’s going to come back bigger and better than ever. I’m looking forward to hearing his new material. He’s looking forward to putting this negative period behind him. In my case, it’s hard to go wrong with Michael Jackson’s music."