The Jacksons' concert is all about the boogie, but it'll also be about their bro, says Scott Kara

There are some things you can't talk about when you're interviewing a Jackson - and it's mostly to do with Michael.

By request of the Jacksons' publicist there were to be no questions about Michael's death in 2009, or the trial of Dr Conrad Murray that followed, when TimeOut talked to Jackie Jackson, the eldest brother of the famous siblings.

Nor was there to be any questioning about the "drama" that goes on within the Jackson clan.

And it has to be said, Jackie, who along with brothers Tito, Jermaine and Marlon are back together as the Jacksons, and play Auckland's Logan Campbell Centre on March 26, is an expert at pushing the family's party line.


"We haven't been out touring for a long time and all the fans from around the world were requesting us to come out, do a tour, because of my brother's passing," he says.

"And we've been mourning his loss for the past three years, and I'm still mourning his loss, and so the fans wanted us to come out and do a tour and sing a few of Michael's songs and they want to sing and dance with us, and that's what we're doing."

But was it a hard decision to include some of Michael's classic songs - they do Rock With You, Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' and Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough - in the set?

"No, not at all," he says. "Putting his songs in there was something that we wanted to do because we figured the fans would want to hear those songs as well."

Given some of the scandalous rumours that circulate about the Jackson family, it's easy to be cynical about the brothers cashing in on Michael's songs. Yet Jackie is heartfelt, touching even, when he talks about his brother and his music.

"He had so many great, great songs. There was only one Michael Jackson, like there was only one Elvis, only one Beatles," he says in a familiar, softly spoken, almost gentle and child-like Jackson lilt.

"There's a segment in the show where we honour our brother with some of his songs, and we get teary-eyed about doing them and the fans start crying in the audience, and that part is like a bittersweet moment. It feels good though; the images of him and us when we were young."

The Jacksons formed in 1964 when Michael was just 6 years old. In 1969 they signed to Motown Records, were mentored by the label's founder, Berry Gordy, and, remembers Jackie, they fell under the influence of Smokey Robinson, the Temptations and Gladys Knight.

"They were the people we already idolised, and once we saw those people in person it was incredible. There was nothing like it. It was like going to school, like a learning process, learning about music, engineering and things like that.

"He [Gordy] taught us how to write songs, the importance of lyrical content, and he told us, 'When you write a song you have to capture the audience right from the moment the needle hits the record, because if you don't create some excitement, they will go on to the next song really quick'.

"A great hook and lyrical content - he taught us how to put a song together.

"We had a lot of fun back in those days. He taught us everything about the music industry; how it worked, how to do interviews, and we owe so much to Motown because they were the ones who put us on the map."

When they released their first three albums, 1969's Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5 and 1970's ABC, followed the same year by the Third Album, they were all still kids, with Jackie yet to turn 20.

The ABC title track was a playful classic, but the Third Album's I'll Be There showcased Michael Jackson's towering voice and with other songs such as Feelin' Alright, their cover of a 1960s Traffic song, the funk soul brothers went on to become one of the most popular acts of the 70s.

They changed their name to the Jacksons in 1976 when they left Motown, and two years later the last great Jacksons album, Destiny, with disco favourite Blame It on the Boogie and Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground) on it, was released.

They called it quits in 1990 and, when they decided to hit the road again part-way through last year, it was the Jacksons' first tour since 1984.

"The tour is going well, we're having a lot of fun out there, and we haven't been to New Zealand for a long, long time," says Jackie, who's on the phone from Japan, having just got in from a series of shows in Dubai.

"There's nothing like it. We're having so much fun entertaining, because that's what we do best - make music. We've been doing it all our lives."

Apart from Michael's songs, Jackie says they chose the songs that "had the most energy when we started playing them, and the ones that made us smile".

"So we try to get as many songs in there as possible and sometimes we might do half a song, and then it's on to the next one."

There are many they have to play, including Blame It on the Boogie, so everyone in the audience can dance their arses off in honour of Michael.

And Jackie says he always looks forward to I'll Be There. "Because it's a song that Michael sang and everyone is waving their hands in the audience."

So expect lots of dancing, and a few tears, at the show.

Who: The Jacksons
Where and when: Logan Campbell Centre, March 26
Essential albums: ABC (1970); Third Album (1970) and Destiny (1978)

- TimeOut