Review: Thriller Live, Grand Opera House, York, until Saturday. Box office: 0844 871 3024 or at

AS a tribute to the music of Michael Jackson, Thriller Live is slick, energetic and enlivening.

But the lights, dancing, vocals and costumes tell only half a story, and the show ignored the elephant the room: one of the world’s greatest entertainers was the product of an extremely dysfunctional childhood, and grew into a man with a damaged psyche who never got over his early years.

After the recent documentary Leaving Neverland, some songs in the show take on a slightly sinister resonance, especially PYT, with its lyrics “Wanna love you, pretty young thing”, and Smooth Criminal (“You’ve been struck by a smooth criminal”).

Man In The Mirror, from Bad, suggests a man who is trying to escape his limits; "I’ve been a victim of a selfish kind of love," runs one line. The show offered a sycophantic biographical script that avoided any reference to a tyrannical father, multiple facelifts and prescription drug use.

It even, in one laughable visual section, compared Jackson to modern “saints” such as Bob Geldof, Mother Teresa, JFK, Dr Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. Given the souring of Jackson’s story, this seemed ludicrous.

The young performers, Kieran Alleyne, Leticia Hector, Nick James, Trace Kennedy, Ina Seidou, Rory Taylor and Britt Quentin, however, were terrific, and replicated Jackson’s most exciting moments, including Beat It, Billie Jean, Thriller and many more through a series of carefully choreographed set pieces.

The live band, a six piece outfit, were stunningly good, replicating the rock-funk-soul sound of Jackson with unerring accuracy; Allan Salmon’s guitar solo in Beat It, a brilliant affair originally recorded by Eddie Van Halen, was note perfect in its duplication and drew spontaneous applause from the audience.

The dancer who aped Jackson’s moves kept his head hidden under a hat, just as the singer would do. It was telling. Jackson clearly wanted some form of disguise. Let’s hope Jackson’s true legacy remains with the music, which, at its best, is wonderful. Miles Salter