An extract from Two in a Million cut out of the final book for space reasons, which has also appeared on www.mjfanclub.net.
The summer of ’97 was one of the most enjoyable of my life. The main reason for this was that, in July, I attended Michael Jackson’s HIStory World Tour concert at the RDS, Dublin.
I had seen an advertisement for his Wembley concerts in a British magazine, and had actually talked to my parents about maybe going to England to witness my idol perform live. Shortly after I spotted the ad, however, it was confirmed that the King of Pop would in fact be coming to Ireland as well. I pleaded with my dad to try and get tickets, and he was happy to make the effort. The day that those precious slips of paper went on sale, he phoned Ticketmaster from work, his credit card in hand.
All that morning and half that afternoon, I couldn’t concentrate on anything. The tension was just too much! Was I going to get to see one of the world’s finest singers and dancers on a stage in my own country?
Sometime after lunch, Des rang me at home.
He told me that, unfortunately, he hadn’t managed to get tickets.
I was gutted.
Then he told me that he was lying. He had two tickets for the standing area of the arena.
Elation made my head so light, I thought I would faint!
In the time between Des’s phone call and the evening of the concert, I tried not to listen to too many Michael Jackson songs, so I would enjoy all the more the ones he performed on the night.
This was my first pop concert. My dad and I arrived at the RDS on the evening of July 19, 1997. I was kitted out in my favourite black jeans and black jacket, along with a black t-shirt with Michael’s ghost-white face imprinted upon it. As Des and I wandered towards the RDS arena, I gawked wide-eyed at the sights which are common to any big pop concert, but which were all new to me. There were throngs assembled around hotdog stands and burger vans, and crowds queuing at stands that were selling programmes and tour merchandise. You could also buy cardboard ‘periscopes’ that were about a foot long, and had a system of mirrors inside them. The ‘periscopes’ were designed so that, if you happened to be a shorter person situated in the standing area of the arena, you could hold one end of this apparatus to your eye, and hold the other end straight up in the air, and then the action from the stage would be reflected into your view. Clever!
My dad and I didn’t buy one of those periscopes, but he did purchase a HIStory World Tour programme for me. That photo-filled book still occupies a treasured place in my room, alongside my dozens of Jackson albums, videos, and DVDs.
After he’d forked out the cash for the programme, Des and I leisurely made our way over to the outdoor concert arena itself, and lodged ourselves in a spot near the edge of the gathering mass of bodies, about a third of the way back from the stage. I remember feeling trapped inside this forest of fans. In the standing area, there wasn’t even room to swing your arms. Later in the night, a girl who was beside Des and me fainted, and my dad helped her boyfriend carry her out of the crowd and fetch assistance.
Before the show began, however, I wasn’t concerned about the claustrophobic crowd. I was just awed as I gazed at my surroundings. The main focus of my wonder was the massive stage, to each side of which were colossal banners of a statuesque MJ in military garb. The atmosphere of anticipation was heightened by the sounds of Michael’s childhood hits, which were being played via giant, invisible speakers.
I remember eavesdropping on a conversation between the two men directly in front of Des and me in the fan forest. Both must have been in their late twenties or early thirties.
‘Where are you from yourself?’ one asked the other, in a distinct Dublin tongue.
‘Belfast,’ the second fellow replied, in a Northern Irish accent.
‘That’s a long way to travel,’ the first guy remarked.
‘Oh, well, I love Michael,’ the Belfast man responded.
So there are others like me in the world, I thought.
Before long, the night’s support act, a band called Human Nature, appeared onstage, and bashed out a few numbers. As the group departed, one member yelled that we were about to witness one of the greatest shows on earth.
That wasn’t hyperbole.
Another short while passed. Then, suddenly, loud machine gun fire rang out over the RDS, and those two enormous posters of the militarily dressed MJ fell from either side of the stage, exposing giant screens. A third screen moved into view above the stage itself.
These monitors came to life, and we beheld a ‘space warrior’ in a one-man rocket ship. Michael Jackson’s soft voice asked from within the warrior’s helmet, ‘Mission Control, what’s my destination for today?’
‘Your destination is Dublin,’ a computerised female voice replied.
‘Open the launch doors,’ Michael commanded. ‘Let’s make HIStory.’
And then the rocket ship took off, hurtling down a rollercoaster of images from human history…
There was an almighty crack onstage, and white smoke rose into the air. The smoke wafted away, and a resplendent rocket ship stood before our eyes, emblazoned with letters and numbers: ‘MJ-2040’.
The door of the craft was kicked open, and out stepped the space warrior, clad all in gold. The screaming of the fans reached its first crescendo of the evening.
Slowly, the spaceman’s glistening armour was shed, to reveal the King of Pop himself.
Then Michael just stood there, motionless.
Suspenseful murmurs shivered through the crowd, before the opening bars of the song Scream were scratched out… And the stage exploded into a two-hour song-and-dance extravaganza, featuring gangsters, zombies, Jackson hanging out of a cherry picker above our heads, and an actual tank onstage!
What a star he is.
Of course, Des and I hadn’t bought a ‘periscope’. And, I was pretty small in comparison to the people around me. So, in order to catch the onstage action, I had to sit atop my dad’s shoulders! Things got a bit precarious up there on occasion – especially when Des started bopping to tracks like Billie Jean and Blood on the Dance Floor.
At the end of the concert, a silver-jacketed MJ shouted ‘I love you!’, and the crowd responded in kind. The flags of all the world’s countries flashed rapidly on the screens, and fireworks flew into the sky, bursting and shattering their colours across the night.