Michael Firestone as Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson tribute coming to Missouri Theater

By Andrew Gaug News-Press NOW Oct 31, 2019

More than a decade after his death, Michael Jackson’s legacy lives on and inspires future generations of performers.

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Helping to keep that legacy alive is Michael Firestone, the performer in the Michael Jackson tribute show “I Am King — The Michael Jackson Experience.”

The show has presented Firestone with numerous opportunities to pay tribute to Jackson, being chosen as one of two official Jackson impersonators for the “Michael Jackson Laser Spectacular” shows in theaters and casinos all over the United States and Canada. He’s also been featured at events for MTV and Larry The Cable Guy.

Like many in the ’80s, Firestone was captivated with Jackson through a series of performances and music videos.

“My first memories of seeing MJ were in the ‘Rock with You’ video, his Motown 25 performance, the ‘Thriller’ video and his ‘Billie Jean’ performance. Those really stuck with me,” he told DNA India.

A student of channels like MTV in the ’80s, Firestone said he was enthralled by the superstars of the time.

“I really studied very talented performers and just pretended to be them. Prince, Michael Jackson, Stevie, those guys are talented, I’m just a copycat,” he told I Am Queen Magazine.

For Jackson specifically, he would watch his videos and emulate his moves.

“I practiced to his videos. I’d also record myself and replay the videos to see how I was progressing,” he said.

As he improved, he started performing the songs and moves at events, talent shows and parties. It caught on enough to net him performances in Las Vegas and, later, a cruise line contract.

“At 18, I was offered my first professional job as a Michael Jackson tribute artist at a casino in Las Vegas,” he said.

The job led to him creating the tribute show that has now toured around the world.

When Firestone performs Jackson’s hits like “Human Nature” and “Stranger in Moscow,” he said he feels like he’s keeping the star’s spirit alive. While he does drop the persona at times during the show, he likes to maintain the illusion for most of it to please those who didn’t get to see Jackson live. To note, the final time Jackson performed in Missouri was 1988 at Kemper Arena.

“They are MJ fans. And I hope to put on a concert making them feel like they are back in time and remembering MJ,” he said.

Performing those intricate moves and singing those difficult vocal parts of songs like “Thriller” and “Bad” is often taxing.

“Performing night after night starts to get difficult. I have to take care of my voice in between performances and warm up properly,” he said.

During the time Firestone has been performing as Jackson, he’s also had his fair share of questions concerning Jackson’s offstage behavior. Earlier this year, the HBO documentary “Leaving Neverland’ had two men accuse Jackson of sexually abusing them as children. Firestone said he doesn’t believe those statements were made in good faith.

“MJ is not even alive to defend himself. It is most definitely unfair to discredit anyone’s work until all claims are proven,” he told the Business Standard.

Firestone met Jackson once in 2002 and said he was cordial and supportive of the tribute show.

“We spoke then, and a few weeks later he called and we talked for several hours on the phone. It was eye-opening and inspirational and, of course, a dream come true to get such a phone call,” he told the Business Standard.

Jackson’s support was one of the many reasons Firestone has been paying tribute to him for about 20 years.

“I wrote ‘I Am King’ and I wrote it to flow in such a way that it brings you up. The show is named ‘I Am King’ not because I think I am king … It is because Michael Jackson is king and I will continue bringing the magic and music of Michael Jackson to venues worldwide for as long as I possibly can. There will never be another MJ,” he told the Business Standard.

Tickets for “I Am King — The Michael Jackson Experience” are $24 to $45 and $12 for students. They can be purchased at the Performing Arts Office, 719 Edmond, or by calling 816-279-1225 or online at www.saintjosephperformingarts.org.

— Andrew Gaug | St. Joe Live

Original article @ www.newspressnow.com

Johnny & June Forever: Sweetwater Music Hall

Chemistry is an interesting thing. There are those moments in time, like when you are watching some musical act on the stage, where you discover that you can’t take your eyes off the music makers before you. You are mesmerized by their presence as you can literally see the energy flowing through those before you as they produce sounds that positively affect your brain. In the case of Bay Area musicians Danny Uzilevsky and Essence Goldman, the energy you may witness between them is sizzling, palpable and truly magical. With the duo’s newest venture, Johnny & June Forever, Uzilevsky and Goldman embody the music created by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, but they do it in a way that is not about “doing covers” or even “paying tribute”, but about fully making the music their own by channeling the forces that Cash and Carter used themselves in performing songs.

Goldman and Uzilevsky came together when Goldman recorded her latest album in 2018 at Uzilevsky’s studio, Allegiant Records in San Anslemo, CA. A sparking fire was ignited around shared lyrics and chords, a magnetic energy acknowledged, and the two began a magical musical journey with the first notes sung in harmony. Both Goldman and Uzilevsky are incredible songwriters in their own right, but when a few Cash/Carter songs were sung, the pair knew they hit on something great and decided to embark on bringing those old school country songs to life with their project Johnny & June Forever: The Greatest Love Story Ever Sung.

With fate and luck being on their side, the duo was asked to perform and premier their act at Sweetwater Music Hall in conjunction with the Mill Valley Film Festival’s release of the documentary “The Gift: The Journey Of Johnny Cash”. The sold-out show was alive with the energy and anticipation of a crowd excited to hear many well-loved songs. The set was opened with “I Walk The Line”, just Uzilevsky singing with his strong and deep voice while playing off the amazing (and dapper) band, drummer JT John (Danny Montana & The Bar Association), bassist Joe Kyle Jr. (Koolerator, Howell Devine) and guitarist Phillip Milner (Jenny Kerr Band). Enter the beauty that is Essence Goldman, all five feet of her, with an electric smile and a high and clear voice that sends shivers up your spine. It was then that we became aware of the special vibe between the two as they locked into the songs and the band then took off without a look back into the dust. The band  fired up songs such as “Long Legged Guitar Pickin’ Man”, “Don’t Take Your Guns To Town”, the Hank Williams tune “Lovesick Blues”, “Ring Of Fire”, “It Ain’t Me Babe” as well as Loretta Lynn’s “You’re The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly”. Essence’s solo numbers  the June Carter penned “Ring Of Fire” and Carter Family classics “Keep On The Sunny Side” and “Wildwood Flower” were (insert adjective), and Jenny Kerr joining the band on banjo for “Wildwood Flower” was a unexpected highlight.

Uzilevsky and Goldman do their best to not take on the personas of Carter and Cash, but their dynamic stage presence definitely reminds us of the playfulness and enjoyment the country King & Queen had on stage during their heyday. With Goldman showcasing various vintage dresses and Uzilevsky with his slicked-back pompadour and rockabilly style, the pair invoked the force of Carter and Cash without camp and pretense. The talent that these two have honed with each of their long and expansive musical careers is apparent as they blend their own songs and styles in with their act. The whole experience of Johnny & June Forever is more than just a showplace for Carter/Cash songs; it’s a golden carriage for two incredible and shining musicians to make a mark on the musical scene in the Bay Area with panache and style.

Thank you Carolyn McCoy – Click here for original article!