At least twenty years ago, my sister Emma and I went to see Michael Jackson perform at Wembley Stadium in London. It was quite a revelation. Gone was the squeaky, kind of gross, stick insect with a repulsive butchered face, miraculously replaced by a one-man dynamo of energy, panache and sheer performance. I’d have little hesitation to say it was probably the best live stadium performance that I’ve ever seen. This Is It, a documentary cobbled together from over 120 hours of behind-the-scenes rehearsal footage, captures a perfectionist who – in spite of all the set-backs, the court cases, the icky sex life, the $500 million debt – was still at the top of his game. What’s more, there’s absolutely no sense whatsoever that this is a man on death’s door.
Still, you’ve only got to listen to the unctuous accommodation of cast and crew to the performer’s (very politely expressed) whims to understand why he was able to get medical practitioners to shoot him full of anaesthesia, just to get to sleep. There was never anyone to tell him No. Michael Jackson may have been an idiot savant with an emotional age of six and three quarters, he may never have had another hit record, but This Is It nevertheless leaves you with a sense of the magical entertainer we’ve lost and the realisation that this, as far as Michael Jackson is concerned, really is it.