James Delisco Beek

Review: Concerts in the Garden 2018: The Music of Michael Jackson | Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra | Fort Worth Botanic Garden

Plenty of Thrills

Vocalist James Delisco Beeks and the Fort Worth Symphony groove to the Music of Michael Jackson in Concerts in the Garden.

published Sunday, June 10, 2018


Fort Worth — The life and music of Michael Jackson can be divided into three parts: child prodigy, mega-superstar, and creepy recluse. He never sang anything he didn’t believe yet we never knew the real Michael. Shocking behavior and allegations of sexual abuse cast an unsettling shadow over unprecedented fame. The post-mortem psychoanalysis after Jackson’s tragic death nine years ago could be simplified as: he struggled with his identity because he grew up singing Motown instead of playing kickball.

At the end of the day we get to choose what we want to remember.

Thankfully, Friday evening at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra chose to enthusiastically celebrate pop music’s biggest superstar.

Why not start with an injection of musical adrenaline and just keep the pulse going between “Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough” and “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’?” Decades of disco, funk, pop, and rock songs were on the playlist. Five-octave countertenor James Delisco Beeks sang and moved like MJ complete with falsetto hiccups and his signature moonwalk. He said, “We aren’t here to do an impression but just have a fun tribute to Michael Jackson’s music.”

Delisco’s range, musicality, showmanship and endurance were frankly astonishing. Continuous energy for the audience and respect for the symphony dominated the program. Martin Herman directed the sizzling touring band and the FWSO through tight arrangements by Brent Havens. Guitarist George Cintron was consistently crisp throughout many songs carried by a groove or riff. Solid beats by drummer Powell Randolph, on-point keyboards by Justin Avery, funked-out bass by Dan Clemens, and dependable backing vocals by Kelli Reisen and Bonnie Keene contributed equally to an overall killer package. The FWSO was engaged and active given more to do. Quincy Jones’ instrumental arrangements on the original recordings provided vibrant dressing to Michael’s vocals. As a result our symphony’s strings and brass sections were given room to show off.

A diverse audience familiar with MJ’s multi-faceted catalogue received his early balled “Ben” with appreciation. Sporting an afro wig, Delisco jammed through the Jackson 5 years with “ABC” and “I Want You Back.” When asked to do so, an impressive 12.5 percent of lawn- and table-seated concert-goers shook booty. The loose fun onstage infected an audience committed to having a good time. Dusk set as a sequined glove held the mic in “Billie Jean,” at which time the dancing portion of the crowd grew to an un-Fort-ing-believable 18.1 percent.

After intermission the burner “Smooth Criminal” kicked off and Delisco said, “I want everyone to stand up and dance right now.” Immediately, a chardonnay-inspired 42 percent of participants responded by actually standing up upon both of their two feet. Though the rock-infused “Bad” lifted the energy yet another notch, a statistically insignificant number of people clapping on 1 and 3 was within the margin of error.

As each piece of music built upon the last, their sum grew greater by the CITG plentiful support staff, pleasant facilities, and kids being kids together on a warm evening. Cap it all off with the culture-changing phenom “Thriller” as fireworks lit the sky, and Concerts in the Garden had outdone itself. Congratulations to CITG, FWSO and guests for an exceedingly fun night.

Bravo, and “mama say mama sa mama coo sa” indeed.



The remaining Concerts in the Garden schedule is:


June 9

The Music of Queen

Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra

Martin Herman, Conductor

Brody Dolyniuk, Vocalist


June 10

Whole Lotta Shakin'

From Swing to Rock

Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra

Martin Herman, Conductor

Dave Bennett, Clarinet


June 15-17

Star Wars and Beyond

A Laser Light Spectacular

Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra

Alejandro Gómez Guillén, Conductor


June 22

The Music of The Rolling Stones

Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra

Brent Havens, Conductor

Brody Dolyniuk, Vocalist


June 23

The Music of Journey

Brody Dolyniuk, Vocalist


June 24

Old 97's


June 29

1950s Dance Party

John Mueller's Official Tribute to Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens

Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra

Ron Spigelman, Conductor


June 30

Hotel California

"A Salute to The Eagles"

Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra

Ron Spigelman, Conductor


July 2-4

Old-Fashioned Family Fireworks Picnic

Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra

Alejandro Gómez Guillén, Conductor

Cecilia Duarte, Mezzo Soprano Thanks For Reading

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Plenty of Thrills
Vocalist James Delisco Beeks and the Fort Worth Symphony groove to the Music of Michael Jackson in Concerts in the Garden.
by Rob Laney

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