News & Current Affairs

July 3, 2009

Photographer on Jackson rehearsals

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Photographer on Jackson rehearsals

Renowned rock photographer Kevin Mazur was at Michael Jackson’s final tour rehearsal in Los Angeles last week.

Several images from the practice runs have now been released, showing the star dancing and smiling against large neon letters reading “This Is It”.

Mazur, who first took pictures of Jackson during the 1984 Victory tour, told the news about the “magical” show that was being prepared before the entertainer’s untimely death on Thursday.


Michael Jackson during last show rehearsal at Staples Center in Los Angeles (Kevin Mazur/AEG/Getty Images )

The pictures were taken on 23 June, just two days before Jackson died

How much of the rehearsal did you see?

I was there for a couple of days. I was there on the first day when they built the stage, and I took photographs of the dancers and the back-up singers for the tour book. Then, the next day I was taking casual shots of the band and the dancers rehearsing when Michael arrived.

I was like an expectant father waiting for him to take to the stage, I was so excited. And when he came out, I was even more excited because Michael was back.

He was happy, he was energetic, he was full of life. I had such an adrenaline rush. It was like the first time I had photographed him, when he moonwalked.

People were saying he wasn’t ready, and the first shows had been pushed back because of his health. Did you see any evidence of that?

A photo tells a story. Michael was physically fit and performing the same way that I photographed him through the years. You can look at the photos. I documented it, I was there.

So how did you feel when, four days later, you were told he had died?

I was so shocked, because from what I saw on Tuesday night, he was full of energy and full of life. I couldn’t wait to see this show at the O2 arena with all the fans there.

How much of the production did you see? Were there any big surprises?

There were still certain elements that they had to put into place, but I saw them rehearse about a dozen songs. And Michael never stopped. He worked right through. He did 12 songs and he only paused a couple of times to tweak some stuff with the music and a little bit of the choreography.

They had a screen that ran the full length of the main stage and was maybe about 50 feet high. And, supposedly, I heard they were doing some 3D things. I’ve been shooting shows for 25 years and I’d never seen anything like that before. I was very curious to see how it would all come together.

Michael Jackson during last show rehearsal at Staples Center in Los Angeles (Kevin Mazur/AEG/Getty Images )

The series of 50 concerts was due to begin in London on 13 July

So you could say the concert was really in the final stages of preparation – with all the individual songs coming together into a coherent show?

Yes, well… everything was pretty much staged and built. There were certain things they were still waiting to get – they had chandeliers they were going to put into the set. But musically and dancing-wise, I got to see it all. But I didn’t get to see things like aerial lifts and a few other elements in the show.

And when Michael was done rehearsing, he and Kenny Ortega [choreographer and show producer] went off the stage and they were looking at a bunch of props they had for Thriller and they had a puppeteer using zombie-type creatures that were going to go through the audience. It looked really, really cool.

This was going to be like no show anyone had ever seen.

The picture that has gone around the world today is of Michael in a grey suit, pointing into the centre of the auditorium. What do you remember much about that shot?

That might have been Black Or White – but I don’t remember. It’s so hard for me to keep track of the songs while I’m shooting, because it’s such an adrenalin rush for me. I’m just too excited, and I’m juggling round numerous cameras. But I do know this, it was magical.

There are rumours today that the rehearsals had been filmed and that segments of the concert will be released as a tribute. Were you aware of that?

Not specifically – but everything was documented. That’s why I was there. I was there to keep a record photographically, and they also had videographers. He’s Michael Jackson and, as you know, he documents everything.

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September 6, 2008

Poland’s finest to rock Wembley

Filed under: Entertainment News, Latest — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 8:35 am

Poland’s finest to rock Wembley

Bajm

Bajm were popular across Eastern Europe before the Iron Curtain fell

Eight of Poland’s top pop and rock acts perform in front of a 10,000-strong crowd at Wembley Arena on Sunday. Billed as the biggest ever Polish music event on foreign soil, what does it mean for Britain’s Polish community?

Crowds of adoring fans will pack Wembley Arena on Sunday to see their favorite superstars perform to a full house.

But it will not be Madonna, Oasis or Jay-Z entertaining more than 10,000 people.

Bajm and Lady Pank may be largely unheard of in the UK but are household names in Poland, where four million viewers are expected to watch the London Live show’s highlights on state channel TVP2.

Tabloid hellraiser

Described as Poland’s answer to Pink Floyd and Red Hot Chili Peppers, their albums have sold three million copies.

Alongside Bracia’s modern grungy-rock and Natalia Kukulska’s soulfull R’n’B, the show even has its own tabloid hellraiser in Doda, who has posed for Playboy and courted controversy by spitting on stage.

Stanislaw Trzcinski, president of promoter STX Records, said: “This is like the O2 Festival, except for Polish music.”

Natalia Kukulka. Photo Wojciech Wojtczak
Performing at Wembley is a great honor
Natalia Kukulska

Guests on stage include Jan Tomaszewski, the goalkeeper whose heroics at the old Wembley Stadium in 1973 helped secure a 1-1 draw to send Poland to its first World Cup at England’s expense.Mr Trzcinski said: “The name Wembley brings back happy memories for Polish people and it remains a special place, so it was the perfect location.”

Kukulska, 32, has performed with tenor Jose Carreras and duetted with British R’n’B star Lemar at the Sopot festival in Poland in 2005.

She said: “Performing at Wembley is a great honor. I hope I will draw energy from the people who have played there in the past.”

After picking up influences of Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston during a year in the US, she blended them with her own style to sell 2.5 million records at home.

Free tickets

“I’m very excited because this is the first time a lot of artists from Poland are performing abroad together,” she added.

Costing almost £1m to stage, the event has been advertised on 30 London buses and is being beamed back to Poland in high definition, thanks to a 100-strong production crew. Tickets were free to those who registered.

More than one million people voted in an internet talent competition giving bands the chance to perform on a second stage outside the arena, where they will be joined by top acts from the UK and Ireland’s Polish communities.

The show’s arrival reflects the remarkable influx of Poles into Britain.

After the Second World War, the Polish Resettlement Act allowed around 200,000 people to remain in the UK. They were mainly Polish troops, who had fought alongside the British, and their dependents.

By 2001, the census recorded just 60,680 Polish-born people living in Britain.

But since Poland’s accession to the EU in 2004, those numbers have swollen to the 405,000 estimated by the government last year, although the numbers arriving has dropped in recent months.

Appetite for rock

At least 100,000 settled in London, with many basing themselves around established Polish communities in western districts like Hammersmith.

There, the Posk cultural centre boasts the largest library of Polish books outside Poland, a gallery, restaurant and 350-seat theatre.

Supermarkets across Britain have started stocking Polish goods and delicatessens have sprung up in many towns.

THE PERFORMERS
Doda
Bajm: Six-piece rock outfit, formed in 1978, their 13 albums all went gold or platinum
Wilki: Hard-rock band, named “Wolves”, have performed in New York and London
Doda (pictured): Daughter of an Olympic weightlifter, gave up athletics to be a pop tearaway
Natalia Kukulska: Began singing aged seven and sold 1.5 million records as a child star
Kayah: Was a backing singer before her solo career in soul, jazz and R’n’B took off
Bracia: Their grunge-rock style made this band – “The Brothers” – favourites with younger fans
Monika Brodka: Her soulful voice was inspired by her idols Erikah Badu and Lauren Hill
Lady Pank: These punk survivors formed in 1982, playing 400 gigs to promote their debut album

But Piotr Grzeskiewicz, station director at Hammersmith-based Polskie Radio Londyn, said there had been little to feed young migrants’ appetite for rock and pop.

“Hundreds of thousands of Polish people in Britain have limited access to modern Polish culture and this is their best opportunity in many years to see some really big Polish bands,” he said.

Organizers hope many Britons will be at Wembley.

However, Mr Grzeskiewicz said: “The language barrier is huge. Only a few of these bands have played abroad and usually only for Polish fans.”

Warsaw-based bank PKO BP financed the event to promote its central London branch, which opened last December to cater both for migrants and British businesses investing in Poland.

Branch manager Katarzyna Cal said the move demonstrated the growing confidence in Poland’s economy and the number of investors keen to do business in the country.

Meanwhile, Dr Jan Mokrzycki, chairman of the UK’s Federation of Poles, admits he prefers the classical works of Chopin to today’s rock.

Vibrant

But the 75-year-old said the event would help build understanding between the established and newly-arrived Polish communities.

Initial tensions between the groups are diminishing, said the dental surgeon whose mother – a former Nazi concentration camp detainee – brought him to Britain in 1948 to escape communism.

“A combination of their youth, enthusiasm and education and our knowledge of the laws and customs of Britain is helping integration,” said Dr Mokrzycki.

“Cultural events of the old community have been traditional, forged from our experiences of pre-war Poland, so involve mostly classical or folk music.

“The new culture is vibrant with jazz and pop and it’s important younger people have access to that.”

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