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Fans celebrate Michael Jackson’s birthday in his hometown

Hard Rock Casino in Gary hosts MJ tribute show

GARY, Ind. (August 27, 2023) – “They told us when we came to Gary, Indiana — where it all started — that this crowd would raise the roof!” prompted the announcer at the beginning of Invincible: A Glorious Tribute to Michael Jackson. The crowd of nearly 2,700 responded with cheers and applause.

Invincible has been endorsed by Joe Jackson — father of Michael — as the number one MJ tribute show in the world. It has come to Gary’s Hard Rock Casino for the past two years on the weekend closest to Michael Jackson’s birthday, which is August 29. Last year the production played in the Hard Rock Café to a packed room. This year the show was moved to the 2,700-seat Hard Rock Live venue, where it nearly sold out again.

Memories of Michael

The larger venue also allowed Invincible to make full dramatic use of the giant screens and state-of-the-art technology. Throughout Saturday’s performance, footage and photos from the extensive Michael Jackson collection served as a backdrop for three Michael Jackson tribute artists, nine chorus dancers, and beatbox artist Anointed S.

“I feel MJ’s spirit here tonight,” Anointed S told the crowd after his 11-minute segment, “MJ Meets Beatbox.” In showcasing his own talent for creating rhythm and sound, Anointed S reminded audience members that Michael Jackson was beatboxer too, adding percussive elements to his tracks in addition to singing. “He truly inspired me,” said Anointed S, “and I want to keep his positivity alive.” He invited fans to raise their lighted cell phones “for Michael Jackson.”

Encouraged by beatbox artist Anointed S, Michael Jackson fans raised their lighted phones in the auditorium. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Throughout the rest of the show, the enormous screens made Michael appear larger than life, displaying a mix of publicity footage, music video clips, and old family movies. Fans clapped at the old memories and the dramatic presentation.

Meeting the Michaels

The three Jackson tribute artists all presented the Michael of the late 1980s and 90s, with long curled hair and light skin, and wearing the iconic Jackson costumes — red jackets, white t-shirts, black pants, white socks, black fedora. The three took turns performing, tagging in with no announcement between songs, so the overall impression was of one Michael Jackson revisiting the songs, dance moves, and videos that built his King of Pop reputation.
It was not until the end of the show that the cast was introduced and the three Michaels were named: Jeffrey Perez, Pete Carter, and Prince Michael Jackson — “This is his real name,” the announcer confirmed. (It also happens to be the real name of the real Michael Jackson’s son.)

Truly capturing the stage presence of someone who redefined music, dance, fashion, and celebrity is probably impossible. The three Michaels of Invincible each brought something different to their segments. Producer Darrin Ross refers to Jeffrey Perez as “Singing Michael,” and notes his obsession with recreating Jackson’s songs even as a three-year-old. Perez performed the Thriller segment of Saturday’s show, and came out for the curtain call in the well-known 1982 red jacket.

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Michael Jackson tribute artist Jeffrey Perez (red jacket) takes center stage for his curtain call at Saturday night’s showing of Invincible: A Glorious Tribute to Michael Jackson. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Pete Carter, also known as “Dancing Michael,” answered his curtain call in a glistening white jacket reminiscent of Jackson’s HIStory Tour attire. Carter is similar in build to Perez, and it was often difficult during the show to determine which of them was performing at any given time.

Michael Jackson
Pete Carter (in white) has been dancing like Michael Jackson since he was eight years old. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

The most distinctive Michael in the cast was Prince Michael Jackson, who shares a name with Michael Jackson’s son. Prince is more slender than the other two artists, and therefore it was easier to distinguish him when he was performing. His embodiment of Jackson’s movements earned Prince a movie role in 2012, when he was cast as the Michael Jackson Impersonator in Last Vegas, starring Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, and Morgan Freeman.

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Prince Michael Jackson came out for his curtain call in a red CTE shirt from the Dangerous era of Michael Jackson’s work. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Hometown connections

A surprise for Saturday’s show-goers came after the performance and after the cast introductions. Producer Darrin Ross mentioned that Anita Hill was in the attendance, and he introduced her as, “A lady that taught Michael Jackson in elementary school. She’s the one that discovered his voice, let him sing, and his parents noticed he had the gift.” Hill was a first-grade teacher with Gary Community Schools in the 1970s. Her online bio says, “Though her career has been suffused with highlights, Ms. Hill is most proud to have been the first to teach Michael Jackson at Garnett Elementary School; she was the one who discovered his voice.” She had a seat near the front, stage right, for the tribute concert but was unavailable for comment after the show.

In fact, Hard Rock Casino is itself a tribute to Michael Jackson and the Jackson family, whose humble childhood home is located just 4 miles east of the glamorous entertainment venue.

Jackson
The 11 members of the Jackson family lived in a two-bedroom, 1-bathroom, 672-square-foot house in Gary at 2300 Jackson Street. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

The 37-foot guitar at the south entrance to the casino was designed as a giant replica of the storied guitar owned by Joseph Jackson. Joe worked in the Gary steel mills but also played in a blues band called The Falcons. He had told his children never to touch his guitar while he was at work, but Tito played around with it secretly. He was discovered when he broke a guitar string one day and had to confess that he had been playing the forbidden instrument. Joe Jackson fixed the guitar string and then listened to Tito play and his brothers sing. That moment eventually led to the formation of the Jackson 5 — Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, and Michael.

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The giant guitar at the entrance to Hard Rock Casino in Gary is an homage to Joe Jackson’s guitar, which led to the formation of the Jackson 5. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Michael Jackson
Joe Jackson’s actual guitar is the centerpiece of a display that includes the costumes worn by the Jackson 5 for their early TV appearances. Display boards tell the story of the broken guitar string. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Michael Jackson
A giant guitar-shaped chandelier hovers above the gaming area of Hard Rock Casino. The five lighted strings represent the Jackson 5, and all connect from the body of the guitar to the neck, except Tito’s which has snapped and now forms a soundwave. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana is located at 5400 West 29th Avenue in Gary.

More information about Invincible: A Glorious Tribute to Michael Jackson is available on their Facebook page:

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Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma grew up in Lansing, Illinois, and believes The Lansing Journal has an important role to play in building community through trustworthy information.

4 COMMENTS

  1. It’s a glorious sentiment and pure pleasure to be apart for the annual commentary in M.J’s behalf. Knowing the family is only a tip of the “iceberg”, we love them just as well. FOREVER MJ will ring just that long!!!❤️💯❣️!!!

  2. I would Truly be Great if the Jackson’s, including Janet would find the Compassion to aid and assist the City of Gary. My request to them is to purchase All of the blighted houses on 23RD and Jackson Street and renovate them. They could be given to or sold at a modest price to single parent mothers. The project could be a tribute to their Beloved Mother Katherine and be named after Her; (The Katherine Jackson Development Project For Single Mothers). Hopefully in response the City of Gary would show their gratitude by renaming Jackson St.,The Jacksons Street. Personally I feel it should have been renamed a LONG time ago!

  3. HAPPY 65TH BIRTHDAY MICHAEL “KING OF POP” JACKSON.

    You will NEVER be forgotten. And, I celebrate OUR birthday today, you will be always in my heart, thoughts, and prayers.
    Thank you for your outstanding music and creativity that you brought to our world.

    I’ll see you one day in Heaven and we will celebrate our special day together.

    God Bless!!

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