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December 18, 2014

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Photos: The Jacksons say ‘each night will be different’ in ‘Rocktellz & Cocktails’ at Planet Hollywood

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Tom Donoghue / DonoghuePhotography.com

The grand opening night of The Jacksons in “Rocktellz & Cocktails” on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014, at Planet Hollywood.

The Jacksons: Red Carpet and Show

The grand opening night of The Jacksons in Launch slideshow »
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The Jacksons in "Rocktellz & Cocktails" at Planet Hollywood.

The Jacksons at Rocktellz and Cocktails

Grand Opening Night of The Jacksons

The grand opening night of The Jacksons in Launch slideshow »

Although the late Michael Jackson was on everybody’s mind at the Saturday night official premiere of The Jacksons in “Rocktellz & Cocktails” at Planet Hollywood, his four brothers Tito, Jackie, Jermaine and Marlon Jackson didn’t have to fret about being overshadowed.

The first family of falsetto sang in harmony, they danced in superb old-school sync, they laughed together in ad-lib comfort, and they played great guitar. They even sweated together from the G-Force 5 energy that they packed into their spectacle. It was an all-music trip down memory lane that they interspersed with a few storytelling segments.

And, as they said, they believed that Michael was proudly watching from up above and giving his blessing.

Backstage after the show, The Jacksons told me that they were happy it had gone so well and that during the two nights of previews Thursday and Friday that their mom, Katherine, and dad, Joe, along with two of Michael’s kids had seen their performance and given it a double thumbs up.

However, they plan to do it differently with every show: “We’ve got so many songs and so many stories, we couldn’t possibly get them all into one show. So each night will be different, and we’ll shuffle the running orders to keep us on our toes. The show you saw tonight will be different from the one next Thursday and again for the weekend.

“We had to make a balance of good music and storytelling because the audiences don’t want long stories,” said Jackie, who lives in Las Vegas.

The audience loved them and their backup band, who won their own thundering applause. Audience members were on their feet during several of the closing numbers dancing to the beats, waving arms, clapping hands and singing along to well-remembered songs.

I loved “ABC,” “I’ll Be There” and “I Want You Back.” My favorite? “Can You Feel It” — and we all did. This Thursday to mix things up, they’ll open with “Heartbreak Hotel.”

The storytelling was intimate, emotional and laced with good-times humor and nearly teary-eyed remembrances as they bared souls and emotions. Katherine and Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr. appeared on specially shot video segments to tell us never-before-heard stories about the brothers.

Whoever would have guessed that in that tiny Gary, Ind., home, they were five boys in bunks in one room using music to escape the close quarters.

They don’t shy away from some fun stories about Michael, but I wish that they hadn’t cut short the eyebrow-raising tale of when they met the Queen of England at a Royal Command Performance in London. Apparently that ending is a little too provocative!

In all, The Jacksons will perform 40 shows in this debut residency through April, and they’ll face the decision then of more global touring or Las Vegas shows. It took Michael’s death in 2009 to start them talking about getting together again to perform for their and his fans.

They began their own “Unity Tour” in the summer of 2012, and now they’re back on the Strip with a vengeance. It’s been three decades since they last starred on the Strip together.

As Motown royalty, they were feted in a strong turnout of red-carpet guests, and our thanks to contributing photographers Erik Kabik of Retna and Tom Donoghue for their coverage of the red carpet and the show.

Applauding the foursome were Bubba Knight from Gladys Knight & The Pips, Sabina Kelley of Oxygen’s “Best Ink,” musician Franky Perez, actor Adrian Zmed, BMX pro Ricardo Laguna, 2013 Miss Nevada USA Hilary Billings, Phil Lewis of L.A. Guns, pianist and composer Danny Wright, model Alexanne Wagner, singer Traci Ohlson Kesisian, SPI Entertainment head honcho and “Rocktellz” creator and producer Adam Steck with wife Bri and stars from up and down the Strip, including Human Nature, Thunder From Down Under, “Jersey Boys” and magician Murray Sawchuck and his wife Chloe Crawford of “Fantasy.”

Tattooed global pinup model Sabina, in a Rent the Runway dress that bared her full sleeves of tattoos, told me that she worked with Jermaine when they did a Michael Jackson-themed episode of “Best Ink,” which she judges. Our thanks also to contributing videographer Richard Corey for his YouTube video of the first official-night excitement.

Fellow “Rocktellz” star Meat Loaf remained after his show to watch The Jacksons’ first night.

If there’s one thing I’d like to see, it’s that The Jacksons shouldn’t be performing the same night as Meat Loaf. I’d like to see them at an earlier hour on three of the other days of the week when he’s not performing. That way nobody will run late or encroach on the other’s timing and ticket sales.

The Jacksons sure still have the moves. They gave it their all with pride and passion, and the audience absolutely loved them. They don’t let up with the soulful pop-funk sounds they’re known for or the ballads thousands fell in love to hearing. It was a thoroughly enjoyable night of fan-favorite hits.

The Jacksons are so smooth and connected, it’s as if they had never stopped performing together.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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