Christine Negus
 
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In October 2009 I went to an R. Kelly concert. The show was fantastic and moved from different sub-sets, mini-narratives, with costume and set changes and a recurring interude from a ghost band behind a screen. In the middle of the concert there was a long break. The stage was empty. The auditorium went dark. A curtain rolled up to reveal a video projection with an image of R. Kelly. It was not live-feed but a pre-recorded monologue. He began speaking about his relationship with Michael Jackson. It shifted, tonally though, when R. Kelly said the greatest moment of their relationship was when Jackson honoured him. The projection cut to a YouTube-quality video of Jackson dancing in the back of a car to Kelly's song Ignition. He was animated and performed his signature dance moves to the beat as someone recorded from the front.

When R. Kelly returned to the screen he had a moment of silence, thanked Michael Jackson for everything and then said his goodbyes before shifting to a speech about his dead mother, Joanne, mentioning her affinity for musical artist Sam Cooke. The light came up and Kelly walked onstage dressed in a suit reminiscent of the crooner and said he would do a few of Cooke's songs in memorium to his mother. After two he said he needed to "make this more for the ladies" and began stripping and was joined ontage by a trio of dancing women dressed in gold. The show came to its finale with confetti raining from the ceiling.

I can't think of another way more apt to introduce my work. Let's make a shorthand list of the main themes of this: A performance divided into mini-narratives, a continuing chorus from a ghost band, a dedication to a dead celebrity, a YouTube video of the dead celebrity from when they were alive, a memorial to a deceased loved one in the form of serenading popular music that quickly turns into a tawdry, flashy celebration.

If this were the 90s, I would say "ditto."

 

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