While Michael Jackson may no longer be with us, a longtime friend and close professional colleague carries the torch, and in many ways, the spirit of the King of Pop as “Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour,” coming to the Wells Fargo Center on March 25 and 26, makes its way across the country and around the world. Drummer Jonathan “Sugarfoot” Moffett, a New Orleans native, has been laying down grooves for the First Family of R&B since 1979.

Now the rhythmic foundation of Cirque du Soleil’s spectacular living tribute to Michael Jackson, a two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee (with the Jackson Five in 1997 and as a solo artist in 2001), Moffett, who has recorded and performed with such luminaries as Diana Ross, Elton John and Madonna, recently shared his memories of the legendary entertainer.

“We had great love and affection for each other,” Moffett said of Jackson, who passed away on June 25, 2009. “When the Jacksons were trying to make their comeback, the first album they produced was the ‘Destiny’ album. That was the initiation of their comeback, and I was there for the ride — from Michael Jackson of the Jackson Five basically, to becoming the iconic figure that he is now. I was fortunate enough to be on that journey and watch the transformation.”

That coming-of-age came on the heels of Jackson’s chart-topping release, “Off the Wall,” and continued with the Jacksons’ dynamic and danceable “Triumph,” featuring the hits “Can You Feel It,” “This Place Hotel” and “Walk Right Now,” and marking the beginning of Moffett’s long and fruitful association with the Jackson clan.

Moffett, who has also played for Jermaine, toured with Janet and was on the road with the talented brothers for their unforgettable “Victory Tour,” shares a level of comfort and musical understanding with the entire family. “Part of it was my timing — my authority on the drums,” he said, adding that those qualities were heightened whenever he took the stage with Michael. “He had that powerful persona onstage. He knew that body, he knew what it could do,” Moffett said.

Written and directed by Jamie King, the “Michael Jackson Immortal World Tour,” indeed a “riveting fusion of visuals, dance and music” opened in 2011, and made a highly anticipated stop in Philadelphia. Children who had not yet been born during Jackson’s spectacular heyday, turned out in force, dressed as miniature replicas of the self-proclaimed “King of Pop” and accompanied by their equally enthusiastic parents and grandparents. The fast-paced explosion of color, sound and skill did not disappoint.

Cirque du Soleil states that, “The underpinnings of ‘The Immortal World Tour’ are Michael Jackson’s powerful, inspirational music and lyrics — the driving force behind the show — brought to life with extraordinary power and breathless intensity. Through unforgettable performances, the show underscores Michael’s global messages of love, peace and unity.” Moffett, who worked and created with Jackson for more than 30 years, echoed those sentiments saying “We have 13 countries represented on this tour, because Michael dreamed of bringing people of the world together for one cause.”

For tickets call (215) 336-3600 or visit www.cirquedusoleil.com.


Contact Tribune Staff Writer Kimberly C. Roberts at (215) 893-5753 or kroberts@phillytrib.com.

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