Jermaine Jackson is a former teen-age idol who has grown into a credible, mature entertainer--the type you don't have to be 16 to appreciate.
No, he isn't as exciting--in his first local solo performance Thursday night at the Universal Amphitheatre--as he was all those years ago when he was a member of what he dubbed, midway into his set, "a musical force that captured the world--the Jackson 5."
And no, he isn't as inventive or aggressive an artist as his younger brother Michael--or even, it turns out, his sister Janet.
Where they have both challenged musical barriers with great imagination and flair, Jermaine is merely a hard-working, determined-to-please performer. He's not a musical rule-bender or barrier-buster.
But maybe it's unfair to let his rich musical pedigree set up unreasonable expectations. Jermaine may not be as thrilling a performer as Michael or Janet, but he's no slouch in the give-the-fans-what-they-want department.
Yet, you know that comparisons to "what used to be" are probably going to plague Jackson for a long time. Thanks in part to an energetic backing band, he confronted those memories ably with a well-performed medley of Jackson 5 hits that included "I'll Be There," "I Want You Back" and "Never Can Say Goodby."
Up-tempo songs like "Let Me Tickle Your Fancy" and "Let's Get Serious" were fun, though the tall, athletically built singer was more effective on gentle love songs.
One wistful ballad, "Do What You Did," didn't demand that he do anything other than come across as a yearning, sensitive guy and that's something he does very well. Innovative, no; agreeable, absolutely.
Opening Thursday's show was the S.O.S. Band, whose set was marred by a malfunctioning sound system that rendered most of lead singer Mary Davis' vocals unintelligible. This was unfortunate because the music of this eight-member, Atlanta-based unit contains the kind of nifty nuances and ear-grabbing hooks that you really want to hit you cleanly--and clearly.