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Jacksons put on heartwarming show that also acts as tribute to Michael

Have you ever worked tirelessly on a jigsaw puzzle only to get to the end and find you’re missing a piece? No matter how beautiful your finished product is, it’s incomplete, it’s not what it used to be.

As the lights went down Saturday night and the remaining members of the legendary Jackson Five took the stage at the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts, that was the elephant in the room. Could Tito, Marlon, Jermaine and Jackie carry the family torch in the absence of their legendary brother, Michael?

It can be challenging enough to be in your 50s and 60s performing onstage, but to do so under the considerable shadow cast by the King of Pop, who died in 2009, might seem insurmountable. For the Jackson quartet, these days simply billed as, The Jacksons, they left little doubt by the end of their high-energy and at times electrifying set, that though this isn’t Michael’s Jackson Five, it is a serviceable reminder of the legendary group that charted five No. 1 albums over a career spanning five decades.

Fans wondering how the brothers Jackson were going to pay tribute to their fallen sibling weren’t disappointed. From covering several songs Michael recorded during his solo career, including a rendition of “Wanna Be Startin’ Something,” that brought the crowd to its feet grooving and swaying to a funked-up version of Jacko’s hit, along with a poignant video montage featuring heavy doses of the King of Pop, Michael’s presence was felt on the stage and his influence was readily discernible throughout the evening.

With Jermaine taking much of the lead, the Jacksons showed surprisingly high energy and shades of the dance moves that made them household names nearly 50 years ago.

The set was heavy with the oldies, including “Dancing Machine,” “Blame it on the Boogie” and “I’ll be There,” (the latter recognizable to younger fans for the 1990 cover by Mariah Carey) much to the delight of the crowd.

Topping off the night was as electric a performance as you’ll see as the boys shook the house with their iconic classic, “ABC.” It was, unquestionably, worth the price of admission alone.

The outfits were dazzling, the moves were funky, and the energy belied the collective age of the Jackson men. Though the vocals understandably weren’t at their 1978 level, Jermaine and Marlon in particular, showed they have plenty left in the tank and more then enough show-stopping charisma to carry on the Jackson Five legacy.

As an aside, the concert was a fundraiser for the Buffalo Ronald McDonald House, a charitable endeavor that houses out-of-town families with children hospitalized in the city. The show raised $35,000 – money that is used to support as many as 600 visiting families each year.

Backed by a band charged with the challenge of matching the unique sound that defined the Jackson Five in its heyday, a challenge readily met, The Jacksons offered an evening that was equal parts warm and fuzzy nostalgia, tear-jerking tribute and just plain fun.