He’ll be all right Jack

He’ll be all right, Jack
THE elderly lady was sitting in her wheelchair just in front of me to the right.
To my left were the police, three of them, big, burly blokes standing with their arms
folded, staring intently ahead.
Nearly blocking my line of sight was a dad on tiptoes peering over a sea of heads,
anxiously scanning the ground where his four-year-old was seated ‘‘somewhere’’.
Beside me was a teen, her face puncturedby piercings, clinging to a bloke covered in
tattoos. Behind, another teen in a Ku-ring-gai netball uniform, cradling a puppy.
What were we all doing on this Saturday afternoon, crammed shoulder to shoulder
on Manly’s beachfront?
We were waiting for Jack Vidgen. The singing sensation from Balgowlah Boys
High School. The one who became a household name after his performance on
Australia’s Got Talent.
It was the Manly Food and Wine Festival and Jack was scheduled to sing at 2pm. The
crowd started assembling an hour before, children and tweens planting themselves on
the ground in front of the makeshift stage, the adults fanning out behind.
There was no common thread running through this crowd, no specific age group,
music or cultural preference, just an innate curiosity to see the 14-year-old causing such
a worldwide fuss.
Could he really hit those notes? Or were clever acoustics on the Channel 7 set
responsible for him being able to belt out a Whitney Houston song as effortlessly as the
diva herself?
If we craned our necks we could catch glimpses of him backstage in a plaid shirt
and jeans, water bottle in his hand, talking to his mum. He looked cheerful and relaxed.
Arriving on stage to a huge round of applause, he took the mic and thanked us all
for coming. He seemed touched and a little overwhelmed by the support, a slightly awkward, but very normal, young teenage boy.
It was when he opened his mouth that normality flew out the window.
The elderly lady watched spellbound, clasping her hands together in rapture
when Jack’s voice soared to the heavens. The coppers, steely gazed and still with
their arms folded, were transfixed, while the girl with the piercings and her tattooed
mate were thunderous in their applause. The father in front of me turned around.
‘‘I’ve got goosebumps,’’ he said.
Jack clearly had all of us, this motley crew of strangers, in the palm of his hand.
Someone asked me later what was so special about Jack Vidgen — ‘‘apart from
the obvious’’.
Two things struck me.
The first is his astonishing emotional intuition, an instinct way beyond his years.
He doesn’t just sing a song, he tells a story.
The second is his normality, his manners and his humility.
He didn’t bounce around the stage clapping his hands and ‘‘working’’ the audience.
He simply stepped to the mic, thanked everybody and started to sing.
Jack will go far. The girls will chase him, the greedy will court him, the sycophants
will use him. Stylists will advise on what to wear, media advisers will clamour to coach
him in polished, rehearsed banter.
He’ll come into money, lots of it.
Let’s hope he and his mum choose carefully among all the hangers-on who will vie for a piece of him. Because the most extraordinary thing about Jack Vidgen is that he’s so very, very ordinary.
He’s just a kid who sings like an angel.
And the elderly lady, the bloke with the tatts and the coppers would all love to see him stay that way.

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