There's no easy way to replace Michael Jackson. Just ask Who's Bad.
The North Carolina group, which bills itself as "The Ultimate Michael Jackson Tribute," has used five singers to portray Jackson during the eight years since it formed in Chapel Hill, N.C. And now it keeps two on the roster, which works out quite well according to founder and saxophonist Vamsi Tadepalli.
"That actually opens up a lot of doors for us," explains Tadepalli, who put Who's Bad together while studying music at the University of North Carolina. "We're able to keep the shows really fast-paced. Costume changes are not an issue as far as pacing the show; while one guy is preforming, the other guy is backstage changing -- and neither one of them gets burned out from doing the whole show."
Who's Bad was doing "pretty well" before Jackson passed away in June of 2009. Since then, Tadepalli says, the group's workload has increased exponentially -- both at home and overseas -- but he's adamant that he never wants Who's Bad to be considered a cash-in.
"This is totally music-driven," he explains. "We actually had a band together before we had a Michael, so the idea was really all about the music and just trying to re-create it live.
"We weren't really thinking about anything beyond the music. Any time you're in a bar or a club, any setting, and 'Billie Jean' or 'Don't Stop Til You Get Enough' come on, you automatically see the reaction from people in the room, whether it's foot-tapping or head-nodding. If you get that effect just from a CD, imagine a band playing it. I just thought these songs would be awesome to play live, and it absolutely has been."
Who's Bad: The Ultimate Michael Jackson Tribute and the Infatuations perform Friday, Jan. 20, at the Magic Bag, 22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. Call 248-544-3030 or visit www.themagicbag.com.
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