Published: January 28, 2011
You know it
The Journal Gazette
If you go
What: Who’s Bad, benefit for Fort Wayne Newspapers Three Rivers Festival
When: 8 p.m. today
Where: C2G Music Hall, 323 W. Baker St.
Admission: Tickets, at $50, are available by calling 426-5556; admission cost includes hors d’oeuvres from Club Soda
In 2003, Vamsi Tadepalli formed an unusual tribute act at a most illogical moment.
Tadepalli decided to perform Michael Jackson’s music at a time when a lot of people were not terribly fond of the musician or, more specifically, the man.
“When we started the band, it was a tumultuous time for Michael,” Tadepalli said in a phone interview. “People were thinking more about his personal life than his music, and we wanted to remind people of the music.”
Seven years later, Tadepalli’s band, Who’s Bad, may be the finest Jackson-impersonating ensemble in the world.
Who’s Bad will perform a benefit for the Fort Wayne Newspapers Three Rivers Festival at C2G Music Hall tonight.
The band’s profile rose considerably after of Jackson’s death, of course, and it’s a windfall that Tadepalli says he could have done without.
“When I put this band together, it never crossed my mind to think about it in terms of ‘What would happen if Michael died,’ ” Tadepalli said, sounding genuinely gloomy.
Tadepalli initially auditioned female vocalists because he said he just didn’t think he’d be able to find a male musician who could convincingly do everything that Jackson did.
These days the band tours with two male Jackson impersonators, Taalib York and Joseph Bell, Tadepalli said.
They alternate sets so there are no obvious breaks in the 100-minute show for the changing of costumes and the getting of second winds, Tadepalli said.
“I think the reason behind having two of them is that they’re filling big shoes,” Tadepalli said. “With the amount of shows we have been doing since Michael passed away, it would be easy for one person who was doing it all himself every night to get burned out.”
“Our show is non-stop, high-energy, and there are never any lulls,” he said.
Tadepalli said a Who’s Bad performance does not proceed chronologically through Jackson’s career and, even though a video homage to the singer was added after his death, the band doesn’t think the show should be part of anyone’s grieving process.
“It’s not like we put a moment of silence in the show,” he said.
“We wanted to keep it positive.”
International demand for Who’s Bad’s brand of tribute-paying skyrocketed in the wake of Jackson’s demise, Tadepalli said. He said the band’s members are treated as celebrities in their own right in China, Singapore, Mexico, Germany and the UK.
“The reception (in those places) is insane,” he said. “It’s crazy. We’re just trying our best, with limited resources, to fill the void left by Michael’s death.”
Tadepalli said a lot of opportunistic tribute acts have sprung up in the last two years, but Who’s Bad does not concern itself with them.
“We have established ourselves,” he said. “We feel like those people who just wanted to cash in may have got a little bit business here and there, … but our biggest competition is ourselves.”
Who’s Bad is bigger than any of its individual members, Tadepalli said, and it will continue on even if he decides to leave.
“Who’s Bad will last as long as his music is popular and his music has already proven the test of time,” he said.