Published Thursday, February 16, 2012 9:11 am
by Ryanne Persinger
Michael Jackson’s music lives through the Who’s Bad Band.
Prior to the pop star’s death in 2009, the ultimate Michael Jackson tribute band averaged about 100 shows annually.
“After he passed away the band just blew up,” said Vamsi Tadepalli, founder of Who’s Bad. “People were feeling a void and wanted to fill that with his music and we were happy to do it. Since he passed away, we were able to travel to China, Singapore, Romania, the UK, Canada, Mexico and all over the United States.”
The band will perform in Charlotte at 9 p.m. Feb. 18 at Amos’ Southend, 1423 S. Tryon St.
Tadepalli founded the band in 2003, the same year he graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a degree in jazz performance. A saxophonist since age 11, Tadepalli put the band together with college classmates.
“I’ve always been a fan of Michael’s music,” he said. “I just thought why don’t we play all Michael because nobody else was doing it. I think that, coupled with the fact that you go out to a bar or a club and when his ‘Billy Jean’ song comes on people automatically sing along.”
Tadepalli never got the chance to see Jackson perform live. He became a fan when his dad bought him the “Thriller” album when he was 4 years old.
“One of things that I’m really thankful for is growing to appreciate Michael, not only as a musician but as a performer,” Tadepalli said. “His performances from the ‘80s and ‘90s, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone move like that.”
Tadepalli assembled the band even before hiring a frontman.
“It’s just the opposite of what people think,” he said. “The drive for me was the music behind it. I spent a lot of time listening to Michael’s music.”
When the band first started, it was during a tumultuous time in Jackson’s life, Tadepalli said.
“This is a time when he probably wasn’t the most popular person in 2003,” the Durham native said. “A lot of people were associating him with the things the media talked about rather than his music.”
The band travels worldwide with anywhere from seven to nine members including Jackson impersonator Taalib York.
“Taalib York was our first Michael Jackson and was with us a year and a half before he moved to New York,” Tadepalli said. “Now he’s back with us and it was meant to be. He’s a huge fan of Michael and the timing was just impeccable, I guess.”
The band’s lineup has evolved over the years.
“Some people move on and some get married and don’t tour anymore,” Tadepalli said. “But we’ve been happy to have a good social circle of musicians that give Michael justice.”
Tadepalli says the band never gets tired of entertaining fans.
“We do this all the time and are doing the same stuff,” he said. “But as much as it’s done we still love hitting the stage. It’s all about having a blast and sharing with the audience.”
The audience still comes out to support the band.
“It’s very impressive the fan base Michael has since he’s passed away,” Tadepalli added. “They’re totally mesmerized by Michael. Michael brings so many people together, whether it’s age 4 to 70 years old, males and females and all races. That’s what our M.O. is.”