Michael Jackson tribute will show Who’s Bad
For the past 12 years, Who’s Bad: The Ultimate Michael Jackson Tribute has brought the King of Pop to audiences around the world.
Since Jackson passed away in 2009, Who’s Bad has carried the mantle all the way to London’s O2, where the multi-Grammy-Award-winning music icon’s last major project, "This Is It," was filmed.
For singer and frontman Taalib York, performing as Michael Jackson in Who’s Bad, which will perform this week at the Egyptian Theatre, has been a delicate balance between real life and fantasy.
"Now that I’ve been doing this for so long, the biggest challenge is to tribute him appropriately, but also remembering myself while I’m doing it," York said during an interview phone call from Brooklyn. "Tribute and emulation are different things and you have to find the balance between them, and to do that, you have to find yourself within all of it.
"Sometimes I get lost in being Michael Jackson, so now it’s important for that not to be the reality," he said. "The reality needs to be myself knowing myself and applying myself to the show."
The show is an overall tribute to Jackson, which means there is a Jacksons and Jackson 5 segment in it as well.
In the early days of Who’s Bad, reaching across those eras pushed York artistically.
"The harder parts of it were in terms that his key is different than mine," York explained. "I have to make sure I can stretch myself to find where he was and to do it without it becoming a parody or a haphazard attempt at imitation."
York also had to make sure he could sing while dancing.
"You need that seamless sound that comes out of you while you are on stage," he said. "It was a concern for me in the past because I didn’t want the vocals to sound over breathy and worn out, because I wanted to get that Michael thing authentic."
York said his favorite Michael Jackson song to perform changes from time to time.
"There are those days that one song catches you and holds you more than the others, but I think the older I get, the more I appreciate his slower stuff, the songs that groove like ‘Human Nature,’" he said. "People also know me as a dancer, so I have to put that same amount of energy in the other songs as well, because audiences have their own preferences."
There are also some songs the band doesn’t play that York said would be fun to do.
"We’ve done a lot of different songs throughout the years and any song we don’t do is probably due to technicalities of what can be achieved with a live band," he said. "That said, because I’m a fan, I like songs that some people don’t know like ‘One Day In My Life’ by the Jackson 5, ‘Destiny’ by the Jacksons and ‘In the Closet.’ And I always thought that it would be fun to one day do a show of B-sides. I think those who know those songs would be very happy to see those songs come to life."
Throughout the years, York’s research has only brought him closer to his idol.
"I always admired his attention to detail," York said. "I was blown away from that aspect and it’s not hard to be an appreciator of his art. Because to me, more than a lot of things, what makes Michael so amazing is he has a great focus on perfection. That’s what all artists should aspire to."
The last time Who’s Bad performed at the Egyptian Theatre was 2013, and the show is a little different now.
"I don’t stay 100 percent visually Michael Jackson," York said. "I sometimes insert myself as well and that honesty has been good for me in terms of finding that balance."
That has helped York find and understand himself as an artist.
"I know that sounds cryptic, but it’s not intended to be," he said. "With performing as someone else consistently, you are forced to look at and find yourself, because you have a tendency to lose yourself in the character.
"For most people, when we don’t have the direct confrontation of the loss of self, we have the tendency to not give ourselves the proper amount of attention that we deserve or need," he said. "Performing the music of someone that I really love has forced me to locate myself, you know."
Performing Jackson’s songs has also helped York push the envelope as far as performances go.
"His music has shown me that Michael is the best and if you’re going to perform as him, you need to make sure it’s your best," York said. "I like to believe that I’ve taken some of that with me, so when I’m done with doing this, I can apply that idea into my future work."
The Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., will present Who’s Bad: The Ultimate Michael Jackson Tribute Thursday, May 26, through Sunday, May 29. The Thursday, Friday and Saturday concerts will begin at 8 p.m. Sunday’s concert will start at 6 p.m. Thursday night tickets range from $23 to $35, and Friday, Saturday and Sunday’s seats range from $29 to $45. Tickets can be purchased by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com.
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