They bill themselves as “The Ultimate Michael Jackson Tribute Band,” and though they set themselves up with a name that is easy pickings for any wiseguy critic to tee off on, Who’s Bad actually isn’t half bad.
The group from Chapel Hill, N.C., delivers a sound that, believe it or not, if you’re not too nit-picky and not too in need of the gloved one’s uber-high pitch, approaches a Vegas-grade…imitation of the King of Pop. And somehow Who’s Bad doesn’t come off as the Kings of Schlock.
The band’s MySpace clips (a spot-on "Dirty Diana," "Human Nature" and "Billie Jean" among them) are strangely addictive – if only for 10 minutes or so of Web listening.
As tribute bands go, the musicians in Who’s Bad, which was founded in 2004, couldn’t have picked a more legendary pop act to recycle. Sure, other such groups have moonwalked in Jackson’s footsteps, the England-based Michael Jackson Experience for one, but not too many make it to Macon.
On its MySpace page, the group calls itself "an infectious party production that takes audiences on a musical expedition spanning three decades of Michael Jackson’s chart-cresting music.
"From ‘ABC’ to ‘You Rock My World,’ no song is forgotten in this electrifying revival of Pop Music’s Royal Highness. … Who’s Bad has crafted an intricate performance complete with synchronized dance routines, blaring horn section and down-deep rhythms – each delivered with a precision that could only be superseded by the King himself."
While that is haughtily high self-praise, the self-promotion somehow works for this act, whose sounds won’t be lost on anyone older than, say, 35.
The group’s founder, Vamsi Tadepalli, says the act sometimes has its skeptics when a show is promoted "because of the bad press that Michael Jackson recently got. … They think it might be a joke."
"But," Tadepalli said, "I can guarantee that it’s nothing close to a joke. It’s definitely the real deal. … We’re about the music and paying tribute to him as an artist and nothing more than that."
The six-member band is now on its fifth lead singer – or MJ – and has had more than 20 members in its history.
"It’s a good time," Tadepalli says.
What: Who’s Bad, a show of Michael Jackson music
Where: Cox Capitol Theatre, 382 Second St., Macon
When: 9 p.m.