The King of Pop’s extensive catalog of hits will come to The State Theatre on April 6 when Who’s Bad performs.
The Michael Jackson tribute band’s founder, Vamsi Tadepalli, came up with the idea for the band when he was a college student.
“Who’s Bad is my brain child, my baby essentially,” Tadepalli said. “As I was graduating I was trying to figure out ways to pursue my dream, which was playing jazz in New York. I had no money, so I thought it would be a good idea to start a band, maybe something on the weekend, to make some extra money.”
Originally, Tadepalli said he was first interested in starting a funk band, but he was pulled in by Jackson’s music.
“I started putting together set lists and just kept gravitating toward Michael,” he said. “It was a lot of the older stuff, like from ‘Off the Wall’ or the Jackson 5-era stuff. Then a light bulb went off and I thought, ‘why don’t we just do all Michael?’ At the time, there were plenty of impersonators but there wasn’t a band out there playing his music.”
Tadepalli’s passion for Jackson’s music would lead him to carrying the band through various lineup changes.
“At the time I thought there would be no way any guy could pull this off,” he said. “I was actually thinking of getting a female vocalist to front it because of the range of the vocals. So, a friend of mine heard I was starting this and told me he had the perfect guy. We met at a jam session, and he was with us for many, many years. Since then, we’ve had like seven different frontmen and 60 people through the band.”
After Jackson’s death in 2009, Who’s Bad found international success.
“In 2009 (Jackson) passed away, so we ended up touring internationally,” Tadepalli said. “We were the No. 1 hit on Google for Michael Jackson tributes and kind of became the go-to band for that.”
The group is set to bring a dynamic live show full of top 40 hits to Happy Valley.
“You’ll hear stuff from all over his career,” Tadepalli said. “We definitely throw in the ballads here and there, but it’s absolutely about the energy because that’s how Michael would want it.”
Controversy aside, Jackson left a long musical legacy spanning five decades. Tadepalli believes the “King of Pop” is an accurate title to describe Jackson.
“He’s the king, there’s no doubt about it,” Tadepalli said. “There’s a reason his music is so popular still today, and it’s not because he passed away. There’s a reason why the press couldn’t get enough of all the sort of strange things he may or may not have done. At the end of the day, people loved his music so much that he became an idol. We really just try to focus on the music. I think his music is timeless.”
Tadepalli thinks that if you aren’t a fan before the show, you certainly will be by the end.
“One of our favorite things that happens is when someone gets dragged out to a show who’s not a fan, and they’re just kind of watching in the audience with their arms folded,” Tadepalli said. “Our mission is always to get everyone as in to it as possible. Usually by the end of the show, they have their arms up in the air singing along to ‘Man in the Mirror.’ It’s just fun to see that.”
IF YOU GO
- What: Who’s Bad: The Ultimate Michael Jackson Experience
- When: 8 p.m. April 6
- Where: The State Theatre, 130 W. College Ave., State College
- Info: www.thestatetheatre.org