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Michael Jackson tribute bringing thrills to Columbus

The Ultimate Michael Jackson Tribute Band is scheduled to perform April 21 at Newport Music Hall. Doors open at 7 p.m.

Michael Jackson’s signature dance moves and distinctive voice will be dancing across the Newport Music Hall stage Saturday, courtesy of Who’s Bad: The Ultimate Michael Jackson Tribute Band.

The tribute band, created eight years ago in Chapel Hill, N.C., has performed worldwide, recreating Jackson’s musical talent before and after the King of Pop’s death. Doors for its Columbus show open at 7 p.m.

Taalib York, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native and one of the two men who portray Jackson in Who’s Bad, has been with the band from the start.  

“I was a local musician trying to get on … singing hooks on people’s albums and working on my own,” York said.

York said he was approached with the idea of being part of a Jackson tribute band when he was living in Chapel Hill.

York said he had no problem stepping into the role of Jackson to be a part of Who’s Bad.

“It really comes pretty natural to me being that, in a lot of ways … This is something that I’ve been doing since I was a kid,” York said. “Singing and dancing like Michael was second nature to me.”

Although York’s own singing and song-writing styles are different from Jackson’s, when he’s performing with Who’s Bad, he attempts to make his performances as “Michael-focused as possible,” he said.

“I look at it pretty much like, I’m turning into Michael,” York said. “What would Michael be doing, how would Michael be doing this song, how would he do this?

“The way that you smile, the way that you point at the audience, the way that I work on my face to emulate him … making the audience believe that he’s there for a minute. That’s my strong point.”

Joseph Bell, or JoBel, the other performer who portrays Jackson, is recovering from skin cancer. For this reason York will perform the entire show as Michael, like he did in the band’s earlier years, rather than the two men equally dividing the show’s songs.

Going back to performing for the show’s entirety “was a very easy transition because I started (the show) out this way,” York said.

The audience can expect a high-energy show, just as Jackson himself would have given them.

“(Jackson is) a hard act to follow,” York said. “His energy level is ridiculous. Your energy level has to be ridiculous. That right now is what’s great about me doing the full show. It’s going to be continuous high energy.”

York also said he tries to make his performance as Jackson “organic” as he can.

“If you are a Michael fan, you’re going to feel him in the room,” York said. “When you make a face, or when you look at (the audience), or when you do the heart sign with your hands, people who know what that is have such a great reaction to it, and that feels great as a performer.”

Who’s Bad has visited Columbus before, Marissa Luther, marketing manager at PromoWest Productions, said.

“It’s a fun atmosphere and environment and it’s a good show,” Luther said.

Garland Caldwell of Melophobe.com,, a music news and review website, had a similar experience with the band.

“They came to town and rocked my world,” Caldwell wrote in a concert review from 2011. “Who’s Bad lives up to its self-adulating title and then some.”

Who’s Bad aims for Jackson fans to relive their memories and experiences with Jackson, York said.

“It’s a very full-of-life show,” York said. “You walk out (and) you’ll be laughing, you’ll be crying, you’ll go through lots of emotions. It’s a full-on Michael experience.”

Tickets are $13 in advance and $15 the day of the show. Tickets can be purchased from Ticketmaster or Newport Music Hall box office.

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