For many, the most striking thing about Michael Jackson was the charisma, the sheer showmanship of the man.
With his jazz background, however, Vamsi relishes the musical complexity of MJ’s output – something he will celebrate when he heads from Los Angeles to the UK with his band Who’s Bad.
Dates include the Theatre Royal in Brighton on Sunday, March 11 – a show which Vamsi promises will give you the feel of those legendary Jackson live performances.
“I had the idea in 2003,” Vamsi says. “I was a senior in college, and I was a music major. I thought it would be cool to put together a band to do the music of Michael Jackson. I had just finished college and wanted to go to New York to be a musician, and I thought this would be a fun way of saving up. And it turned out that a lot of people liked MJ a lot!
“I have always loved his music, and we were doing something different. There were lots of impersonators and tributes out there, but there were not many bands, and that’s what we were doing. And then when he passed away, we were the first thing that came up on Google. I was in North Carolina when I heard he had died. I was just going through the routine. We had a show already booked for the next day which had been booked months prior, and after he died, my phone just didn’t stop ringing. It was a crazy time. Everything changed with his death. For a long time, I thought the band would just be a fun thing. I didn’t think it would go on as long as it has, but when he passed away, I realised that it was an obligation for us to carry on. His death left such a huge void for people wanting to hear his music.”
For Vamsi, it has always been about the music, not about the kind of man he was and what he might or might not have got up to. The music was the thing, and that’s what the band is about. But the show has evolved since then. We have started to incorporate all the visual elements. It’s very high energy. It’s non-stop. There is choreography and everything.
“A lot of people who study jazz might turn their noses up at pop music, but when I studied his music, I was struck by it, especially the early music, the fact that there were so many layers to the music that he built up. There is a lot of thickness to it. Everything starts with drums and bass. That’s what makes you want to dance, and then there is the chord progression, the keys you are playing. MJ has this layering, and he is so precise with the elements. There is such a lot of attention to detail.
“When I started the group, I didn’t have a singer at first. I had a band, and then the idea was to find the right guy. Most people would start with their MJ and build the band around them. We started the other way round, and it was just sheer luck that we got our MJ.
“Or maybe it was meant to be."