On July 30th, the King of pop's legacy continued to receive flowers when the Who's Bad: The Ultimate Michael Jackson Experience returned to The Birchmere hotel in Alexandria, Virginia, to pay tribute to his legacy. I first heard about Who's Bad in 2009, the day after MJ passed away, as the band was performing a show that weekend at the 9:30 Club. The group has made numerous appearances in the DMV area over the past few years, but never at a fully seated venue, which is always something I prefer when attending concerts.
Toward the end of last year, my wife and I had the chance to see "MJ Live" in Las Vegas, so it was only natural that we would want to compare the two shows. It was a shame that I was unable to attend the Birchmere debut of "Who's Bad" back in January, but I wouldn't make the same mistake again. "Who's Bad" opens up the evening's set, with the band jamming out to instrumental versions of "Blood on the Dance Floor," "Scream," "Why You Wanna Trip On Me," and "Blood on the Dance Floor" before the evening's Michael, James Times III, takes the stage.
Sporting similar attire to MJ, James does his darndest to pay homage to the King of Pop, running through his signature hits "Wanna Be Starting Somethin." "Don't Stop'Til You Get Enough and "PYT." Times has sharp dance moves and a capable voice to make the show work, and it's clear that he loves performing. One particular highlight of the concert was when Times invited an eager fan sporting Mike Jack's Smooth Criminal outfit on stage to dance. For the most part, the fan kept up with Times, so kudos to the band for giving him a moment.
My biggest gripe with the show was the lack of ballads. In keeping with the tradition of most tribute shows, the night focused primarily on MJ's hits and did not delve into his catalog in great detail. Therefore, music fans hoping to hear anything from The Jackson's Gamble & Huff Years or any of their favorite album tracks may end up disappointed.
The band's saxophonist Aaron McCoy Jr. deserves tremendous credit for performing a killer rendition of "Break of Dawn" from 2001's Invincible album. Aside from that, there were very few ballads to be heard. There was a brief snippet of the song "Lady in My Life," and what I felt was a so-so performance of "I'll Be There." Now, I'm not saying that I wanted them to play "Good Times," "Touch," or "I'm So Blue." However, an arrangement of "Butterflies," "I Can't Help It," and "Remember the Time" as well as a smooth one would have been wonderful.
At the show's conclusion, the band also mentioned that they had driven 10 hours by car to make it to the show at the end of the performance. While Times managed to give it his all despite numerous distracting breaks for jacket changes, it was apparent that he was tired, but even still, he gave it all. There is no doubt that Who's Bad is an excellent band, and they are always welcomed at The Birchmere due to their valuable talent, as evidenced by the band's three encores.
Final Grade: B-