Live: A Semi-Enchanted Evening At The Apollo With Michael Jackson Tribute Act The Ultimate Thiller

The Ultimate Thriller The Apollo Tuesday, June 29

Sometimes you feel like going to see a really fantastic MJ tribute. Other times, you'll settle for a sorta OK MJ tribute with a few moments of vast amusement. This, decidedly, was the latter.

The Ultimate Thriller is vying to dominate what I have to believe is a growth industry in 2010: The Michael Jackson impersonator racket. Any reason why these guys shouldn't be more prevalent than fake Elvises right now, other than "imitating MJ is way harder"? Tonight's contestants have certainly put in the work: A full band (though oddly canned-sounding and prone to runaway tempos), four tumbling backup dancers (wielding fake sledgehammers for "Workin' Day and Night"), and a game star attraction who's got all the costumes, can sing most of the songs passably (farming out the chorus to "Billie Jean" to your backup singers = not acceptable), and can certainly Moonwalk, though he tends to howl "Ooooh!" as if actually injured.

In my darker moments I was craving a blackjack table. But the crowd disagreed -- "We love you Michael!" someone would shout; "I love you more!" he would invariably reply. While most of the band-banter comedy bits were ill-advised (I'm fairly certain "Who's bad?" was meant as a rhetorical question), they can all pull it together enough to not besmirch the good names of "Human Nature" or "Beat It" or "Thriller" itself. (And I'm always up for a live recreation of the "Beat It" video knife-fight.) The Jackson 5 medley was particularly effective, goading the crowd into an "I'll Be There" singalong and suggesting that this all might work way better as a Rocky Horror sort of thing.

Another suggestion: At one point "MJ" pulled a young lady from the crowd onstage for some personal-serenade action, regaling her with a bombastic version of... "She's Out of My Life." Terrible song choice, Michael. You are straight up pining for an ex-girlfriend in front of a complete stranger. (Pretending to cry only exacerbates the situation.) Learn "The Way You Make Me Feel," drop "Billie Jean" down to a key you can sing it in, give "Heal the World" a rest, and we can talk. Consider that Rocky Horror thing, too. Either that or the blackjack table.


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