OX meets Ben (Jackson Live in Concert)
"When someone is leaning at 45 degree angles in their music videos, you don’t believe that person is anything but a superhero."
Ben is a Michael Jackson impersonator and lifelong fan. This year he will once again tour with Jackson Live in Concert.
OXHC caught up with Ben ahead of his show at New Theatre Oxford on 13th February.
Hi Ben. What is the level of your Michael Jackson fandom?
I don’t remember not being surrounded by his music. I grew up with it, my parents played it, and that’s exactly how I got into this. I still probably listen to his music every day.
Over the years you will have heard ugly things said about Michael Jackson, he was often at the centre of controversy, did you feel the need to speak up and defend him?
To be honest I never really got terribly involved in that. Obviously I supported him and I don’t believe a lot of the controversial things that are printed about him even to this day – I don’t really listen to tabloids.
He was an easy target, wasn’t he? There was so little fact involved in so much of the scrutiny he was subject to. A lot of the time people would concentrate so much on ridiculing him for something they thought he was doing rather than actually focusing on some of the problems he did have, like anorexia and drug abuse towards the end – there was nothing printed on that until he died.
Do you remember your reaction when he died?
Absolutely. I still feel it. I feel like a family member lost their life, because he was such a huge part of my life and created my career.
Did you ever see him live?
I saw the Dangerous tour at Wembley. I’ve seen so many concerts since and nobody comes close to the dynamic that he had on stage – he was like something possessed. At the point when I saw him I’m not sure, as a kid, that I knew he was a real person – I know that sounds strange. I remember growing up and watching him on the TV and not really believing that anything was real. When someone is turning into a bunny rabbit and leaning at 45 degree angles in their music videos, you don’t believe that person is anything but a superhero. To actually see him on stage, and even then there were magic tricks, was just incredible. He commanded the stage, he was great vocally, and people go on about his dancing in the music videos but when you watch the live show you realise what a natural and innovative dancer he was.
You never met him; is that nice in a way because then there’s still an element of mystery about him to you?
To a degree, but I would have loved to have met him, and picked his brain and found out what inspired him to create what he created.
Do you have a favourite song to perform?
It’s probably ‘Billie Jean’ because it’s so signature to him – the hat, the gloves, the moonwalk. I love it, and it was the first routine I learned. When I learned the moonwalk I was working in a Co-op, behind the counter, pushing myself off the wall in order to do it (because it’s all about weight shifting). I did it during my night shifts when there weren’t many people in the shop.
What’s your favourite to listen to?
One of my favourites is ‘Tabloid Junkie’, it’s an album track, not a hit. It was on History, and was when he was pretty annoyed at the world.
You’re touring now with Jackson Live; how’s it going?
Fantastic. I’ve been a Michael Jackson impersonator for 11 years, but I’ve been with the band doing this show for six, and I think this is the best so far. The crowds are rolling in for it, you feel so much love and admiration for Michael Jackson in the room when you’re performing, and it comes from everywhere – all ages – it’s amazing.
If you couldn’t pay tribute to the King of Pop, which artist would you choose?
Both MJ and Whitney are hard acts to sing…
There’s no fun in impersonating something easy. The beauty of doing Michael Jackson is the fact that you’re always learning and you can always get better and better. When I was younger I was never a great dancer, vocals were much more my thing, and now I’d say that I’ve improved but I still have a lot to do. Every time I watch him I learn something new and it could be footage that I’ve seen a million times.
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