David Vertesi and friends are at it again. The same folks behind 'The Biltmore Phil-harmonic' and 'Biltmore Over Troubled Water' -- tribute nights to Phil Collins and Paul Simon, respectively -- are back, this time with a night honouring the King of Pop. And like the other nights, it was all benefiting Sing It Forward and the St James Music Academy, leading up to the final Sing It Forward concert, this time TWO nights at the Vogue Theatre, January 14 & 15th.
The usual "house band" of Johnny Andrews on drums, Andrew Rasmussen on keys, Mike Young on bass, and Tristan Paxton on guitar were joined by Katie Schaan on backing vocals and Raphael Geronimo on percussion, with a rotating lineup of Vancouver singers to hit the highs (or attempt to anyway, in some cases) with everything from The Jackson 5 and beyond.
The night started with some children from the St James Music Academy for an instrumental "Smooth Criminal" on violin, before the band took the stage. Like the other months, I won't give a song-by-song account, just some highlights with Christine McAvoy's photos below.
I hadn't seen Katie Schaan perform live in a long time, so it was nice to see her providing backing vocals all night, as well as belt out "The Way You Make Me Feel". If you're a fan of Bend Sinister, then it shouldn't be a surprise how good Dan Moxon was for his cover of "Smooth Criminal"; Parker Bossley had the moves when he did "Rock With It"; and Danielle McTaggert from Dear Rouge did a really fun "Billie Jean".
Lots of the performers were in costume, and there were even props, like when Hey Ocean! performed "Will You be There" and loosed a large inflatable orca into the crowd (sadly, the Biltmore ceiling is too low to reenact the famous ending to Free Willy).
The highlight of these tribute nights always seems to be Tonye Aganaba. She was on stage a few times, playing MJ to Chin Injeti's Paul McCartney, doing a beautiful "Man in the Mirror", but my favourite came early on as she and JP Maurice did an amazing "Beat It".
My other favourite performance was one I think should have ended the night (instead of the "better-in-theory" version of "We Are The World"); the lights dimmed and Zach Gray hit the stage in ghoulish makeup for a killer rendition of "Thriller", complete with dancers coming out from the back and into the crowd for the choreographed dance number.
And as the night ended, David Vertesi teased the next tribute night, for Hall & Oates, though didn't say when, so it sounds like these nights won't be slowing down any time soon. Who do you want to hear them do for a future tribute night? Let me know in the comments.
(Me, I suggested to Vertesi, in all sincerity, that they should do a "Weird" Al Yankovic tribute night. It would be amazing.)
photos by Christine McAvoy
"Smooth Criminal" (instrumental) as performed by the St James Music Academy
"Blame It On The Boogie" as performed by Buckman Coe
"The Way You Make Me Feel" as performed by Katie Schaan
"ABC 123" as performed by Benedict Marsh
"I'll Be There" as performed by NaRai Dawn (Star Captains) & Omar Khan
"Beat It" as performed by JP Maurice & Tonye Aganaba
"Baby Be Mine" as performed by Willa & David Vertesi
"Will You Be There" as performed by Hey Ocean!
"The Girl is Mine" as performed by Chin Injeti & Tonye Aganaba
"Smooth Criminal" as performed by Dan Moxon (Bend Sinister)
"Rock With You" as performed by Parker Bossley (Gay Nineties)
"Human Nature" as performed by Andrew Rasmussen
"Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" as performed by Aaron Ross (The Boom Booms)
"Black or White" as performed by Dominique Fricot
"Bad" as performed by JP Maurice
"PYT" as performed by David Beckingham (Hey Ocean!)
"Thriller" as performed by Zach Gray (The Zolas)
"Want You Back" as performed by Jordan Klassen
"Man in the Mirror" as performed by Tonye Aganaba
"You Are Not Alone" as performed by Nat Jay
"Billie Jean" as performed by Danielle McTaggart (Dear Rouge)
"Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" as performed by Dan Moxon & Ashleigh Ball (Hey Ocean!)
"We Are The World" as performed by Wanting (with everyone)