Off the wall for Jacko

Music panel pix 3/7/14

Music panel pix 3/7/14 - Credit: Archant

As he prepares to bring his no-detail-too-small Michael Jackson tribute show to Norfolk, Ben Bowman tells GREG MILES about how impersonating his hero turned into a career.

Music panel pix 3/7/14

Music panel pix 3/7/14 - Credit: Archant

A childhood love for the music of Michael Jackson has turned into a globe-spanning career for Ben Bowman.

As a youngster performing was all he ever wanted to do, and he had some high standards to live up to in impersonating his idol, but the performer has managed to make the seamless transformation and his touring production Jackson Live, complete with a nine-piece band and five dancers, comes to the region for a date at the Pavilion Theatre on Cromer Pier later this month.

There is no stone left unturned in Ben's unstinting efforts to become Jackson, and it was his relentless hours of singing and dancing to his tunes as a youngster that sparked the idea for his career.

'I was sat around the table in the science class and my friend asked me how the new song went and I just impersonated his voice and she said I should do something with it,' he recalls.

'I did my first gig at a working men's club and it was £2 a ticket. I had a part-time job in a supermarket and I asked everybody who came through my checkout whether they liked Michael Jackson and put a flier in their bag.'

If he ever had spare time in his youth you could bet it was filled with something to do with Michael Jackson.

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'We didn't have much money growing up, we didn't have CDs or we weren't out buying tapes all the time. But my brother and I had our mum's record collection. She had stacks of LPs,' he said.

'We played them back-to-back and upside down. Every morning and every evening I watched as much as I could. If YouTube had existed back then I would have been constantly on a computer. I watched everything I could get hold of.'

In trying to become someone else, especially one as complex as Jackson, you have to take on every small detail of their personality.

'There are so many mannerisms, you could not ever stop learning stuff, you could watch something you've seen a thousands times and learn more,' he said. 'That's probably the hardest bit. A lot of people ask about the dancing but it's actually the mannerism.

'You have to listen to the way he speaks and everything to be able to give the whole performance. I want people to feel like they're coming to see him,' adds Ben, who saw his idol perform at Wembley.

The longevity of tribute acts itrends go in and out of fashion, but there are certain artists that will surely stand the test of time.

Ben hopes to continue in his role as long as he can. 'I'm a live for the moment kind of person I don't think too far ahead in the future,' he said. 'Sometimes I think I would like to write my own stuff. I could never see myself getting bored with this though.''

As it stands he is in a niche market in the UK and hopes to take it further around the world in the future. 'I'm not sure there's a huge amount of interest for it in the States. His popularity dropped there in the early 1990s. There is a huge demand for it over in Japan though.'

That popularity drop was down to the child abuse court cases which he was eventually cleared of.

'I honestly believe in my heart of hearts that he was innocent. I would have been devastated had anything happened to him,' he says. 'Everything I have got and achieved over the years has been because of him.'

n Jackson Live, Pavilion Theatre, Cromer Pier, July 20, 7.30pm, £19, 01263 512495,

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