Even before his untimely death, Michael Jackson had become one of the most parodied pop stars in history, denigrated for his plastic surgery and infantile eccentricities.
But focusing on the music side of Jackson’s artistry, the Bay Area Michael Jackson tribute band Foreverland is making its mark. With more than 70 performances under its belt in 2010, the 14-piece band continues to build momentum in 2011 with a show Friday at Redwood City’s Fox Theatre.
Foreverland trumpeter and band manager Morty Okin is thrilled to be performing the group’s first club show in Redwood City, where it has performed for “Music on the Square” events, drawing crowds of about 6,000 people.
“We love Redwood City,” Okin says. “They have one of the best, most responsive crowds. Doing a show at the Fox is exciting. The spectacle is amazing.”
Although it formed several months prior to Jackson’s untimely death, Foreverland has seen an increase in demand for its show, which features songs from the Jackson Five era as well as Jackson’s solo career.
Okin and his fellow musician friends started with the idea of a five-member tribute band to Jackson, but the music quickly dictated their path.
“We realized there was no way that five people could do this music,” Okin says. “I just kept adding and adding members. We didn’t want to impersonate him. This is more of a tribute to the music than an impersonation,” he says.
“We looked at some other Michael cover bands out there, and they’re more of a band plus an impersonator, and we don’t understand it. It doesn’t do justice to the music, it doesn’t do justice to Michael Jackson and it’s just kind of weird. You see it once or twice and you get the shtick, and what more is there?”
Foreverland offers a full-fledged show, including its own, ever-evolving interpretation of “Thriller,” featuring singing zombies, fake blood and werewolf masks.
The band — which includes brass and rhythm sections, several vocalists, a keyboardist and two guitarists — is composed primarily of full-time musicians, though a few of them, including a lawyer, haven’t left their day jobs. But with upcoming shows in Las Vegas, Los Angeles and New York, that could change.
“We’re all pretty hungry to tour,” Okin says.
Running a cover band can be a big headache, because the songs don’t belong to the musicians. Foreverland used to be called Neverland, but the Jackson estate tracked the members down and made them change it. They also pay fees to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers for the use of Jackson’s music.
“They’re definitely on their game right now for Michael Jackson royalties, but that’s OK,” Okin says. “We’re all musicians. We’ve all had CDs out and we definitely understand. If it wasn’t for Michael, we wouldn’t be making a living.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Fox Theatre, 2215 Broadway, Redwood City
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Tickets: $18 to $20
Contact: (650) 369-7770,www.foxrwc.com