Rock with Michael Jackson tribute show in Aurora, Waukegan

At least for a night, Michael Jackson lives onstage again.

Las Vegas performer Michael Firestone stars as pop icon Michael Jackson in “I Am King: the Michael Jackson Experience.” He will perform at 7 p.m. Oct. 16 at The Piazza in Aurora and at 7 p.m. Oct. 24 at the Genesee Theatre in Waukegan.

“I love that area — Southern California, Japan and the Chicago area are probably my top three places because the crowds are off the charts,” Firestone said.

He’ll have the look, the sound, the dancing, the live band and professional dancers with him. Audiences will hear songs like “Billie Jean,” “Thriller,” “Beat It,” “Smooth Criminal,” “ABC,” “Black or White” and “Human Nature.”

This show has been rescheduled a couple of times thanks to COVID-19. A treat for the audience, Firestone will have Michael Jackson’s former touring guitarist, Jennifer Batten, on board.

Michael Jackson with Jennifer Batten

“She’s amazing,” Firestone said. “She jumps on gigs here and there with me and I happened to get her on this one. I don’t get all fan crazy — I met Michael and I was surprisingly calm until he walked away and then I passed out. But it’s still cool to get onstage with people I watched on TV growing up. I’ll be in rare form that night.”

Firestone said audiences will be treated to amazing dancers and a phenomenal band.

“I’ve got a girl that plays guitar for Cirque (Michael Jackson ONE by Cirque du Soleil), Shani Kimelman; she’ll be at that show with Jennifer Batten,” he said. “The guitarists are all female in the show and they’re so solid. I won’t even look at a guitar around them. I’ve been playing guitar longer than Shani’s been alive and I still won’t touch a guitar around her.”

The multimedia show will span almost the entirety of Jackson’s career from The Jackson 5 and on, he said.

“We’re taking it in an hour and a half through 30 years,” he said. “It will remind people of why it’s called ‘I Am King.’ Because he really was. Nobody’s ever going to come close to that guy. Ever. We will give the fans what they’re familiar with and make it fresh and also try to suck in (new fans).”

Ron Tuttle

Firestone grew up in the 1980s and was listening to Jackson for as long as he could remember, thanks to his mom, who was a fan.

“Then ‘Thriller’ hit and I was obsessed,” he said. “I knew I was going to do something with music but I never thought I was going to turn into him.”

He got attention growing up with his dancing and singing like Jackson. It was on a visit to Las Vegas that made him see he could maybe do this for a living. That was in 1997, when he was just 18 years old.

“It was my backup plan next to my own music. Then I started getting paid pretty well and I thought, well, I guess my own music can wait a minute. It’s been waiting for 25 years now,” he said, laughing.

“I couldn’t imagine life without it. It’s been a real fun ride. His fans are completely amazing. They’re not there to see me and I am very aware of that but I’m so happy they do come and support me and the band. We work hard to make this as legit as possible.”

While the singing and dancing came naturally, the makeup didn’t.

“I looked like crap for like the first three years. I looked like Dee Snyder from Twisted Sister but without the yellow hair,” he said. “I don’t look like (Jackson) at all. Drag queens are big in Vegas and they … were brutally honest about my makeup. I figured out you have to white your face out and start over. I have to paint his face onto my face.”

When he’s not performing as Michael Jackson, he’s a normal suburban dad who has to cut the grass and change diapers. He never got to see Jackson live, even though he had tickets to one of the shows of the This Is It concert residency in London in 2009. Jackson died on June 25, 2009.

“Dead center second row, which I was super excited about. I positioned myself to catch the hat,” he said. “That sucked, that I never got to see him. But I did get to meet him and he did call me. He almost looked like a superhero or something. Like if Superman actually touched down in front of you.”

People won’t be bored at his show, he said.

Not too many people other than my father tell me it’s boring. He’s so honest, I love him,” he said. “We try to get as many lightning strikes as we can in an hour and a half. Especially with the addition of Jennifer Batten, you get a pretty legit look at what he did for 30 years while he was entertaining.”

I Am King: the Michael Jackson Experience

When: 7 p.m. Oct. 16

Where: The Piazza, 85 Executive Drive, Aurora

Tickets: $22-$45[Most read] Former Eric Ferguson co-host Melissa McGurren files suit, alleging ‘sham investigation’ into misconduct complaints at WTMX »

Information: 630-978-2088;

When: 7 p.m. Oct. 24

Where: Genesee Theatre, 203 N. Genesee St., Waukegan

Tickets: $25-$99

Information: 847-263-6300;

Annie Alleman is a freelance reporter for the News-Sun.

Marshall Charloff

Bleeding Purple: Marshall Charloff’s Journey

When Prince passed away, there were millions of fans and devotees left in its wake. Among those left behind were a wide variety of fans from casual listeners with their Purple Rain shirts from Old Navy to the hardcore purists who had Shade of Umber in heavy rotation on their playlists. And in the same way that funk and disco had left traces of influence on the music world still to this day, Prince had created an undeniable sound that was lightning in a bottle.

It was a sound that thousands of bands over the years tried to recreate and some of which became tribute bands whose sole purpose was to honor his accomplishments. Some were painful to watch while others, even ones that were wallowing in mediocrity, made a respectable living simply by parroting Prince.

And then there was Marshall Charloff.

Marshall Charloff brought something that other performers did not have which was deep down undeniable talent. A flow when playing guitar, piano, or vocals that can only come with decades of experience. It’s the playing of guitar solos with ease and precision, tickling the ivories with an effortless flow, and singing with his own style without trying to mimic the master, but still with honor.

There are also some distinguishing elements in Marshall Charloff‘s history that qualify him for a “purple pass,” if not for the fact that Charloff was actually a part of the legendary 94 East sessions that featured a young Prince on guitar and vocals while Charloff played both piano and bass guitar.

Add to that Marshall and his band The Purple Xperience actively bend over backward to make sure that their performances are not only accurate but that they are also ordained by Prince‘s estate to stay within their good graces. Charloff also performed as Prince alongside renowned symphony orchestras that were acclaimed by Prince fanatics, even though they were fraught with challenges in a post-Prince world.

We’ve discussed and reviewed The Purple Xperience before, so we’ll avoid repeating ourselves. However, when the pandemic all but destroyed live band performances in 2020 and had claimed a good portion of 2021, there was a wide variety of alternative performances from intimate online shows to pared-down crowds.

This was when Marshall Charloff decided to do the unthinkable and put together a “Purple Piano” show that only showcased Marshall and a piano. It would be a vulnerable and potentially embarrassing scenario for most Prince performers. This is especially the case for performers who habitually hide behind crowd sing-alongs or rely on the other band members to cover or distract from their shortcomings. This was putting it all out there. Just Charloff and a piano. All eerily similar to Prince‘s final two performances in Atlanta, GA. Bold and brave.

As someone who witnessed both of Prince’s final performances, this is not a task to be taken lightly. I had doubts when Prince himself took on the challenge. It’s putting everything out there for all to see. There’s nowhere to hide. You can’t bury the bad notes behind a loud guitar solo or sing off-key. It’s the equivalent of playing naked.

So imagine my surprise witnessing Marshall’s Purple Piano performance and being blown away to the point where I actually preferred it to the full band shows. Maybe it was the intimacy of the spectacle. Quite possibly it was the fact that it served as a full-blown realization that Marshall Charloff is one incredibly talented dude who is about the closest we’ll get to a Prince concert. Someone who fully comprehends his alter-ego and properly pays tribute to it, but that also, while he will never be Prince, has massive talent behind all of the instruments he plays. He isn’t just playing a part, he is the part.

The thing that I respect the most about Marshall Charloff‘s purple journey is his commitment to that craft. There is a distinct separation between The Purple Xperience, the Purple Piano shows, and his own music. While he respects what Prince has done and does his best to replicate the moments with unmitigated attention to detail, his own music is vastly different. His cards aren’t all on the table for everyone to see.

His newest Unperfect album is full of slow to mid-tempo jams filled with falsetto bedroom bangers and drizzled with sparkling touches like percussive crunchy guitars (Amanda) and trips that breathe the spirit of early George Benson (HipNautic), but that still pays homage to his own musical cultivation that was Minneapolis (Minneapolis Sound) and is the closest you’ll get to a Prince track on the album. The album is very much not Prince, which is expected, but surprisingly and refreshingly is not.

The journey of Marshall Charloff is one that is fraught with successes that were hard-won and losses undeserved. The world should raise their glass to this man that understands that his Prince-ly craft is designed to pay homage to the greatest to ever do it, but at the same time deserves to have his own musical stylings be noticed. A styling that does not try to layer itself on top of the tribute shows, but to stand on its own with its very own merits.

The original article can be found on the Funktopia website.

The Purple Piano Celebrates the Music and Artistry of Prince in New One-Man Vegas Show

Las Vegas, NV, March 26, 2021 –( )– Nearly five years after the pop music icon Prince’s untimely death, Marshall Charloff has created a unique one-man tribute dedicated to the artistry and music of the legendary Prince called The Purple Piano.

In January 2016, at age 57, Prince began what would ultimately become his last tour entitled “the Piano & a Microphone.” The tour was a series of solo shows that featured just him, his purple piano, and an incredible discography of songs. On January 21, 2016, the first performance was played to a small crowd at Paisley Park; and followed with an album “the Piano & a Microphone 1983.” The Purple Piano, created by Marshall Charloff, is a heartfelt and intimate tribute to these very unique performances.

Marshall Charloff has performed nationwide fronting world-class symphonies in most major cities in the US and Canada, played keys in the Atlanta Rhythm Section, and since 2011, tours fronting the celebrated Purple xPeRIeNCE – arguably the greatest tribute to Prince in the world, and co-founded by Matt “Doctor” Fink from Prince & the Revolution. Marshall is featured on recordings with Prince on the album 94 East, where he plays both keyboards and bass guitar, and recently collaborated with Prince’s sister Sharon Nelson to co-write and record “Colours.” Pepe Willie, who discovered Marshall, was also responsible for getting Prince’s career up and running.

“The Purple Piano is a show I created out of my sheer love and adoration for the music of Prince,” said Marshall Charloff, creator and star of The Purple Piano. “Prince’s album ‘Piano & a Microphone 1983’ and tour is haunting in the purity of who Prince was as an artist…a tour cut short by his death that shocked the world. I created this show to take up the mantle of ensuring that more people saw this intimate side of Prince that is faithful to him.”

The Purple Piano includes hits “Purple Rain,” “Raspberry Beret,” “Little Red Corvette,” “Kiss,” “1999,” “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Darling Nikki,” “Most Beautiful Girl” and many more in a hauntingly sexy intimate piano and microphone only performance.

“Prince defined a generation of music,” said Pete Housley, Executive Producer of The Purple Piano. “Watching the sizzle reel for this show sent shivers down my spine. Marshall has truly captured the persona and presence of Prince on stage, and the intimacy of the music in this show is heartfelt.”

The Purple Piano joins an impressive lineup of uniquely different shows performing at Alexis Park Resort Hotel, which includes All Motown, The Big Little Variety Show, Amazing Magic starring Tommy Wind as well as BurlesQ, Rock Candy: Male Revue, Jokesters Comedy Club, Alain Nu – The Man Who Knows and Late Night Magic.

The Purple Piano starring Marshall Charloff takes the stage Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights at 8:00 pm exclusively in the Athena Showroom at Las Vegas’ Alexis Park Resort Hotel. Tickets start at $49.95 and are on sale now through most major ticket brokers, online at or by calling the Ticket Kite Box Office at 702-483-8056.

Alexis Park Resort Hotel is located at 375 E. Harmon Ave, Las Vegas, NV 89169.

Media Contact: Denise Kraft,, Verge PR, 206-852-1656

Report: Concert, live events industry lost $30B due to coronavirus pandemic


NEW YORK — Due to the global coronavirus pandemic, concert trade publication Pollstar puts the total lost revenue for the live events industry in 2020 at more than $30 billion.

Pollstar on Friday said the live events industry should have hit a record-setting $12.2 billion this year, but instead it incurred $9.7 billion in losses.

In March hundreds of artists announced that their current or upcoming tours would need to be postponed or canceled because of the pandemic. While a small number of performers have played drive-in concerts and others have held digital concerts, the majority of artists have not played live in 2020.

With just a few months on the road, Elton John’s “Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour” tops the year’s Top 100 Worldwide Tours list with $87.1 million grossed between Nov. 30 through March 7. John’s tour ranked No. 2 last year with $212 million grossed.

Celine Dion came in second this year with $71.2 million, followed by Trans-Siberian Orchestra ($58.2 million), U2 ($52.1 million) and Queen + Adam Lambert ($44.6 million). Post Malone, Eagles, Jonas Brothers, Dead & Company and Andrea Bocelli rounded out the Top 10.

Pollstar said the projected $30 billion figure in losses includes “unreported events, ancillary revenues, including sponsorships, ticketing, concessions, merch, transportation, restaurants, hotels, and other economic activity tied to the live events.”

“It’s been an extraordinarily difficult year for the events industry, which has been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus. As painful as it is to chronicle the adversity and loss our industry and many of our colleagues faced, we understand it is a critical undertaking toward facilitating our recovery, which is thankfully on the horizon,” Ray Waddell, president of Oak View Group’s Media & Conferences Division, which oversees Pollstar and VenuesNow, said in a statement Friday.

“With vaccines, better testing, new safety and sanitization protocols, smart ticketing and other innovations, the live industry will be ramping up in the coming months, and we’re sure that at this time next year we’ll have a very different story to tell.”

Link to original article.


May 7, 2020 – Lake Placid, FL: The dynamic voice first heard on Ted Nugent’s “Penetrator” album, that led to Brian becoming the powerhouse vocalist and writer for the band Bad Company, before leaving to shape his solo career, died Wednesday. He was 66. 

Howe’s passing was confirmed by his longtime friend and manager, Paul Easton.  

“It is with deep and profound sadness that we announce the untimely passing of a loving father, friend and musical icon, Brian Howe.” stated Easton. 

Howe was found in his home Tuesday morning, suffering from cardiac arrest. Though EMT’s were able to have a short conversation with him, he slipped away, and they were unable to revive him. 

“Finding the appropriate words to express the pain in our hearts over losing my brother has been difficult.” stated his sister Sandie “Our family would like to thank you for your compassion and the outpouring of love we are receiving.” 

Born in Portsmouth, England, Howe’s early career in the USA began with Ted Nugent. Atlantic Records was working on Nugent’s new album and heard Brian’s voice coming out of an associate’s office. They loved his style and sound and signed him to become the lead singer for Nugent’s “Penetrator” album. “Penetrator” was Nugent’s eighth studio album and reached #56 on Billboards top 200, with “Tied Up In Love”.  Brian played with Ted Nugent for a couple of years before he was being considered for yet another iconic band at Atlantic Records.  

A re-teaming was taking place with a familiar band at Atlantic and Howe quickly found himself as the lead singer for the legendary band, Bad Company. With Paul Rodgers gone, Brian’s vocal style and song writing talent brought the resurgence Atlantic was looking for. 

Reflecting the musical style of the mid-80s, the first album found moderate commercial success. But things were about to change. As the band came together, they came alive in 1988 with the next Howe-era album, “Dangerous Age”, spawning several MTV videos and the AOR hits “No Smoke Without A Fire” (#4), “One Night” (#9) and “Shake It Up” (#9, also No. 89 on the Singles charts). The album went Gold and hit the Top 60. An accomplishment for Howe that carried his talent to the next level with the release of the band’s next album, “Holy Water”, released in 1990. The album was enormously successful both critically and commercially, attaining Top 40 and Platinum status by selling more than one million copies. 

Holy Water spun off the singles: “If You Needed Somebody” (#16), the title track “Holy Water” (#89) and “Walk Through Fire” (#28). “Holy Water” also hit No. 1 for 2 weeks on the AOR charts with “If You Needed Somebody” reaching No. 2. Given the success of “Holy Water” and Howe’s extraordinary vocal ability the band continued with the final studio album of the Howe era, “Here Comes Trouble”, featured the Top 40 hit “How About That” (#38) and “This Could Be The One” (#87). The album went Gold. 

Howe left the band in 1994 and forged his solo career, experiencing a successful musical impact. He released his memorable albums, “Tangled in Blue”, “Emotions”, “Circus Bar”, and his self-titled “Brian Howe The Collection”. In 2018, his single “Hot Tin Roof” received the prestigious Hollywood Music in Media Awards award for Best Rock Song of the Year

Prior to his death, he was on tour with his band Paul Warren, Christopher Turnbow, Miguel Gonzales and Rick Brothers before the industry shut down due to COVID-19. He looked forward to picking up his stage performances as soon as soon as it was feasible. 

“I feel we are all put in this world for a reason” stated his son Michael. “The passion for music was my father’s, and I am so happy that his legacy will live on.”

Over the decades of creating music, Brian’s passion extended to his love for animals. This included his great support of Have A Heart Animal Rescue, to find animals in need, loving homes.

Brian never stopped writing songs and has defined an era of Rock that has become his legacy. He is survived by his sister Sandie and her husband, his son Michael and daughters Victoria & Ella, along with 3 grandchildren Kira, Alexandria, and Aurora. 

Visit to learn more about Brian.

Brian Duprey as Frank Sinatra

Singer Brian Duprey heads up a new Rat Pack!

By David Spatz – January 20th, 2020

The Rat Pack is back.

Truth be told, they never really left.

Okay, the core of stars that formed the Rat Pack — Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford — are all physically long gone.

But they left behind a treasure trove of memories, music, spontaneous comedy and anything else they could make up on the spot on the stage of the Copa Room, the legendary showroom at the old Sands casino in Las Vegas.

Although its core members were guys, the Rat Pack occasionally added unofficial “mascot members” like Shirley MacLaine, Juliet Prowse, Angie Dickinson and Marilyn Monroe.

Now, three ersatz Rat Packers – Frank, Dean and Sammy – are being joined by mascot Marilyn Monroe in a weekly show titled “The Rat Pack – Back in Town.”

The show is presented 4 p.m. Sundays through April in the 2,200-seat Tropicana Showroom.

“It’s been so many years since a ‘Rat Pack’ show has been done (in Atlantic City),” says Allen Valentine, the magician-turned-producer who’s been crafting casino production shows for three decades.

“I think the last one (in Atlantic City) was at the Sands in the early 1990s, and it just felt right (to do it now),” Valentine says.

Valentine describes the music of Sinatra, Martin and Davis as “iconic” and “timeless.” He says it hits all the right notes for the perfect casino show crafted for an older crowd.

“It’s got powerful songs that speak to you emotionally, it’s really fun and it’s got a little bit of sex appeal with some of our dancers … and of course Marilyn (Monroe, for whom Sinatra carried an unrequited torch),” he explains. “It hits all those marks and it’s just an elegant, feel-good show.”

If there was a top dog among the original Rat Packers, it was obviously Sinatra. In “The Rat Pack – Back in Town,” that role is sung and played by Brian Duprey, who was 13-years-old and going through puberty when his voice began to change.

“My mom had a cassette or something on, and I was singing to (Sinatra) and my mom ran into the room and said, ‘Oh my God, you sound like Frank Sinatra,’” Duprey remembers. “I was baffled, because I wasn’t a singer. I was just singing along and imitating him and it just kind of stuck because I had that baritone voice. It kind of fit me like a glove.”

Still, the fact that he sounded like one of the world’s greatest entertainers wasn’t enough for him to change his career plans. He was always fascinated and drawn to the world of business.

He earned a business degree in college and eventually went to work for a New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company.

“That’s when I decided I didn’t like that lifestyle of working for a company and doing the 9-to-5 thing,” he says, “It just didn’t fit me.”

It took the tragedy of 9-11 for Duprey, 45, to realize life was short and if he was ever going to make a major move, that was the time to do it.

So he moved to Las Vegas, took singing lessons and gradually began working the types of gigs that helped him climb the ladder to eventually land the Sinatra role in the long-running, look-and-sound-alike revue “Legends In Concert.”

It was during those years when he first played Atlantic City. With a 13-year run, “Legends” was (and still is) the longest-running production show in Atlantic City casino history.

Duprey, whose wife, Jamie, performs in the “Rat Pack” show as Marilyn Monroe, has finally discovered a balance in his professional life. He agrees that making a major career move like he did at age 28 was something of a risk. But he needed to discover what his true calling was.

Turns out show business isn’t such a bad gig after all.

“I like producing, directing, acting and singing. I like all sides of the entertainment business, but I still like (the) business (world),” he says. “I wouldn’t mind owning a spa or a gym one day. I like dabbling in many different areas, so whatever is making me excited to get up every day and be singing or owning my own business, I’m all for that.”

As he’s done in the past with production shows at Borgata and Hard Rock – plus major casinos outside Atlantic City – Valentine’s show is a one-and-done gig each week.

That presents a series of challenges, including how to make sure all the cast members – some of whom are scattered around the country – make it to Atlantic City by 4 p.m. Sunday to do a 90-minute show and then catch the next plane, train or automobile out of town.

“The (casino) market has changed over the years. When I first started 30 years ago producing shows in Atlantic City, we had a very healthy bus program. We had Greyhound busses lined up and down Pacific Avenue,” he says. “But that’s changed. Casinos can’t (financially) support production shows that run five nights a week any more.”

However, doing the shows on either side of the weekend – like Thursday at Borgata, or later Sunday afternoon at Hard Rock, where he’s currently producing a show, the casinos can leave their Friday and Saturday nights open for headliners.

They’re able to get more bang for their marketing buck. And it’s not just in Atlantic City. This is happening at MGM National Harbor (near Washington, D.C.), Biloxi, Ms. and Twin River casino (in Rhode Island), all places where his company, Elite Casino Marketing, is presenting shows.

“It’s the new trend for production shows,” Valentine says.

Original article @

Beatles vs. Stones at Genesee puts popular 60s bands up for a vote

Back in the day, you could ask someone “What’s your sign?” or you could ask “Beatles or Stones?”

Local audiences can decide this age-old question for themselves when “Beatles vs. Stones” performs at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 23 at the Genesee Theatre in Waukegan. That’s when Rolling Stones tribute band Jumping Jack Flash squBeatles vs Stones Jumping Jack Flashares off against 4 Lads from Liverpool in an ultimate Beatles vs. Stones showdown.

Young Hutchison stars as Keith Richards in Jumping Jack Flash. He created the show 15 years ago.

“The interesting thing about the whole premise is the passion people still have for this music 50 years on and people really care and they’re passionate, as was the case in 1964,” he said.

“You had to be a Beatles or a Stones fan — not both. That’s still kind of the case. As the performers, we don’t particularly care because at the end of the night the audience chooses who won with the noise that they make. And we don’t take it personally as performers. The point of the whole show is that they do care and that’s why they show up.”

Audiences will get to hear two amazing songbooks back to back and against each other, Hutchison said.

“Fifty years later, people are still yelling and screaming for these songs. We love it,” he said. “Which is interesting, because The Beatles only existed for five years as a group in the public eye. But their legacy is now going on 50 years.”

The bands play six alternating mini-sets that move the timeline along, complete with British accents, elaborate costumes and onstage banter culminating in a finale with both bands on stage playing a mash-up of their biggest hits. Then the audience gets to vote on which band “wins.”

“When you think about it, in the case of the Rolling Stones, there’s 50 years of wardrobe and hairstyle changes and fashion changes,” he said. “Figuring out how to encapsulate that into a 90-minute show, half of which The Beatles are onstage, was a neat trick. I think we’ve done a good job of it and we take the audience along for the ride. And again, the audience was there, too. The audience remembers dressing like that and wearing their hair like that.”

They switch up the set lists from show to show to keep things fresh for themselves, he said “It’s hard because if you put somebody’s favorite song in you’re going to make 1,000 other people sad because you didn’t play their favorite hit,” he said. “Each band has 400, 450 songs to choose from.”

Even after 15 years, there are songs he never gets tired of playing, like “Jumping Jack Flash.”

“It remains so much fun because it has such an impact on the audience,” he said. “The audience is so lit up from night to night.”

The group 4 Lads From Liverpool includes an original member of the Beatlemania cast who also played with 1964 the Tribute, Beatlemania Now and Rain.

As for his own band, “all the guys are very busy with music,” he said.  “Our singer is actually a career bassist with a number of other groups but he stepped into this role eight years ago. And he’s really something,” Hutchison said. “It’s fair to say the audiences have no idea what they’re in for. It includes pretty elaborate onstage media. The energy level is pretty insane.”

They love to meet audience members after the shows too — and they learn a lot that way, too.

“People will tell us things that they noticed or did or didn’t like and that can affect changes we make in the show,” he said.

At the end of the day, audiences are going to be treated to the soundtrack of their lives, he said.

“The two greatest bands contrasted with each other in direct, immediate, back-to-back mini sets … it’s pretty thrilling,” he said.

Annie Alleman is a freelance reporter for the News-Sun

Link to original article.

Michael Firestone as Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson tribute coming to Missouri Theater

By Andrew Gaug News-Press NOW Oct 31, 2019

More than a decade after his death, Michael Jackson’s legacy lives on and inspires future generations of performers.

• • •

Helping to keep that legacy alive is Michael Firestone, the performer in the Michael Jackson tribute show “I Am King — The Michael Jackson Experience.”

The show has presented Firestone with numerous opportunities to pay tribute to Jackson, being chosen as one of two official Jackson impersonators for the “Michael Jackson Laser Spectacular” shows in theaters and casinos all over the United States and Canada. He’s also been featured at events for MTV and Larry The Cable Guy.

Like many in the ’80s, Firestone was captivated with Jackson through a series of performances and music videos.

“My first memories of seeing MJ were in the ‘Rock with You’ video, his Motown 25 performance, the ‘Thriller’ video and his ‘Billie Jean’ performance. Those really stuck with me,” he told DNA India.

A student of channels like MTV in the ’80s, Firestone said he was enthralled by the superstars of the time.

“I really studied very talented performers and just pretended to be them. Prince, Michael Jackson, Stevie, those guys are talented, I’m just a copycat,” he told I Am Queen Magazine.

For Jackson specifically, he would watch his videos and emulate his moves.

“I practiced to his videos. I’d also record myself and replay the videos to see how I was progressing,” he said.

As he improved, he started performing the songs and moves at events, talent shows and parties. It caught on enough to net him performances in Las Vegas and, later, a cruise line contract.

“At 18, I was offered my first professional job as a Michael Jackson tribute artist at a casino in Las Vegas,” he said.

The job led to him creating the tribute show that has now toured around the world.

When Firestone performs Jackson’s hits like “Human Nature” and “Stranger in Moscow,” he said he feels like he’s keeping the star’s spirit alive. While he does drop the persona at times during the show, he likes to maintain the illusion for most of it to please those who didn’t get to see Jackson live. To note, the final time Jackson performed in Missouri was 1988 at Kemper Arena.

“They are MJ fans. And I hope to put on a concert making them feel like they are back in time and remembering MJ,” he said.

Performing those intricate moves and singing those difficult vocal parts of songs like “Thriller” and “Bad” is often taxing.

“Performing night after night starts to get difficult. I have to take care of my voice in between performances and warm up properly,” he said.

During the time Firestone has been performing as Jackson, he’s also had his fair share of questions concerning Jackson’s offstage behavior. Earlier this year, the HBO documentary “Leaving Neverland’ had two men accuse Jackson of sexually abusing them as children. Firestone said he doesn’t believe those statements were made in good faith.

“MJ is not even alive to defend himself. It is most definitely unfair to discredit anyone’s work until all claims are proven,” he told the Business Standard.

Firestone met Jackson once in 2002 and said he was cordial and supportive of the tribute show.

“We spoke then, and a few weeks later he called and we talked for several hours on the phone. It was eye-opening and inspirational and, of course, a dream come true to get such a phone call,” he told the Business Standard.

Jackson’s support was one of the many reasons Firestone has been paying tribute to him for about 20 years.

“I wrote ‘I Am King’ and I wrote it to flow in such a way that it brings you up. The show is named ‘I Am King’ not because I think I am king … It is because Michael Jackson is king and I will continue bringing the magic and music of Michael Jackson to venues worldwide for as long as I possibly can. There will never be another MJ,” he told the Business Standard.

Tickets for “I Am King — The Michael Jackson Experience” are $24 to $45 and $12 for students. They can be purchased at the Performing Arts Office, 719 Edmond, or by calling 816-279-1225 or online at

— Andrew Gaug | St. Joe Live

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Johnny & June Forever: Sweetwater Music Hall

Chemistry is an interesting thing. There are those moments in time, like when you are watching some musical act on the stage, where you discover that you can’t take your eyes off the music makers before you. You are mesmerized by their presence as you can literally see the energy flowing through those before you as they produce sounds that positively affect your brain. In the case of Bay Area musicians Danny Uzilevsky and Essence Goldman, the energy you may witness between them is sizzling, palpable and truly magical. With the duo’s newest venture, Johnny & June Forever, Uzilevsky and Goldman embody the music created by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, but they do it in a way that is not about “doing covers” or even “paying tribute”, but about fully making the music their own by channeling the forces that Cash and Carter used themselves in performing songs.

Goldman and Uzilevsky came together when Goldman recorded her latest album in 2018 at Uzilevsky’s studio, Allegiant Records in San Anslemo, CA. A sparking fire was ignited around shared lyrics and chords, a magnetic energy acknowledged, and the two began a magical musical journey with the first notes sung in harmony. Both Goldman and Uzilevsky are incredible songwriters in their own right, but when a few Cash/Carter songs were sung, the pair knew they hit on something great and decided to embark on bringing those old school country songs to life with their project Johnny & June Forever: The Greatest Love Story Ever Sung.

With fate and luck being on their side, the duo was asked to perform and premier their act at Sweetwater Music Hall in conjunction with the Mill Valley Film Festival’s release of the documentary “The Gift: The Journey Of Johnny Cash”. The sold-out show was alive with the energy and anticipation of a crowd excited to hear many well-loved songs. The set was opened with “I Walk The Line”, just Uzilevsky singing with his strong and deep voice while playing off the amazing (and dapper) band, drummer JT John (Danny Montana & The Bar Association), bassist Joe Kyle Jr. (Koolerator, Howell Devine) and guitarist Phillip Milner (Jenny Kerr Band). Enter the beauty that is Essence Goldman, all five feet of her, with an electric smile and a high and clear voice that sends shivers up your spine. It was then that we became aware of the special vibe between the two as they locked into the songs and the band then took off without a look back into the dust. The band  fired up songs such as “Long Legged Guitar Pickin’ Man”, “Don’t Take Your Guns To Town”, the Hank Williams tune “Lovesick Blues”, “Ring Of Fire”, “It Ain’t Me Babe” as well as Loretta Lynn’s “You’re The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly”. Essence’s solo numbers  the June Carter penned “Ring Of Fire” and Carter Family classics “Keep On The Sunny Side” and “Wildwood Flower” were (insert adjective), and Jenny Kerr joining the band on banjo for “Wildwood Flower” was a unexpected highlight.

Uzilevsky and Goldman do their best to not take on the personas of Carter and Cash, but their dynamic stage presence definitely reminds us of the playfulness and enjoyment the country King & Queen had on stage during their heyday. With Goldman showcasing various vintage dresses and Uzilevsky with his slicked-back pompadour and rockabilly style, the pair invoked the force of Carter and Cash without camp and pretense. The talent that these two have honed with each of their long and expansive musical careers is apparent as they blend their own songs and styles in with their act. The whole experience of Johnny & June Forever is more than just a showplace for Carter/Cash songs; it’s a golden carriage for two incredible and shining musicians to make a mark on the musical scene in the Bay Area with panache and style.

Thank you Carolyn McCoy – Click here for original article!