Ben Bowman cites an interview in which the late Michael Jackson said he would love to meet Michaelangelo just to ask him what inspired his art.
“He wouldn’t have been wanting to ask him who he had slept with the night before,” Ben says. “He would have wanted to know about the art.”
And that’s the way Ben – who brings his Jackson live in Concert tribute to the Theatre Royal in Brighton on Wednesday, September 17 – hopes and believes we are now heading with Jackson himself, five years after his death.
“Now he has passed, I think he is being recognised for what the whole world really should have cared about, the fact that he was an amazing artist.”
Ben himself has always been a huge fan: “I am one of those people that always loved watching him and trying and learning the dance moves. When I was 15 or 16, just about to leave school and didn’t know what to do with my life, I was mucking around in a science lesson, impersonating Jackson’s voice, and one of my friends said ‘You really sound like him! You should really do something with that!’”
Ben insists it would never have occurred to him, but he took the advice. His first show was two pounds a ticket. It sold out, and Ben has never looked back. He managed a café for the first three years alongside his Jackson activities, but at the age of 21, the Jackson work was taking off enough for him to be able to devote himself to it full time.
“I took the plunge and became a full-time impersonator, but the great thing about Michael Jackson is that you never stop learning. I say that with tribute acts you can only ever be as good as that person, but Michael Jackson was so great that you can never stop reaching new heights. There was just an air of mystery and also his absolute dedication to what he wanted to be. He wanted to be the greatest pop star that ever lived, and he was. He went for it and achieved it and more. He was a terrific writer, but also a terrific arranger and performer and singer and dancer.”
Of course, there was the strange side, Ben concedes: “He was the first pop star that made his life the biggest show-stopper on earth.”
As for the child abuse allegations, Ben believes him to have been innocent. In fact, he believes he was an innocent. “I have read a lot about it and seen a lot about it. I think it was all more to do the with the fact that he was very shut off, very closed off. I don’t think he realised the fact that people would find something like that so inappropriate. That was because he lived in his bubble. He had no idea what it was to lead a normal life. He was very naïve. He was very innocent. He had no idea what was expected of him. I remember reading he was very nervous before the press conference announcing the O2 dates because he didn’t think people would remember him. He had no idea.”
When Jackson died, things went mad in the tribute industry. Ben was on TV, in huge demand for interviews and sometimes doing five shows a day. Things have quietened down considerably since then.
“But I hope people can now see what a wonderful person he was. For me, it is just fantastic to be able to take off someone that I really admire and have a passion for.”
The show comes to the Theatre Royal Brighton on Wednesday, September 17, at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £22.40 (plus booking/transaction fee).
Call 0844 871 7627 or visit www.jacksonliveinconcert.co.uk.