Jennifer Batten

Michael Jackson's own guitarist, Jennifer Batten

The world’s leading Michael Jackson tribute artist, Navi is joined by Michael’s own guitarist, Jennifer Batten, in King Of Pop at The Apex on 14 May.

Navi is regarded as the world’s leading MJ tribute artist.  He performed for Michael at one of his birthday parties in Los Angeles, where Michael gave him a standing ovation for his renditions of ‘Smooth Criminal’ and ‘Billie Jean’. From there, they remained friends and Navi was regularly hired as a body double and decoy to distract fans and press when Michael was on tour. Navi also starred as MJ in the movie ‘Michael Jackson – Searching For Neverland’.

Jennifer Batten was Michael’s “right-hand woman” on three sell-out world tours.  She was initially hand-picked to play on the Bad Tour but Michael was so impressed that she joined him on the road for the next 10 years, playing to more than 4.5 million fans worldwide on his Dangerous and History tours and the famous Super Bowl performance. Jennifer tells us about Michael and Navi…

You’ve seen the real MJ on stage many times. How does Navi compare?

Navi helps bring back the magic. His eyes and frame are scary similar. He puts on a great show and I really enjoy the vibe. He can transport people back to the peak of the MJ era. 

What made you want to go out on the road with Navi?

It’s just fun to play that material, and the fans want the music kept alive. Navi’s bands are always really good, so I know the groove will be there. I’ve guested with maybe half dozen tributes and some of them make me want to run away screamingJ!  And of course there are so many other elements that have to be there – from the quality of the dancing to the pacing of the show. Navi seems to have a knack of connecting to his audience.

It’s a question you are probably fed up of answering but what was Michael Jackson like as a person?

He was wonderful. He was a creative tornado and constantly inventing things whether it be lyrics, videos, stage ideas, or one-of-a-kind special effects for the live show.  He was kind, respectful, and very appreciative of what the band brought to the shows.

When you auditioned for him did you ever think that he would choose you to tour with him?

I just did my best and hoped for the best. But I also didn’t tell a soul that I auditioned. I didn’t want to jinx it!

What is the funniest thing that has happened to you on stage?

Part of his costume Velcro had come undone and he motioned for me to fix it. I tried but I was also trying to keep up my choreography in Workin’ Day and Night.  In the end I failed miserably.

When did you first start playing and were you good at practicing?

I was diligent with practice since age 8. At first it was 30 minutes a day but grew into 8-10 hours a day, for several years, after I graduated Musicians Institute.

Did you have any role models, particularly as a woman starting out in the music business?

I listened to Monette Sudler and Emily Remler (both jazz guitarists) but back in the late 70’s/early 80’s it was slim pickins’ re: female guitarists. So it was mostly men that I listened to, especially Jeff Beck, who I ended up playing with for 3 years.

Do you think you learnt anything from Michael?

Plenty.  I learned that music is only the bottom level of putting on a show. Communication with the audience, whether it’s verbal or within the entertainment, is more and more important.

Jennifer and Navi bring an unforgettable experience for Jackson fans across the UK, taking fans closer than ever to an original MJ concert and featuring all the greatest hits, along with an incredible live band and dancers.

King Of Pop is at The Apex on Tuesday 14 May at 7.30pm, see www.theapex.co.uk or ring 01284 758000 for more information or to book tickets.