The world's top 5 most outstanding tribute acts: Uncanny portrayals set to rival the originals

24 July 2020, 17:20 | Updated: 18 December 2020, 16:09

The best tribute acts in the world include impersonators from South Africa, Argentina and the UK
The best tribute acts in the world include impersonators from South Africa, Argentina and the UK (L to R) Rob Lamberti, Belinda Davids and Ben Portsmouth. Picture: Getty/ITV/Instagram/Ben Portsmouth

By Giorgina Ramazzotti

It's an unfair fact that many of us will never get to see our favourite artists perform live.

Whether it's due to a band's breakup or a star's untimely death, a lot of music idols are no longer belting out their hits on stage.

Yet there is still a way to revive the magic; tribute acts - and cheesy and down-market they aren't.

Long gone are joke shop costumes and novelty wigs, karaoke sound effects and half-hearted dance moves, tribute acts are a serious business.

See more: This side-by-side Live Aid comparison with Freddie Mercury and Rami Malek is incredible

A select few have reached the pinnacle of their careers and are so life like they are often compared to the real thing.

From Elvis to John Lennon, Whitney Houston to George Michael and Freddie Mercury, we bring you a list of the world's greatest impersonators:

  1. Rob Lamberti as George Michael

    Few tribute acts come close to the impressive track record of Rob Lamberti's long career as the world's number one George Michael impersonator.

    Smooth exclusive: Watch Rob Lamberti perform three incredible George Michael classics

    A George Michael tribute act since coming third on the TV talent show Stars In Their Eyes in 1994, Rob Lamberti has worked all over the world and was even employed by George's record company to promote his album Twenty Five in 2007

    George Michael tribute Rob Lamberti – ‘Faith’

    But it isn't just followers of the singer that love the tribute act, George Michael himself was a big fan and even snuck in to watch Rob Lamberti perform one night in a bar in Harrow in 1997.

    Read more: The story of the incredible night George Michael went undercover to watch his impersonator

    "I was thrilled to know that the man I'd been making my career, was actually watching what I did," Rob later said of the extraordinary evening.

    George Michael tribute Rob Lamberti – ‘A Different Corner’

  2. Belinda Davids as Whitney Houston

    Belinda Davids is one of - if not the - premier Whitney Houston tribute act in the world.

    You may have also seen her in the BBC series Even Better Than The Real Thing, where she triumphed against her rivals. Not only that, but she wowed American audiences in the TV series Showtime at the Apollo.

    See more: Is this the best Whitney Houston tribute act ever?

    The incredible singer has never had any vocal training and has an impressive four octave range.

    Whitney Houston tribute act Belinda Davids sings I have Nothing - Even Better Than the Real Thing

    Most recently, the 43-year-old South African performer stunned the judges on this year's series of Britain's Got Talent when she sang Whitney Houston's 'One Moment In Time.'

    See more: The Voice Kids: 12-year-old boy stuns judges with flawless Whitney Houston song - video

    “I want to see the name Belinda Davids in lights – you are amazing," said Alesha Dixon.

    Watch this space!

    Britain's Got Talent 2020 Belinda Davids Sings A Whitney Classic Full Audition S14E08

  3. Javier Parisi as John Lennon

    If you're looking for similarities, tribute acts don't come much cannier than Javier Parisi.

    The Argentinian channels the late John Lennon at shows all over the world and is so convincing it's hard to tell him apart from the real thing.

    See more: This John Lennon tribute act from Argentina is incredible

    Not only does he look exactly like John Lennon, but he sounds just like him too, saying he was inspired by The Beatles at a young age.

    Imagine - John Lennon - Impersonator (Javier Parisi)

    "I fell in love with them when I was 8 years old, I was watching tv when I saw this ad of a TV show. They were singing 'A Hard Day’s Night'. I was shocked; the riff of the beginning just blew my mind. I felt so attracted to their music," he says.

    Read more: The inside story of why The Beatles really broke up

    Javier admires John's personality, adding: "Of John I’ve always liked his sense of humour, his voice and his rebellious spirit, saying what he wanted to say, always standing up for what he believed in."

    Javier Parisi - John Lennon tribute - John Lennon Returns Trilogy

  4. Marc Martel as Freddie Mercury

    Marc Martel's vocals are so impressive that he was actually used as a vocalist to contribute to Freddie Mercury's song recordings in the film Bohemian Rhapsody.

    See more: Listen to Freddie Mercury’s spine-tingling acapella voice in backstage video from last Queen concert

    He once told the New York Times that he thought his uncanny ability to mimic Freddie Mercury's incredible voice “would amount to anything more than a fun karaoke trick.”

    An artist in his own right, Marc Martel is not a Freddie Mercury impersonator in the classic sense but more of “a vocal doppelgänger for the Queen frontman."

    Marc Martel - Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen cover)

    In 2011, Marc entered a competition to join Roger Taylor's official Queen tribute project and the drummer famously said to the young singer: “When I listen to you sing it’s like Freddie walked into the room.”

    The singer's talent is so renowned that superstar Celine Dion is a huge fan of his work and she cried when he surprised her by singing 'Somebody To Love' on a Canadian TV show in 2017 (below).

    See more: Freddie Mercury in private: Rarely seen photos of the star behind closed doors

    The Canadian singer lives in Nashville and had a No1 single on the Billboard Christian AC Monitor charts in 2019 with the song 'Silver Bells.'

    Somebody to Love by Marc Martel

  5. Ben Portsmouth as Elvis

    Ben Portsmouth may just be the best tribute act in the world, bar none.

    The singer from Reading made history in 2012 when he was crowned the Worldwide Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist in the star's hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

    The singer from Reading tours the world with his band, Taking Care Of Elvis, and is often described as the closest you can get to seeing The King himself perform - his performances are truly spine-tingling.

    QUIZ: How well do you know Elvis Presley's song lyrics?

    Speaking to UK Music Reviews, Ben says his father was the one to get him into Elvis Presley: "My dad was a massive Elvis fan. He would be playing it all of the time whenever we went out in the car when I was a kid."

    Ben Portsmouth - Burning Love | The Late Late Show | RTÉ One

    Asked about the highlight of his career has been so far, Ben recalls singing on prime time television in the US.

    "Performing on the Dave Letterman Show was a pretty amazing experience and also a great opportunity for me to go on American television and let people see who I was and what I was all about," he says.

    Read more: New details emerge from Elvis Presley and The Beatles' very first 'strange' meeting

    "The whole experience was very quickly posted on YouTube and went around the world in a matter of minutes."

    See the full David Letterman video below:

    The Ultimate Elvis Impersonator- - Ben Portsmouth