November 23, 2009|By Greg Braxton
“Lopez Tonight” is only a few weeks old, but host George Lopez and bandleader Michael Bearden already have their opening ritual down pat. As the Ese Vatos house band jams on War’s “Low Rider,” Lopez prowls the stage and struts through a frenzied studio audience, gradually working his way to Bearden for a celebratory fist pump.
For Bearden, who spends the show planted behind a bank of keyboards, working on the TBS late-night talk show is more than a great gig. It has also served as an unexpected lifeline.
Months before joining “Lopez Tonight,” Bearden was the musical director for Michael Jackson’s sold-out comeback concerts in London. It was in June near the end of rehearsals that the pop icon died, but not before developing an obvious bond with Bearden, who was in charge of the show’s musical elements. The pair’s often animated and intense exchanges are among the highlights of the film “Michael Jackson’s This Is It,” which chronicles the singer’s preparation for the comeback show.