There is no concert and the only music heard will be the tinny sound of portable speakers blaring Michael Jackson’s greatest hits.
But event organizers expect thousands of the singer’s fans to converge on the O2 Arena in London Monday to mark what would have been the opening night of the singer’s long-awaited comeback, the first in a grueling 50-date “This Is It” concert tour. They will be bringing candles, flowers and photos for an impromptu memorial service organized over social networking sites including Facebook. One Facebook invitation to a “Mass London Vigil for Michael Jackson” created by Jackson fan Laura Butson has more than 1,000 members. She’s expecting many more to attend tonight’s fan-led tributes, perhaps as many as 4,000 fans. “I have hundreds of people saying ‘I’m on my way, I’m on my way,'” Butson told CNN. “We know that people are flying from all over the world, even someone from America is coming.” Fans are expected to gather at a makeshift shrine created the day after Jackson’s death in Peninsula Square outside the main arena. “People have come and they’ve left flowers, they’ve left pictures, and flags, they’ve left posters, they’ve left teddies and that’s there and it will be there for them tonight,” said Stephanie Jones, of AEG Worldwide. But for not for long; O2 management intends to dismantle the shrine tomorrow. “Anybody that’s left goods, framed pictures or teddies who’d like them back they’ve got a month and they can come and reclaim them otherwise we’ll probably just give them to a charity or something,” Jones said. “Nobody has been told that. That’s news to me,” Butson said. “It’s actually a little bit disgusting if I’m honest.”
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“We should all be excited today and in a great mood that tonight’s the night. But we’re not. We’re going there to say goodbye now to someone we’re never going to see perform,” she said. It’s been less than one week since celebrities and die-hard Jackson fans packed the Staples Center in Los Angeles for an emotional farewell to the King of Pop. Questions still surround the circumstances of his sudden death less than three weeks before the scheduled start of his London shows. Over the weekend, his sister LaToya alleged he’d been murdered for his money. Investigators are still awaiting toxicology reports from the coroner’s to determine the exact cause of death. The decision by fans to stage their own farewell to Michael Jackson at the O2 follows the absence of an official plan to commemorate the singer’s life in London. Concert promoters AEG Worldwide are still unable to confirm reports that a tribute concert will be held at the O2 Arena, potentially on August 29, the date of what would have been Jackson’s 51st birthday. “There have been lots of talks going on about lots of things but nothing that I can confirm,” Jones said. The first official Michael Jackson memorabilia went on sale last week on through the Bandstore Web site. It’s only stocking items personally approved by Jackson ahead of his London tour back in May and June. Items are being pushed out to try to beat bootleggers who are already producing Jackson mementos to cash in on demand from fans. Bandstore is taking pre-orders for delivery in August, but late last week clothing was already been shipped to retailer HMV. Over the weekend, merchandise was delivered to Play and Amazon which until then had only been available to pre-order. So far only clothing is available, but the range is expected to expand to accessories over the coming weeks. “There is a high level of demand. It’s apparent that fans really want the official merchandise,” a spokesman for Universal Music told CNN. The race to generate income following Jackson’s death, from offering commemorative tickets in lieu of refunds to his concerts to the sale of T-shirts and CDs, has rankled some of his fans. Louise Costello refused a refund for her ticket to the London shows in favor of a commemorative ticket, but says the emphasis should be on the man, rather than the money. “It’s not all about money now. It’s about a man whose life has gone. And he touched a lot of people as well, including myself,” Costello told CNN. “He was trying to save the world, and heal the world, things like that. He was a good man and I think they’re taking advantage of the fact that he has a lot of people who love him.” Costello is not intending to go to O2 vigil tonight. Instead, she’ll make her own pilgrimage to the O2 Arena on July 28, the date she was to see Jackson in concert. “It’s my way of paying my tribute. I’ll go there and I’ll listen to his music. It’s just my way of remembering him,” she said.