Michael Jackson set to announce comeback

Michael Jackson, pictured in 2006 at the World Music Awards.
Reclusive pop icon Michael Jackson is expected to announce his first major concert dates in more than a decade in a rare public appearance in London on Thursday.

Reports suggest the 50-year-old has lined up a multimillion-dollar summer residency involving dozens of performances at London’s O2 Arena. In a statement on its Web site, the 20,000-venue invited Jackson fans to see a “special announcement” by the star at 4 p.m. GMT — and to sign up for ticket alerts. “Michael will finally put an end to months of speculation and reveal the news to the world’s media and fans. Be there to see the legend and witness history!” the statement said. The O2 Arena has acquired a reputation in recent years for staging “must-see” musical events. Last year it hosted Led Zeppelin’s one-off comeback gig and in 2007 Prince staged a 21-night residency there. Britney Spears, the Pet Shop Boys and Lionel Richie are among performers due to play the venue this year. Jackson, a child star with the Jackson Five who went onto enjoy stellar solo success with classic albums such as “Thriller” and “Bad,” has rarely been seen in public since he was acquitted on child molestation charges in the U.S. in 2005. Rumors of financial difficulties and health problems — in 2008 he was photographed being pushed in a wheelchair — have swirled around the famously eccentric star in recent years. Last year he sold his iconic Neverland ranch and he has spent much of his time since his acquittal living in Bahrain. UK press reports Wednesday suggested Jackson could receive more than $140 million for the residency with the Evening Standard newspaper claiming the star would “play up to 50 nights.” Jackson hasn’t recorded a studio album since “Invincible” — his 10th solo record — in 2001. His last major series of concerts was a world tour to promote the “HiStory” album in 1996 and 1997. “Thriller,” released in 1982 and containing classic Jackson hits such as “Beat It,” “Billie Jean” and the title track, is the bestselling album of all time. Jackson is estimated to have sold more than 750 million albums in total.