For days rumors have circulated that Michael Jackson was startin’
somethin’. And Thursday afternoon, before a couple of thousand screaming fans at London’s 02
arena, the King of Pop revealed what has been referred to as “the worst kept secret in the world”. Namely, a 10-concert residency
beginning July 8 his first full tour in 12 years.
“I love you so much,” said Jackson, 50, barely audible over the whooping of his loyal supporters
who crowded a shopping arcade outside of the arena. “This is it. I just
want to say that these will be my final show performances in London.”
Jackson arrived on stage nearly an hour and a half late
and spoke for just over three minutes. “I’ll be performing the songs my fans want
to hear. This is the final curtain call.”
British media are speculating that Jackson, who has been staying at the
$11,000-a-night Royal Suite at the Lanesborough Hotel, is staging the comeback tickets go on sale on March 13 to help pay off the debts he has incurred since a court cleared him of
sexual abuse charges in June 2005 . In November 2008, the singer reached
an undisclosed settlement with Sheik Abdulla bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the
prince of Bahrain who was suing Jackson for $7 million over claims he reneged on a contract for a new album, autobiography and a stage play. Jackson has maintained that these were gifts.
At Thursday’s announcement Jackson wore a black, military-style top with silver
sequins and looked predictably wan. Despite his rather expressionless face,
he seemed sincerely moved by the audience’s warm reception and, during an
erratic exit, once again conveyed his affection to his fans. “I love you. I
really do,” he said in breathy pants. “You have to know that. I love you so
much. Really. From the bottom of my heart.” He then made two peace signs,
turned, pumped his fist, turned again, struck a fierce pose and blew a kiss
Fans and journalists had lined up for hours, clutching memorabilia and
wearing t-shirts, and numerous individuals posing as journalists were
removed from the media line. “I’m sorry, but you’re not on the list,” the
doorman told one blond woman with a slight accent, to which she
replied, “But I’ve come all the way from Norway!”
Rebecca Kellner, 17, left school early to attend the event. “It’s like
meeting one of your childhood heroes, even if I just got to see him,” she
says between gasps. “He was more collected than I thought he was going to
be, and that made me more confident that he can do the shows.”
Jackson underwent rigorous health checks to prove his fitness ahead of
the announcement, and AEG, the group that owns the O2 arena, has
reportedly obtained insurance to protect against Jackson falling ill and
canceling performances. Last year, photographers captured Jackson in a
wheelchair wearing pajamas as his children pushed him. Nevertheless, AEG Live chief Randy Phillips said Jackson had a three-year plan with the company worth $400 million that could include concerts and the development of a 3-D movie based on the legendary Thriller.
The O2 is the venue Prince played for 21 nights in 2007, and where Britney Spears is doing eight nights this June. As for Jackson , his last substantial series of shows came in 1996-97, when he played 82 concerts in 58 cities as part of the HIStory tour. And, of course, there have been some embarrassing moments that infamously earned him the nickname Wacko Jacko. Stories about personal, health and financial problems have constantly cropped up and he’s currently trying to stop an auction of thousands of his personal possessions.
But Jackson’s music may well prove to be the driving force behind the
brand. Gemma Lal, 18, traveled four hours from Northhampton and
believes Jackson’s music, particularly Earth Song, is as relevant as
ever. “It’s not just a song,” she says. “He talks about the earth and how we
can help people.” For a singer who has faced some very public lows, the
first person to benefit could be Jackson himself.
See pictures of Michael Jackson at 50.
See pictures of the auction items for sale.