Well, that was weird. I watched the Michael Jackson concert announcement on www.michaeljacksonlive.com.

First, let's get the facts out of the way: Yes, there will be 10 concerts at London's O2 arena this summer,  starting July 8. Pre-sale tickets go on sale March 11, while tickets to the general public go on sale March 13. You register for the pre-sale at the above website.

Jackson says these are his last shows, but what's unclear are if these are his last shows ever or his last shows in London-you'll see what I mean from his quote below.

Back to the announcement, which was supposed to start at 4 p.m. in London at the O2 arena. I don't know how he's supposed to make it on stage in July if he can't make it to his own press conference on time, but MJ finally shows him up 90 minutes late. On the website, there's a placeholder with "King of Pop. Michael Jackson. This is It."

Jackson is preceded by some guy in a suit, I'm sure he's a famous British television or radio presenter, who introduces footage of Jackson, but, of course, the video won't play. Awkward!!! After a few minutes of stumbling, a video reel of Jackson opens with him marching through the streets as if he's just overthrown a government. Women are fainting. There's a huge-I mean probably 30 feet tall-statue. I remember this footage- I think it first came out when "History," his greatest hits came out.  I remember laughing at it then and it's still hilarious... and scary... in its megalomania.

But a few seconds later, the tape goes to a collage of clips of Jackson performing and my heart stops. I grew up on the guy. All of the clips are him as an adult-in various stages of plastic surgery, but most are from the late '80s and '90s, when he was already Wacko Jacko, but he was still performing. And the clips are amazing. Even on my computer, with tinny sound and a small screen, just how electrifying he was as a performer comes through.

Years ago, I stopped being able to separate the talents of the artist from the oddities (at best) and alleged pedophilia (at worst) of the man, but this tape simply shows what he was-one of the most astonishing, gifted performers ever, whose own demons ruined his magnificent, breathtaking talents.

The announcer then says, "Please welcome, the King of Pop, Michael Jackson." (Yes, they are contractually obligated to call him the King of Pop). And, again, awkward. We see MJ get out of what looks like an armored car, he bypasses a golf cart-yes , getting in that that would seem to send the wrong message, so he walks. This  must take awhile because the presenter is just left standing there. Waiting.  The assembled crowd of fans, no clue how many they are, but they've apparently been there for five hours, screams half-heartedly.

Jackson finally walks on stage and he looks, for him, almost normal. He seems fit. Not hunched over or in pain. He looks impossibly skinny. And, to be quite honest, I'm not so sure it is him, no kidding. I'm still not. His hair is straight, he has on very big shades. His lips have clearly been plumped up. He's in a black, epauletted jacket and pants-variation of the same outfits he's been wearing for decades now. The voice sounds like him, but it's lower and calmer.

He chants "This is It," the crowd half-heartedly joining in.  Clearly, someone spent a lot of time coming up with that tag line and they're going to us it.  Crowd shots show fans screaming and capturing it all with their video phones.

His words are few and he often steps back to accept cheers from his adoring public-although, the cheers aren't as loud (or at least not on the webcast) as he seems to be acknowledging. It's all a little "Sunset Blvd"-esque. Come to think of it, there is definitely a Norma Desmond quality to him.

"These will be my final show performances in London," Jackson says. "When I say 'this is it,' it really means 'this is it.'  I'll be performing the songs my fans want to hear. This is it. This is the final curtain call. I'll see you in July"

See what we mean? Are these his final shows that will take place in London or will his final shows ever, take place in London? Given that he hasn't really performed in more than a decade-it's probably safe to be these are the last shows ever. If these even take place.  As a number of other websites have pointed out, his track record is very spotty. This is the closest we've gotten to shows taking place, but he hasn't performed in an arena setting since he played briefly with his brothers at Madison Square Garden in 2001. There are other shows where he's appeared, surrounding himself with children (don't get me started), such as when he appeared at the World Music Awards in London in 2006.

Jackson tells the crowd, "I love you, I really do, you have to know that, I love you so much, from the bottom of my heart." He then repeats the tag line, 'This is it," just in case we hadn't grasped that yet. Then raises both arms in giving the peace sign, just like Richard Nixon when he left the White House and disappears through a curtain, just like the Wizard of Oz.

 

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