Michael Jackson – the man with a Desperate Dan chin – makes his final entrance

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Brief: Michael Jackson spoke for just four minutes to fans who had waited up to five hours to see him

Maybe it would have been better if he simply hadn’t turned up.

At least that way all those diehard Michael Jackson fans might still have been able to cling to the belief that their hero was perfectly capable of carrying off a punishing schedule of ten consecutive live concerts this summer.

As it was, the trembling, gaunt figure in front of the microphone stumbled over his words just long enough to tell everyone he loved them – before saying an emotional goodbye.

There was no moonwalk yesterday, no dancing, not even the wiggle of a surgically enhanced hip.

Instead, Jackson made it clear that his forthcoming tour would be the last time he’d perform in London.

‘This really is it,’ he said. ‘When I say this is it, it really means this is it.’

And just in case anyone failed to pick up on the message, he added: ‘This is the final curtain call.’

Quite whether that was worth a five-hour wait in the refrigerator temperatures of the 02 Arena was the subject of much discussion afterwards among those who had so loyally endured the queueing marathon.

What was billed as a press conference turned out to be four minutes that failed to change the world. But, don’t worry. There will doubtless be masses of hyped up non-events like this one throughout what is certain to become the Summer of Jacko.

Jackson, 50, appeared at the arena formerly known as the Millennium Dome to herald his long awaited return to the live music stage.

This Is It: Michael Jackson repeatedly insisted the planned series of 10 concerts would be his last in London

This Is It: Michael Jackson repeatedly insisted the planned series of 10 concerts would be his last in London

It has been 12 years since he toured, the last several of which have been shadowed by erratic behaviour, tarnished reputation and concerns over his health.

He might have been punching the air and giving victory signs yesterday but his heavily-caked face failed to mask the uncomfortable impression that here was a middle-aged man who looked and acted as if he was on painkillers.

Only about 1,000 people responded to the call on his website to witness the big announcement, albeit anticipated by many with the same excitement that ordinary mortals might reserve for the Second Coming.

Suggestions that there would be five times that number evaporated from the moment it became clear that only a hundred or so had turned up early.

Just imagine how many more there might have been if Bubbles the chimp (now retired) had been making a public appearance as well.

But this was nothing like the old days of Michaelmania.

Time was when they would have been camping out for 48 hours beforehand and chasing his presidential-style cavalcade all the way from his hotel to this windswept outpost of London Docklands.

Not yesterday.

A blacked-out coach and a fleet of vans was escorted across rush-hour London by police after leaving the Lanesborough hotel near Hyde Park, where Jacko has hired an entire floor and is attended by specially assigned butlers.

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