Will he or won't he? That's the question dogging Michael Jackson as the King of Pop edges closer to his 50 sold-out concerts at London's O2 Arena, which are scheduled to begin July 13th. Will Jackson will able to complete the run that would once again cement him as one of the biggest stars on the planet — as well as save him from the giant debt the Thriller singer has accumulated during his lengthy hiatus? In the new issue of Rolling Stone, Fred Goodman takes an in-depth look at the This Is It! concerts, the challenges facing Jackson and promoter AEG Live, and how Jackson's perfectionism has already forced the postponement of the run's opening four dates.
In England, bookies at betting parlors are already increasing the odds that Jackson will cancel some shows — a prospect that would devastate fans who snatched up more than 750,000 seats (at prices starting at $81 per ticket). While Jackson has been rumored to be frequently absent from his Los Angeles rehearsals with choreographer and musical director Kenny Ortega, the technical complexity of the shows, as well as Jackson's perfectionism has been cited for the delayed starting dates. (Jackson is reportedly seeking a children's choir that knows sign language and is "exactly equal" in racial diversity.)
For Jackson, the stakes are high, as he's amassed a massive debt of unpaid wages, lawsuits, upkeep on his former Neverland Ranch and a lifestyle that has been described as "a millionaire who spends like a billionaire." But the pressure is also on for AEG Live, who have fronted all the cash for Jackson's run, putting the singer up in a lavish estate during its duration and paying $5 million up front to a Bahrainian prince to settle a lawsuit that would have prevented Jackson from performing at all. If all goes well, the London shows would net Jackson and AEG Live $70 million and kick-start a three-year, three-part worldwide deal between the pair. If it fails, Jackson may have burned his last bridge. "He's doing it mostly for his fans," Jackson's former spokesman Dr. Tohme Tohme tells RS. "And he's doing it for his children and the children of the world."
For much more on Jackson's comeback shows, check out the new issue of Rolling Stone, on stands now.
• Michael Jackson Postpones First O2 Arena "This Is It" Concerts
• New Report Goes Inside Michael Jackson's "This Is It" Rehearsals
• Michael Jackson "This Is It" Run Threatened By Jackson 5 Lawsuit