Michael Jackson made a rare public appearance at a London press conference today to announce that he will return to the stage for a 10-show run of concerts at the city's O2 Arena. The performances will begin on July 8th. Jackson told the London crowd that the shows will be his last ever in the British city.
"This is it. I just want to say these will be my final show performances in London. This is it, when I say this is it, this is it," Jackson told the crowd. "I'll be performing the songs my fans want to hear — this is it. This is really it. This is the final curtain call. I'll see you in July." Fittingly, the series of concerts has been dubbed "This Is It." (Take a look back at Jackson's four-decade career, in photos.)
The press conference itself was an event, with its own Twitter page that encouraged fans to hustle to the O2 Arena just to witness MJ's in-person announcement. Thousands of fans reportedly flocked to the O2 to watch the conference, many carrying banners and cameras. In true Jackson fashion, the press conference started at least 90 minutes late, and by then photos of tour posters were already hitting the Web, ruining the poorly kept surprise. Before the King of Pop finally took the stage, a montage of clips playing Jackson's greatest hits, video highlights and fans crying played over the big screen as the crowd chanted "Michael!" Jackson finally emerged wearing a jet-black military outfit with a white design on the jacket and stepped up to the podium as the crowd went crazy. When he finished speaking, Jackson punched the air a few times and held up his fist.
The plan to bring Jackson to the O2 has reportedly been in the works for two years. AEG Live will coordinate the event. Tickets go on sale next Wednesday, March 13th. Fans can register for the chance to buy tickets on MichaelJacksonLive.com; the ticket sale will be similar to the Led Zeppelin reunion one, where registering results in a unique password that gives the user the chance to buy up to four tickets.
Given the rumored decline of Jackson's health, British bookmakers — who apparently take bets on everything — are already giving odds that Jackson doesn't perform at all, or at least doesn't complete the run of 10 shows. For Jackson, the concerts would be his first performance of any kind since he sang a couple lines of "We Are The World" at the World Music Awards in 2006. There are rumors that the This Is It run may be extended to up to 25 shows if there is enough demand, but that likely won't be announced until the first 10 sell out. Jackson is likely looking to raise some cash — and the sum will be formidable — with the O2 shows. The singer's dwindling finances resulted in the foreclosure of Neverland Ranch; some 2,000 items from Jackson's famed California home will be auctioned starting April 21st.
• Michael Jackson's "Thriller": Celebrating the Landmark Album's Twenty-Fifth Anniversary
• Michael Jackson Plotting London Comeback Concerts?
• Say Goodbye to Neverland: Michael Jackson to Auction 2,000 Items
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