Michael Does Hawaii

Jan. 9 [16:00 EST] -- Michael Jackson performed two concerts in Hawaii last weekend, his first U.S. dates since 1989. In a bluntly disenchanted report on the shows in the "New York Times" on Monday, music critic Jon Pareles wrote that Jackson has largely forsaken stateside dates because his popularity overseas (particularly in some of the more remote backwaters he's been playing) far exceeds his current status in his homeland.

The article also noted that Jackson's U.S. record sales (which are carefully audited) have declined with each album release since he peaked with "Thriller" back in 1982, while his overseas sales figures (which the "Times" delicately noted were less reliable) are said to have grown.

In any case, his brief touchdown in Hawaii reportedly attracted loyal fans from around the country, and was, as usual, an event.

"My sister and I grew up with the music, and this is my daughter, and we love him," one fan said, as her voice cracked into tears.

"We're very happy that he's in Hawaii."

"We feel privileged as the Hawaiian people as the local people, and he has so much "aloha," another fan chimed in.

The purported King of Pop's first U.S. performance since 1989 brought the traditional tsunami of media madness to the fiftieth state, along with the kind of glitter-encrusted excess the 80s did so well. The K.O.P. himself surfed to the show via mini-van, and checked out the island through tinted windows only. A local impersonator, or decoy, was more than happy to mingle on behalf of his idol.

"I am very excited to see this tour," the impersonator said. "Because to me, I feel like Michael Jackson's show is the greatest show on Earth."

The show was Jackson's straight-out-of-Neverland circus: a two hour plus extravaganza, featuring hits like "Billy Jean" and "Thriller," plus a Jackson 5 medley that's old to enough to vote by now. Of course, all the pageantry is served up by a full on crew.

"There

are camera people, lighting people, sound people, wardrobe, make-up, costumes," a crew member explained.

"There are costume changes every song," another roadie said. "The dance floor alone is 20 (feet) by 60 (feet), and that's just for Michael to dance."

Dance he surely does, but is he singing throughout?

"You know, I thought he probably was (lip-synching), because you know, it sounds too good," one fan observed.

"I don't care. He lip-synched the whole concert. No one cares," another fan added. "They're just looking at the show. No one cares what... sings live, lip-synchs... It's all Michael, whatever."

But is the patented Jackson dance spectacle (QuickTime, 1.3MB) losing steam after some 15 years?

"It never gets old," a fan noted. "The only time it got somewhat old was when Hammer was at his peak. But when Hammer died, Michael Jackson was back on top."

With a packed house in attendance, the

concert brought more than its share of curiosity seekers who simply wanted to bask in the enormity of the production. But it seemed that, despite all his very public troubles, Jackson still boasts a loyal, and vocal, following.

"The die hard fans... you could probably tell," one fan said. "I was crying for four songs straight, and I couldn't stop, and I was shaking."

"Whether you hate him, you'll go to see his show, and you'll love him," a fan summarized of the live Jacko experience. "You'll see the real man, not what the tabloids make up. You'll see the real Michael."

Jackson's tour will return to Europe next as the singer awaits the birth of a child to his new wife.