One day before the first of his tribute shows, Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Celebration, The Solo Years, takes place in New York, the biggest news surrounding the would-be extravaganzas is not that M.J. is gracing a U.S. stage for the first time in years it's who exactly will be with him.
'NSYNC canceled their involvement, then later pledged to rejoin the soiree (see " 'NSYNC, Jackson 5 Plug Their 'Dancing Machine' Back In"). It was reported in the New York Post Thursday (September 6) that Britney Spears is bowing out of the lineup; however, her management refuted that report on Thursday. Even if there are more changes, M.J. can definitely count on at least five people to be there: his brothers Jackie, Jermaine, Randy, Marlon and Tito.
"We're just going to kick some booty," Jermaine told VH1 News on Wednesday at the siblings' New York hotel suite. "It's just great to be a part of it and see so many people want to support that whole thing. We're very excited to bring that magic and excitement to what [Michael's] trying to achieve."
In July, the gala's organizers announced that Jermaine had pulled out of the show after he sent out a press statement, which was also attributed to Randy, blasting the high price of admission to the shows.
"The exorbitant ticket prices being charged by the promoters will prevent some of our most loyal and true fans from attending the shows," the statement read. "Further, it is almost embarrassing that no charities have been named to benefit from this most momentous occasion."
"I never backed out and I never said I wasn't doing the show," Jermaine, who still feels paying upwards of $2,500 to see the show is too much, insisted. "My whole statement was misinterpreted" (see "Jermaine Jackson To Reunite With His Brothers Onstage After All").
"He was off the show because I was playing his parts [during rehearsals] and I was playing them better than him," Randy, the youngest of the brothers, chimed in before laughing.
One of the tribute's guest stars, former Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash, who'll be playing guitar on "Beat It," said that the Jacksons are no joke onstage. He's seen a sneak peek of their routines.
"I had my first rehearsal last night and there's this whole cavalcade of high profile entertainers that are [performing]," Slash said Wednesday. "I got to see the Jackson 5 perform for the first time in 17 years.
"There's a whole medley of old songs that I haven't heard since I was a kid," Slash continued. "It's gonna be an amazing show. They're doing the moves together, Jermaine's playing bass, the whole nine yards. It's great."
Slash said that Michael's solo sets are equally as on-point.
"The thing about Michael all the media blitz aside and inquiring minds wanting to know about his personal life and this and that and the other is when it comes to working, he is a consummate professional," the guitarist said. "He is one of the natural big-time talents I've ever worked with.
"When we go in to do rehearsals, we go in and we snap through things, and he's got such a natural feel about his moves, his singing, it all just comes spontaneously. It's amazing to see."
During the shindig, the audience can expect to hear some changes to "Beat It." Slash vows that his guitar riffs won't sound anything like the riffs made famous by Eddie Van Halen on the original recording of the song.
"I just did it my own way," Slash said. "I told [Michael] going into it, 'I'm not gonna learn the Eddie Van Halen solo, because that's Eddie's and I'll leave it alone.' I went in and just improvised yesterday and I'm gonna be playing later on today, and I'll just make up my own solos as I go. It's all about improv with me."
The rocker's heroes agree with that credo.
"We haven't had a lot of rehearsal, but once we get on the stage it's a lot of magic and it all comes back to us," Jackie said. "Once we hit the stage, we just feed off one another, it feels great to be back. All the brothers together, including Michael, it's just a great feeling."
"We try not to rehearse too much, when we get onstage we want it to be as natural as possible and not too staged or contrived," Randy said. "Things happen in a funny natural way when it's impromptu."
Sort of like when the brothers start joking on each other when asked about who they are looking forward to seeing the most at the two-day tribute.
"I wanna see Mike," Jermaine said immediately. "Mike's gonna pull some tricks out."
"I've always wanted to sit in the audience and watch the five [brothers] perform but I can't," Marlon said.
Seeing that his brother left himself open, Jermaine chose his mark. "If you sit down, it will still be five of us," he said with a laugh.
"But it won't be the same," Marlon playfully rebutted.
The first installment of Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Celebration, The Solo Years will take place Friday at New York's Madison Square Garden with a second show happening Monday.
Whitney Houston, 'NSYNC and Aaron Carter are among the other scheduled performers. The event's organizers said that at least 50 movie and TV stars will also be involved, including Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor and Angie Dickinson.
Michael Jackson's new album, Invincible, is due in stores on October 30 (see "Michael Jackson's Invincible Due October 30"). He'll perform the first single, "You Rock My World," during his homage-paying fiesta.