Monday was supposed to be the triumphant kickoff of Michael Jackson’s 50-date This Is It concert series at the O2 Arena in London. Instead, a few hundred fans gathered outside the venue to honor Jackson, who died suddenly on June 25, leaving 750,000 fans with tickets to a comeback that is not to be.
The supporters, some dressed in Jackson drag, lit candles, danced, left flowers, wrote messages and watched classic clips of Jackson performances on a big screen outside the venue, where a makeshift memorial had been set up. Reuters reported that some of the fans, presumably among the nearly three-quarters of a million who purchased tickets to the shows, sat under the screen that read “Michael Jackson 1958-2009,” while others led sing-alongs of his greatest hits.
“This was going to be the best summer of my life,” said one fan named Michael. “I was going to go to five shows altogether; it would have been fantastic. I can’t believe rather than coming here to see him perform, I’m here to mourn. … It’s devastating, it really is.”
Another fan, named Will, told the news service that he and his friends came to the arena on Monday night “even if there’s no gig tonight. We’re making our own gig, our own carnival atmosphere; we’re making this what it would have been if Michael had been here.”
The promoter of the shows, Los Angeles-based AEG Live, has offered fans a full refund for their tickets or the opportunity to hold on to the commemorative ticket. So far, around 40 percent have chosen the latter option, which could help AEG recoup some of the tens of millions it had invested in the sold-out run of shows.
BBC News reported that Jackson supporters from all over the world congregated outside the 23,000-seat arena, some drawn by messages on fan sites and Facebook encouraging them to bring flowers and candles for the vigil. In all, around 600 visited on Monday night, observing a moment of silence around 6:30 local time, the hour when the doors to the venue would have opened.
“We should have been going to the concert, but we’re standing here instead,” said Jesper Hauton, 31, who had tickets to the shows. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
Joe Jackson told ABC News earlier this week that he believes his son was not healthy enough to perform 50 concerts, and was pushed to agree to the schedule. AEG Live boss Randy Phillips released a statement countering that it was Michael who asked to up the shows from the original 10 to 50.
For now, no shows have been announced to replace the Jackson run at the O2, but AEG Live boss Randy Phillips has said that the company is in discussions with Jackson’s family about possibly mounting a tribute show in late August that could use some of the staging and performers who were to appear in the This Is It shows.
For complete coverage of the life, career and passing of the legendary entertainer, visit “Michael Jackson Remembered.”
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