“Michael Forever,” the Michael Jackson tribute concert in Cardiff, Wales, on Saturday featured sets from Christina Aguilera, Jamie Foxx, Cee Lo Green and Ne-Yo, with a special surprise appearance from the late King of Pop’s three children, Prince Michael, Paris and Prince Michael II (a.k.a. Blanket).
Paris, Prince and Blanket introduced the video tribute to MJ from one of the night’s biggest stars, Beyoncé, with Paris modeling one of her dad’s signature red and black leather jackets and Blanket wearing another classic MJ look with a black suit and tie, accented by a red shirt and armband.
“She is always pushing the envelope with her boundless energy and talent,” Paris said. “She carries the torch lit by our father and it gives me great pleasure to introduce this woman.”
Appearing via pre-taped video and wearing a giant afro wig and silver mirrored catsuit, Beyoncé spoke of how inspirational Jackson had been to her career and sang “I Wanna Be Where You Are.” The video appeared to have been shot during the singer’s tour earlier this year, before she announced her pregnancy .
“I remember seeing Michael Jackson for the first time. Lord knows I fell in love. Watching him, I realized exactly what I wanted to be,” Beyoncé said before her set. “He inspired me so much. As a matter of fact, the first song I performed with Destiny’s Child was a Jackson 5 song. It’s the song we auditioned to get our record deal. It was the beginning of our future. I love you forever, Michael Jackson.”
Wearing a body-hugging corset, Aguilera did a spirited rendition of “Dirty Diana” and “Smile.” Ne-Yo opened the show with “Billie Jean,” Yolanda Adams took on a cover of “Earth Song” and R&B legends Smokey Robinson and Gladys Knight got together for a duet on “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.” Cee Lo sang “I Can’t Help It.” The night also featured a number of Jackson-related acts, including Tito Jackson and his sons, 3T, who performed “Why” and “Heartbreak Hotel,” as well as sister LaToya, appearing onstage for the first time in over two decades. One of the biggest reactions of the night was when British boy band JLS hooked up with Jackson brothers Tito, Marlon and Jackie on the Jackson 5’s “Blame It on the Boogie.” Also on hand was Jackson’s mother, Katherine.
One of the biggest names slated to take the stage, Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson, was a no-show. According to TMZ, Hudson had already been paid to perform, but the singer bailed on the gig because of “major production issues.” Unnamed sources told the site that Hudson felt the show’s producers hadn’t given her enough time with the music she was supposed to sing; the song was not identified. The week before the show, one of the other big announced performers, the Black Eyed Peas, dropped off the bill as well, citing “unavoidable circumstances.”
Among the other contributors: Pixie Lott sang “I Want You Back” and “You Are Not Alone,” Alexandra Burke took on “Who’s Loving You” and “Scream,” Burke, Adams and Knight collaborated on “Gone Too Soon” and Leona Lewis did “I’ll Be There” while surrounded by ballerinas dressed in white. Nineties rockers Alien Ant Farm did their signature take on “Smooth Criminal” as well as “PYT (Pretty Young Thing),” Foxx took a solo turn on “Rock With You,” Craig David sang “Human Nature,” Robinson tackled “She’s Out of My Life” and the Diversity dance group did a medley of some of Jackson’s greatest moves.
The show was hosted by Oscar winner Foxx, who took part in the finale, which featured Ne-Yo, LaToya, Tito, 3T, Robinson, Jackson’s children, Alien Ant Farm, Knight, Burke and a number of Jackson grandchildren and great grandchildren busting out “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough.”
According to Rolling Stone, the show at the 50,000-capacity Millennium Stadium in Cardiff was not quite sold out, with 40,000 superfans showing up to watch the gig, which took place on a giant stage in the shape of one of Jackson’s signature white gloves.
The tribute went on despite protests from some of Jackson’s family members who felt that the concert should not coincide with the involuntary manslaughter trial of the singer’s doctor, Conrad Murray .