Jackson children honour pop king at tribute concert
Michael Jackson's children helped 40,000 fans honour the pop legend on Saturday as the "Michael Forever" show kicked off in Wales's Millennium Stadium despite a troubled build-up.
There had been doubts over whether the tribute show would go ahead after months of controversy. But the presence of Prince, 14, Paris, 13, and nine-year-old Blanket along with a host of musical stars ensured a celebratory atmosphere.
Headline acts including US pop diva Christina Aguilera, Motown legend Smokey Robinson, British boy-band JLS and soul icon Gladys Knight.
Michael Jackson's sister La Toya, who performed for the first time in 20 years, said afterwards "Michael was enjoying the show" and that "having all these wonderful artists coming together shows the children how special their father was".
But youngest child Blanket appeared overawed by the occassion, and had to be helped out by his older siblings while introducing R&B legend Beyonce's performance via satellite from the US.
The side show of family feuding, rumours of feeble ticket sales and a last-minute headline cancellation threatened to overshadow the main event, but despite a downscaling, most fans were determined to create a fitting tribute.
Local fan Claire Norris, who was at Jackson's 1987 concert in the same stadium, argued the "king of pop" would "definitely be for the concert", but would be "spinning in his grave" over the organisational problems.
Fellow Cardiff resident Julie John added: "I was married and my husband wouldn't let me come in 1987 but this is fantastic and it was a really nice surprise to see the Jacksons".
US R&B star Ne-Yo kicked off the show with a cover of Jackson's seminal hit "Billie Jean" complete with dazzling white socks and a passable attempt at a Moonwalk as pre-event acrimony was put to one side.
"This is not about controversy, this is about celebrating his music and life," the performer said to loud cheers.
The 75,000 capacity stadium in Cardiff, the Welsh capital, is better known as the home of Welsh rugby but for one night sporting rough-and-tumble made way for showbiz glitz.
The mainly-female audience let out an ear-piercing welcome for British boy-band JLS, who performed a cover of "The Way You Make Me feel", before introducing Jackson brothers Marlon, Jackie and Tito for a reprisal of "Blame It On The Boogie".
Global megastar Beyonce sent her own tribue, performing "I Wanna Be Where You Are" from the US.
Many fans were dressed in Jackson's trademark top hat and red leather jacket while Jackson's famous high-pitched "woo-hoo" reverberated around the arena and inside the stadium's atrium.
US student Martha Gardner, studying in London, said she "had to be here" to pay tribute to an "American hero".
The event was the brainchild of Jackson brothers Marlon, Tito and Jackie, sister La Toya and 81-year-old mother Katherine but siblings Jermaine, Randy and Janet remain opposed.
They believe that the family should be in Los Angeles where doctor Conrad Murray is standing trial for Jackson's manslaughter.
The "Thriller" star died at his Los Angeles home in 2009 aged 50.
There has also been dispute over where proceeds from the concert will eventually end up.
A portion of the takings will go the AIDS Project Los Angeles and Prince's Trust -- both charities supported by Michael Jackson -- but many fans have been angered by reports that the Jackson family themselves stood to make a profit.
Global Live Events, the concert's organisers, have been tight-lipped about ticket sales but revealed on Friday that 40,000 had been sold and the capacity of the show had been reduced to 50,000.
US hip hop stars The Black Eyed Peas dealt the show a major blow on Thursday when they pulled out of their headline slot, fueling rumours of an imminent split.
© 2011 AFP