Fans gather for Jackson tribute

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The world of pop on Saturday prepared to honour Michael Jackson as months of shambolic build-up to the Michael Forever tribute concert at Wales's Millennium Stadium finally gave way to a sense of excitement.

The side show of family feuding, rumours of feeble ticket sales and a last-minute headline cancellation threatened to overshadow the main event, but with 40,000 confirmed ticket holders and spectacular stage settings in place, talk finally turned to the music.

The stadium in Cardiff, the Welsh capital, is better known as the home of Welsh rugby but for one night sporting rough-and-tumble will make way for showbiz glitz.

Headline acts including US pop diva Christina Aguilera, Motown legend Smokey Robinson, British boy-band JLS and soul icon Gladys Knight were all set to perform at the 75,000 capacity arena.

Global megastar Beyonce will also perform via satellite from the US despite recently announcing her pregnancy.

Fans dressed in Jackson's trademark top hat and daubed in face paint began filing into the arena two hours before the first act, Ne-Yo, was due on stage.

Local fan Claire Norris said the show was a fitting tribute to the "king of pop", but as a perfectionist, he would be "spinning in his grave" over the organisational difficulties and sluggish ticket sales.

Fellow fanatic Sarah Blackshaw from London, who bought tickets on the first day of sale, added she was "thrilled to be part of history" and that she had the "opportunity to show how much he meant".

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.

Michael Jackson's three children, Prince, 14, Paris, 13 and nine-year-old Blanket were all expected to attend.

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.

Despite the downsizing, the figure represents somewhat of a success with many predicting the show would be canned due to lack of interest.

However, the show received a major blow on Thursday when US hip hop artists The Black Eyed Peas pulled out, fueling rumours of an imminent split.

There seems no danger of "Dirty" star Aguilera cancelling after she was spotted by surprised commuters making her way from London to Cardiff by train on Friday night.

© 2011 AFP

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