It’s good to be pop’s king

By Nekesa Mumbi Moody

Associated Press

NEW YORK – A who’s who of the entertainment industry showed up Friday night to honor Michael Jackson and celebrate the 30th anniversary of his solo career.

The concert began nearly an hour late as Jackson, dressed in a white spangled jacket, was escorted to his seat with Elizabeth Taylor. Sitting next to him was Macaulay Culkin, and Jackson’s parents, Katherine and Joseph.

The show got off to a rousing start with a dance-packed performance by Usher, Maya and Whitney Houston, doing “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ ” from Jackson’s 1982 megahit album “Thriller.”

But only moments later, it took a bizarre turn when Marlon Brando appeared onstage sitting on a couch. He rambled for a couple minutes about child abuse, starvation and disease.

People started to boo until Brando mentioned Jackson’s name and said that Jackson was donating money to build a children’s hospital in Florida.

The evening got back on track quickly with Billy Gilman’s performance of another Jackson hit, “Ben.”

Liza Minnelli sang Jackson’s “You Are Not Alone” backed by a choir – then serenaded Jackson with “Over The Rainbow,” the signature classic of her mother, Judy Garland.

The crowd grew restless at times during long lulls between performances. But fans erupted in cheers and jumped out of their seats when Jackson joined his brothers to sing a medley of their old hits.

On Thursday night, Jackson stole the show at the MTV Video Music Awards by appearing briefly onstage with ‘N Sync. And on Friday night, ‘N Sync joined the Jacksons and performed.

The first of two heavily hyped concerts in Madison Square Garden had other scheduled appearances or performances by Gladys Knight, Eminem, Destiny’s Child, Yoko Ono, Jill Scott, Alicia Keys, Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Tucker and Samuel L. Jackson.

“Michael doesn’t do nothing small,” said Rodney Jerkins, who produced much of Jackson’s upcoming album, “Invincible.”

The concerts Friday and Monday night are part of Jackson’s attempt to reclaim his King of Pop title after a six-year absence between albums. “Invincible” is due out at the end of October; last week, he released the first single, “You Rock My World.”

Tickets for Jackson’s show, which CBS intends to air, ranged from $45 to $2,500, and promoters said most sold within hours.

For those with $20,000 or more to spend, there was an after-hours party with Jackson.

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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