Michael Jackson was set for comeback in London
After years of living as a virtual recluse, Michael Jackson, who died on Thursday, had promised a comeback of typically blockbusting proportions with 50 shows in London starting next month.
Fans queued for hours to catch a glimpse of the pop star when he appeared briefly at the giant O2 venue in the British capital in March to announce a string of dates going into 2010, and tickets sold out within hours.
"This is the final curtain call and I'll see you in July," said 50-year-old Jackson, announcing his first major shows for more than a decade, and the first since his 2005 acquittal on child molestation charges.
Wearing sunglasses and a black jacket with silver sequins, he had waved to a near-hysterical crowd waving signs reading "Michael We Love You" and expressed his love for the fans who remained devoted despite the controversy.
"I love you, I really do. I love you so much. From the bottom of my heart," Jackson gushed, adding: "I'll be performing the songs my fans want to hear."
Two months later, however, the show's organisers sparked concern for his health when they announced that Jackson had pushed back the first four of his concerts, with the first now due to take place on July 13.
The president of show promoters and producers AEG Live, Randy Phillips, said at the time the rescheduling was done because of the "sheer magnitude" of the show.
In a press conference from the United States broadcast over the Internet, he was asked about Jackson's health and said: "I would trade my body for his tomorrow. He's in fantastic shape."
It was unclear what arrangements would be made for fans with tickets. A spokeswoman for The Outside Organisation, the publicists for the concerts, said she had no comment in the immediate aftermath of Jackson's death.
Meanwhile, the 02 Arena website was unavailable early Friday.