6 Mar 2009

Jackson announces comeback with London concerts

1:42 pm on 6 March 2009

US pop star Michael Jackson announced his long-awaited comeback, telling hundreds of screaming fans he would perform in London this summer and calling it his "final curtain call" in the city.

Wearing a military-style black jacket decorated with silver sequins and punching the air, the 50-year-old revealed his plans on a makeshift stage at the 20,000-capacity O2 Arena where he will play 10 dates starting early July.

Music promoter AEG Live, which has signed a deal with Jackson, said the Las Vegas-style "residency" could be extended if there was sufficient demand for tickets.

Asked about concerns over Jackson's health in recent years, AEG Live president Randy Phillips said Jackson had passed a four-and-a-half hour physical examination with independent doctors.

Jackson, still viewed as "The King of Pop" by his fans, has lived the life of a virtual recluse since his acquittal of child abuse charges at a 2005 trial.

His last album of new material was "Invincible", released in 2001, and his position as one of pop music's biggest acts has been increasingly overshadowed by bizarre behaviour, a changing appearance and questions about his health.

There has been scepticism that Jackson is capable of playing a string of gigs, and this would be his first concert series in 12 years. British bookmaker William Hill has already offered odds that Jackson would not turn up for the performances.

Jackson is one of the biggest pop stars of all time, with an estimated 750 million records sold. "Thriller", released in 1982, is the best selling album ever.

He performed in London at the World Music Awards in 2006, but that much-hyped return was described by critics as a shambles after he sang, in a broken voice, just a few lines of his charity single "We Are The World".

Jackson began his musical career with his siblings in the Motown group the Jackson 5 and went on release a string of hit solo albums.