CARDIFF, United Kingdom (AFP) ― Michael Jackson’s three children helped 40,000 fans honor the late pop legend Saturday as the “Michael Forever” show in Wales overcame a troubled build up to end on a high note.
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 star line-up ensured a celebratory atmosphere.
Host Jamie Foxx joined Jackson brothers Marlon, Tito and Jackie on stage at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium for a triumphant rendition of “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” to send most of the crowd home happy.
Headline acts earlier included US pop diva Christina Aguilera, Motown legend Smokey Robinson, British boy-band JLS and soul icon Gladys Knight.
Michael Jackson’s sister La Toya 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 occasion, and had to be helped out by his older siblings while introducing R&B star Beyonce’s performance via satellite from the US.
The three children wore outfits inspired by different periods of their father’s career.
The side show of family feuding, rumors of feeble ticket sales and a last-minute headline cancellation threatened to overshadow the main event, but despite a downscaling, those that were present made sure the empty seats went largely unnoticed.
“It was wonderful,” said Joanne Webb from nearby Swansea. “I don’t know why they had it in Cardiff but it’s been great for the area, seeing all these people coming out and looking so happy.
“Seeing the Jacksons was a highlight, you just don’t think you’re going to see these people live,” she added.
Some fans and members of the Jackson family had questioned the timing of the concert with the trial of Conrad Murray, the doctor accused of Jackson’s involuntary manslaughter, ongoing in Los Angeles.
Eva Vidal, the president of Spain’s Michael Jackson fan club, told AFP that it had been a positive evening, but the timing was a problem.
“It was good but would have been better if it hadn’t been on this date,“ said Vidal, who made the trip over from Spain with two friends.
Vidal, who was wearing a T-Shirt emblazoned “Who is behind Conrad?” stressed that she had come over to pay tribute, but also to fight for justice.
“We think there is a conspiracy,” she explained. “We have seen the trials and everybody is blaming Conrad but we believe there are others involved.”
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.
“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.
Global megastar Beyonce sent her own tribute, 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.
The “Thriller” star died at his Los Angeles home in 2009 aged 50.
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 were opposed.
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.