This Is It (concerts)
|Residency show by Michael Jackson|
|Location||London, United Kingdom|
|Venue||The O2 Arena|
|Start date||July 13, 2009|
|End date||March 6, 2010|
|Number of shows||50 (cancelled)|
|Michael Jackson concert chronology|
This Is It was a planned residency show of fifty concerts by Michael Jackson to be held at The O2 Arena in London. They were scheduled to begin in July 2009 and continue through to March 2010. However, with all concerts sold out, Jackson suffered a cardiac arrest and died due to an overdose of propofol and benzodiazepine drugs, less than three weeks before the first concert was scheduled to begin. Jackson officially announced the concerts at a press conference held inside the O2 Arena and stated that This Is It was going to be his final series of concerts. AEG Live, the concert promoters, released a promotional video that took up an entire commercial break, setting a record for ITV. The shows were to be Jackson's first major series of concerts since the HIStory World Tour finished in 1997. Randy Phillips, president and chief executive of AEG Live, stated that the first 10 dates alone would have earned the singer approximately £50 million.
Originally only 10 concerts were announced, but the tickets were sold out in less than an hour and the public demand for tickets resulted in 40 more concerts being added, making 50 in total. Ticket sales broke several records and AEG Live stated that Jackson could have sold out more shows (some even suggested as far as 200). Jackson's album sales increased following the announcement. In preparation for the concert series, the pop singer had been collaborating with numerous high-profile figures, such as fashion designer Christian Audigier, choreographer Kenny Ortega and bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno. Prior to Jackson's death, Allgood Entertainment sued the entertainer for $40 million, claiming that he had breached an exclusivity agreement with them by agreeing to the This Is It concerts. The case was later dismissed.
In light of Jackson's death, AEG Live offered either full refunds to all ticket holders or a special souvenir ticket designed by the entertainer. The cancelled shows, the record-breaking ticket sales and the potential for a world tour, made Jackson's shows "the greatest concert[s] that never happened." Columbia Pictures acquired the footage of the show rehearsals and made a concert film titled Michael Jackson's This Is It. The Jackson estate received 90% of the profit made while the remaining 10% went to AEG Live. Columbia Pictures guaranteed at least $60 million for the rights. To coincide with the release of the concert footage, an accompanying album was released.
Promotion and significance
|Wikinews has related news: Michael Jackson to make last public concerts|
The announcement of Jackson's first 10 performances was made by the singer himself, during a press conference at the O2 Arena on March 5, 2009. As many as 7,000 fans and 350 reporters awaited the singer's arrival, many donning Jackson-related clothing. The singer commented at the conference, "I just wanted to say that these will be my final show performances in London. When I say this is it, it really means this is it", adding that it was his "final curtain call", although he may have just been referring to performing in London. Organizers touted the residency as, "dramatic shows [that] promise an explosive return with a band of the highest calibre, a state-of-the-art stage show and incredible surprise support acts". Hours before the press conference, promotional posters for the residency were displayed around London. Further promotion took up an entire commercial break period on ITV London during Dancing on Ice, the first time this has ever happened for a musical artist. The advert, which cost £1 million to air, was viewed by 11 million people.
The shows, Jackson's first significant concert events since the HIStory World Tour in 1997, had been cited as one of the year's most important musical events, and as the greatest comeback in the history of pop. Randy Phillips, president and chief executive of AEG Live, stated that the first 10 dates would earn the singer approximately £50 million (about US$80.1 million). The Guardian characterized the announced 10 concerts as an "astonishing comeback for a man who in recent years has been dogged by controversy", adding that the entertainer still had "enormous commercial clout". The Evening Standard stated that the deal was the "showbiz coup of the decade" for AEG Live, while The Independent remarked that the finalized 50 concerts would provide London with a "much-needed" economic boost. Joe Cohen, chief executive of Seatwave, told BBC 6 Music that the shows would generate £1 billion for the economy.
Some websites offered early tickets, which the Association of Secondary Ticket Agents warned were fake. "We are warning people not to buy tickets that are not yet on sale because it is unlikely that they will receive those tickets", announced the organization's chief, Graham Burns. He concluded, "It's impossible when the dates haven't been announced to be selling tickets for something when there are no announced dates". Jackson's official website allowed fans to register early for a "pre-sale" draw. Some fans had difficulty applying, as the website could not deal with the large number of registrations—reportedly up to 16,000 applications a second. In the space of 24 hours, nearly a million people from around the world registered for pre-sale tickets, enough to fill the venue 50 times over. Tickets that had not even been printed were selling on auction website eBay for £300. Sales of Jackson's albums increased following the press conference. Overnight, sales of Off the Wall rose 200%, Bad rose 110%, Dangerous rose 165% and Thriller 25 rose 155%.
The two-day pre-sale began on March 11, and 40 extra dates were added to meet high demand—five of these dates were reserved in their entirety for the public sale. More than 1.5 million fans caused two sites offering pre-sale tickets to crash within minutes of going online. In the space of two hours, 190,000 tickets were sold. Two million people tried to buy pre-sale tickets in the space of 18 hours. Veronica Schmidt of The Times stated of the reception, "Michael Jackson has floored his critics", while organizers proclaimed it a "cultural phenomenon". It was announced that Jackson would break the record for number of shows performed by an artist at a single venue, which had been set by Prince, who hosted a residency at the same arena for his 21 Nights in London: The Earth Tour concerts. According to Jackson's website, the following records were or would have been broken: "The biggest audience ever to see an artist in one city", "The greatest number of people to attend a series of arena shows", "The fastest ticket sales in history". Randy Phillips acknowledged that Jackson could have sold out even more dates, but this would have conflicted with other career plans that the singer had. On March 13, the other 50% of seats for dates 1–45 and all the seats for dates 46–50 went on sale to the general public. Within four hours, all 50 dates had sold out. At this stage, the sales of King of Pop were up 400% and the sales of Thriller were up 200%. Tickets appeared on eBay for as much as £10,000.
Preparation and concert details
The 50-concert run was originally scheduled to start on July 8, 2009 and conclude on February 24, 2010. Each of the shows would have been performed at the O2 Arena in London, which has a capacity of 23,000. New York-based fashion designer Zaldy served as head costumer, creating ten of Jackson's stage looks while the other six were created by his longtime costumers, Michael Bush and Dennis Tompkins. Jay Ruckel from La Crasia Gloves recreated Jackson's iconic single glove for the concerts. The costumes he was to wear during the shows were encrusted with 300,000 Swarovski crystals. In April 2009, thousands of dancers flew in from all around the world to audition from the 13th to the 15th for Jackson, who helped select the 11 finalists in person. Kenny Ortega, who had collaborated with Jackson previously, was to work on the overall design and direction of concerts. Ortega said that the final product would have been a "theatrical musical experience". According to Randy Philips, £13 million was to be spent on producing the concerts, which would have included 18–22 songs and 22 different sets. There also would have been aerial dancing similar to routines by Cirque du Soleil. Carla Ferrigno told Reuters that her husband Lou had been helping Jackson train in advance of the shows. Jackson and Ferrigno had previously worked together.
On May 20, it was announced that the first concert would be pushed back five days to July 13 and three other July dates would be rescheduled for March 2010. AEG Live said that the delay was necessary because more time was needed for dress rehearsals. The revised schedule called for 27 shows between July 13 and September 29, 2009, followed by a three-month break, before resuming in the new year with 23 more shows between January 7 and March 6, 2010. Some fans petitioned for the reversal of AEG Live's decision. In late June, several hundred seats for each of the dates were put on sale. These seats were held back until production logistics were worked out.
It was suggested that after the London concerts, Jackson might head to Australia, Europe, India, China, Hong Kong and Japan before moving on to North America. Randy Phillips, the CEO of AEG Live, told The LA Times that Australia was part of Michael Jackson's international tour plans.
According to Jermaine Jackson's 2011 book You Are Not Alone: Michael Through a Brother's Eyes, after the London concerts finished, Jackson was planning to extend his deal with AEG Live which included new music, a possible three-picture movie deal, a long series of one-off concert dates starting in China, a halftime slot during one of the future Super Bowl games to overshadow his own legendary halftime show performance at the Super Bowl XXVII in 1993 and another couple of tours (one of which was to be a final reunion with his brothers based on a promise made to their mother to see her sons perform together again one last time before she died). After the deal was completed, he planned to take time off from musical entertainment and move on to (possibly) directing his own film ideas, such as making a feature-length motion picture based on his 1982 song "Thriller" and the music video of the same name. It was also stated that a yearly Halloween television special based on his horror-themed songs, such as "Thriller" and "Ghosts", was part of Jackson's deal with AEG Live.
In Conrad Murray's manslaughter trial, David Walgren stated another one of Jackson's future plans was to open a children's hospital. This was heard in an audio tape Conrad Murray played of Jackson under the influence of propofol on May 10, 2009. His voice is barely recognisable in the recording, but he can be clearly heard saying that he wanted to build the greatest children's hospital in the world and name it after himself: The Michael Jackson's Children's Hospital. Walgren also stated that while the tour was happening, Jackson wanted to buy an estate with streams, horses and animals so his three children, Prince, Paris and Blanket could live normal lives as their father performed the concerts, as he was photographed looking for a house in the United Kingdom with his children. Walgren also said that the tour would begin that summer, and Jackson could take his children out of school and bring them with him so they could see him perform in London.
According to Michael Bearden, a film and music producer who worked on the concerts playing keyboard, the setlist was never finalized prior to Jackson's death. Most of the songs due to be featured in the concerts were showcased in Michael Jackson's This Is It, while the inclusion of several other songs were confirmed in the film's DVD special features. The songs showcased in the film included Wanna Be Startin' Somethin', Jam, They Don't Care About Us, Human Nature, Smooth Criminal, The Way You Make Me Feel, a medley of Jackson 5 songs including I Want You Back, The Love You Save, and I'll Be There, Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground), I Just Can't Stop Loving You, Thriller, Beat It, Black or White, Earth Song, Billie Jean, Man in the Mirror, and Heal the World. Meanwhile, it was later confirmed that Stranger in Moscow, You Are Not Alone, You Rock My World, Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough, Rock With You, Dirty Diana, Dangerous, Bad, We Are the World, and Will You Be There were also being prepared for the concerts. In an interview with Larry King, Lady Gaga revealed that she was to perform a song called "Pictures" as the opening act for the concerts.
"Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" was confirmed to be the opener, followed by "Jam", a dance sequence referred to as "The Drill" leading into "They Don't Care About Us", "Human Nature", and "Smooth Criminal". The show would open with a video sequence referred to as "Glimpses and Flashes", followed by a large space suit with video imagery wrapping around it appearing before the audience, referred to as "Light Man". Then, various parts of Light Man would open up to reveal Jackson, who would jump out and stand still for a few moments before starting the show. The performances of "Smooth Criminal", "Thriller", and "Earth Song" would feature 3D vignettes featuring Jackson, most of which would involve Michael coming out of the videos and onto the stage. Michael would occasionally replace "Human Nature" and "The Way You Make Me Feel" with "Stranger in Moscow" and "You Rock My World", respectively.
"Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" and "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)" were to be used as an interlude segment for the backup dancers to show off their moves, with Jackson appearing at the end, following the Jackson 5 medley. "Dirty Diana" was to feature a female dancer who would use acrobatic feats to lure Jackson onto a bed, before tying him to it. The bed would then be covered in silk flames, giving Jackson cover to slip backstage and change for "Beat It". "We Are the World" and "Heal the World" were to be performed as a medley.
"Man in the Mirror" was confirmed as the closer, ending with a large plane, dubbed "MJ Air", appearing on the 3D screen. A door in the middle of the screen would open up, revealing a set of stairs for the dancers, backup singers, and band players to go through. Michael would be the last one to go through, waving goodbye to the audience as the door closed in front of him. The plane would then taxi down the runway and take off into the night sky.
Due to the larger than usual roster of songs, as well as time constraints, Jackson would perform some songs with one verse less than he did in previous tours, such as "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'", "Jam", "The Way You Make Me Feel" and "Black or White". "Bad" is rumored to have been reserved for select concerts. On the final dates, Jackson wanted to perform a ballad called "River Ripple", written by him, with an African choir and his children. During the final concert before "Man in the Mirror", Michael was slated to premiere a song called "Best of Joy", written and recorded in 2009 prior to Jackson's death. As of 2016, "River Ripple" remains unreleased, while "Best of Joy" was officially released in 2010 on Jackson's first posthumous album of unreleased songs, Michael.
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In June 2009, concert promoter Allgood Entertainment, represented by Ira Meyerowitz and Jon Kekielek of MJlawfirm, sued Jackson for $40 million, claiming that the singer, through his manager Frank DiLeo, had agreed to a single and a $30 million reunion concert with The Jackson 5, as well as sister Janet Jackson. According to the concert promoter, the alleged contractual agreement prevented the singer from performing elsewhere before the reunion concert and for a three-month period after it. Thus, agreeing to a 50 date residency at the O2 arena was an alleged breach of the Allgood Entertainment contract. The filing company stated that AEG Live knew of the alleged agreement with Jackson and used their dominance in the industry to coerce Jackson into agreeing to the residency. In August 2010, the judge dismissed the case, stating that there was no evidence of a binding agreement, no contracts were signed. The case is currently in limbo.
Jackson's death and refunds
On June 25, 2009, Jackson died after going into cardiac arrest which was caused by an overdose of Diprivan and benzodiazepines, eighteen days before his planned first show. AEG Live, who persuaded Jackson to sign up for the shows, faced a liability of up to £300 million and an empty venue for the next nine months. The O2 arena stated that full refunds, including all ticket service charges, would be available to those who purchased tickets through authorized agents, but that "fans will have the option to be sent the actual tickets they would have received to attend the shows in lieu of the full refunds which are being offered." Fans who bought their tickets from private sellers potentially faced difficulties. eBay recommended that purchasers contact their sellers for refunds and stated that those who used PayPal can get their money back if the purchase was made during the last 45 days, then later stated that "all buyers on the site will receive a full refund for their ticket purchase".
Posthumous film and album
Following Jackson's death, AEG stated that they had over "100 hours of footage of preparations and rehearsals for the shows". On August 10, 2009, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff approved a deal between film distributor Columbia Pictures and AEG Live for the former company to purchase and distribute rehearsal footage of Jackson for a film entitled Michael Jackson's This Is It. According to court documents, Columbia paid $60 million (£35 million) for rights to the rehearsal footage. The papers filed in court had reportedly stated that Jackson's estate will get 90% of the profits and that AEG Live will get the remaining 10% from the film's revenue. The film was directed by Kenny Ortega who was also the director of the live concert. It was compiled mostly from footage that was shot as reference for production discussions and was never meant to be shown publicly. Some of the music and vocals in the film were added from previous recordings, though most were from the live performance. The film was released on October 28, 2009.
An accompanying album to the film was also released. Titled This Is It, the compilation was distributed internationally on October 26, and to North America the following day. The two-disc album features music "inspired from the documentary of the same name". Of the album, Sony said, "Disc one will feature the original album masters of some of Michael's biggest hits arranged in the same sequence as they appear in the film" and stated that "the disc ends with two versions of the 'never-released' 'This Is It' [...] This song is featured in the film's closing sequence and includes backing vocals by Michael's brothers, The Jacksons and Alvin Chea of Take 6." Sony added that the second disc will feature previously unreleased versions from Jackson's "catalogue of hits", along with a spoken word poem entitled "Planet Earth" and a 36-page commemorative booklet with "exclusive photos of Michael from his last rehearsal".
- Death of Michael Jackson
- List of works published posthumously
- Michael Jackson's This Is It
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