Blige, Brown, Akon to perform Sept. 26
VIENNA — Top artists such as Mary J. Blige, Akon and Chris Brown will sing some of Michael Jackson’s greatest hits at a Sept. 26 global tribute that also will feature a virtual duet between the King of Pop and one of his brothers, organizers said Tuesday.
But the much-anticipated lineup was a disappointment to a throng of reporters who had speculated that superstars such as Madonna would be part of the show to be staged in front of a 17th-century palace in the Austrian capital.
“Just hold your horses!” Jackson’s brother Jermaine said at a packed news conference in Vienna’s city hall, suggesting that some major names might still be added to the list.
Event promoter Georg Kindel said that up to 25 performers are expected to participate in concert that is being billed as the main global tribute for Jackson, who died June 25 in Los Angeles. More names will be unveiled later this week in London and Berlin, Kindel said.
Sister Sledge, Natalie Cole, Angela Bassett, and the Germany-based boy band US5 also are among the 13 artists confirmed so far, Jermaine Jackson said. In addition, Jackson’s original band and dancers will take part.
“We’re very excited — the list is growing more and more,” Jermaine Jackson said, adding that “many major Bollywood names” and artists from the Middle East also would be involved.
All the artists will play some of Jackson’s greatest hits at the concert, including “Thriller,” “Billie Jean,” “Black or White” and “Bad.”
“We will honor on this night not only the musician and artist Michael Jackson but also the humanitarian,” Kindel said. “He’s really someone who changed the history of music.”
Jackson’s family and children — as well as 65,000 fans — are expected to attend the tribute to be held on a large stage with a crown on its roof and two runways in front of Vienna’s former imperial Schoenbrunn Palace, one of the Austrian capital’s top tourist attractions, Kindel said. A “significant portion” of the proceeds from the event will be donated to charity, he added.
Over the course of the evening, Jermaine will sing a duet with his late brother, probably with video of Michael to be projected onto nearby walls, organizers said. All artists will sing either “Heal the World” or “We are the World” as a grand finale.
Bassett, an actress, will present one part of Michael Jackson’s life, a statement said.
When asked why stars such as Madonna and Whitney Houston — mentioned in Austrian media reports — were not on the list made public Tuesday, a defensive Kindel stressed the list of performers was still not set in stone. “This is not the final lineup — maybe some of the names you mentioned you will hear within the next couple of days,” he said.
Jermaine Jackson, meanwhile, acknowledged in response to another question that organizers were “in contact” with artists such as Madonna, Stevie Wonder and Diana Ross.
The absence of major musicians was stressed by some Austrian news outlets.
“Jackson Tribute: The superstars are still missing,” broadcaster ORF headlined on its Web site. “Jackson tribute in Vienna as yet without a mega star,” echoed the Die Presse newspaper.
Jermaine Jackson has said Vienna was chosen as the venue because his brother “loved castles,” and because Jermaine was impressed with how a smaller tribute held in July outside a mothballed nuclear power plant was organized.
“The beauty of the city is what just really knocks us out because it’s just a wonderful setting,” to keep Michael’s legacy alive, Jackson said.
Tickets went on sale last month.
Associated Press Writer William J. Kole contributed to this report.