Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Jackson's farewell concert

I've been watching all the Jackson foofaraw out of the corner of my eye with mild alarm. Today, reading about his upcoming gala performance, that alarm is rapidly turning to panic.

100,000 people are descending upon downtown LA for the big event, due to start in an hour or so. The fans having been lining up since before sunrise. "Some people are coming in from around the world to be part of it," a First Assistant Police Chief said. "They just want to be close to it." There was a ticket lottery for the actual performance in the Staples Centre, and, while the tickets were originally free, vast sums of money have changed hands in a global bidding war.

Backing Jackson on vocals will be some huge names: people like Stevie Wonder, John Mayer, Jennifer Hudson, Maria Carey, Queen Latifah, Smokey Robinson and Usher. While the featured performer will not be doing his trademark moonwalk, that doesn't seem to have deterred his fans in the slightest:

"I spent $700 to come here," said Mr. [Donte] Zierway, who works for a collections agency. "I just came. I entered my name, I prayed, and I got on a plane. Then I found out today that I had a ticket."

Joey Daniel, 22, said he had considered selling his tickets but could not pass up the memorial. "This is a part of history," Mr. Daniel said. "We could probably sell these for a lot of money, but it wouldn’t be worth it. I’m going to tell my children and grandchildren that I was there."

What brings out such numbers for this sort of event? What is the "it" that people so desperately want to be a part of? Self-mutilator, dancer, babysitter, singer: no question that this fellow has it all. Yet he's only an entertainer: not a saviour of the masses or a crazed dictator (if you'll pardon the possible tautology).

In any case, the upcoming communitas event will no doubt generate a lovely collective effervescence, not to mention substantial revenue for business owners in LA. It promises to be such a wild success, in fact, that I find myself idly wondering: why only one show? Why not take the thing on tour?

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