No, it’s not bad as you think. But yes, there may be a little rejiggering in Jackoville.

The word from the West Coast is that Michael Jackson’s London shows, set to start on July 8th, may not begin exactly on that day.

No, it’s not that Michael has a spider bite or is exhausted or wearing pajamas. Not yet.

The situation is more concrete than that: July 8th is just two months away, and some of the sets needed for the shows at the O2 Arena may not be ready in time.

Two months isn’t much time, when you think about it. Consider that Jackson has not performed a full length show since September 10, 2001. That’s almost eight years ago. Right now, Michael Bearden‘Jackson’s musical director’and Kenny Ortega‘are playing ‘beat the clock’ to get the show ready for any launch in July. Putting off the official start is the least of their problems.

What I’m told, and what is being banded about, is that July 13th or 14th will be the actual start date. Shows set for earlier than that would have to be rescheduled.

It’s not so hard to do: AEGLive has booked the O2 Arena for Jackson on even numbered dates through July. An extra blank day is scheduled between every show for ‘insurance’ purposes’just in case Jackson needs to put off a performance for a day.

Of course, ticketing is already something of a sore subject regarding these Michael Jackson shows. If you try to buy tickets through Jackson’s website, fans are no longer sent to purchase face value tickets through Ticketmaster.com. Instead, Jackson’s website links directly to a ‘Secondary’ ticket selling service called viagogo.com, owned by the guy who started and sold the legal scalping service, Stub Hub.

This means that Jackson tickets are only refundable at face value. But they’re sold at a huge mark up. Some people have already started questioning who gets the difference in price.

A March 12th story in the Times of London already concluded that some kind of ‘secret deal’ had occurred concerning Jackson tickets. You can read it at http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/music/article5891378.ece.

Things haven’t really improved since the article ran. Viagogo is selling Jackson tickets for ten times their face value for all the dates scheduled so far.

One person who shouldn’t have too much trouble getting good seats: Michelle Obama. According to Michael Bearden’s official bio, he and the First Lady have been friends for thirty years or more. Expect to see her on opening night, whenever that is.


Madison Square Garden was filled last night with earthy, crunchy types who didn’t mind singing along to summer camp favorites like ‘Michael, Row Your Boat,’ and ‘There’s’ A Hole in the Bucket.’

The real shock was that just about every seat was taken for Pete Seeger‘s 90th birthday fest. Are there really that many folkies left in a time of IPods, hip hop, ringtones, and raves?

Or was everyone really there to hear the advertised big stars: Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, and Dave Matthews? If they were, they might have been disappointed. The bulk of the four hour extravaganza was centered on folkie folks who haven’t gotten together in a long time and were rarely heard much on the radio ‘back in the day’: Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, Kris Kristofferson, Richie Havens, Taj Mahal, and so on.

For the kids in the audience’and there were plenty of young people’who knows what they thought when they heard 68 year old Baez’s gorgeous still intact clarion call of a voice swoop through ‘Where Have All the Flowers Gone?’ It was maybe the standout of the entire evening. Baez remains incomparable. Where, I wondered, is her Kennedy Center honor? She sure deserves it.

Springsteen, by the way, did perform at the end of the show’a beautiful version of ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad.’ Backstage he entertained his managers Barbara Carr and Jon Landau, old pal Dave Marsh. And Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon and their kids. One of the more poignant moments last night was a performance of ‘Michael Row Your Boar Ashore’ by Robbins with 17 year old son Miles on guitar and sweet vocals. In case you didn’t know, Tim’s dad, Gil Robbins, had a chart hit with that song in 1961 with his legendary folk group, The Highwaymen.’ (http://www.answers.com/topic/the-highwaymen). Gil Robbins also ran the famed Gaslight nightclub in Greenwich Village, where Bob Dylan‘among others’played their first New York shows.

Also said to be in the house last night: another legend, Harry Belafonte, the great concert promoter, Ron Delsener, and several members of the Kennedy family.

Seeger, who’s a tough bird at 90, came and went through the night, performing some songs, joining in on others. The night was mostly about music, although there were some biographical videos and mention of his astonishing political history. Here’s a performer whose reward for refusing to name names during the McCarthy era was a prison sentence subsequently overturned, who stood on principle time and time again through the Vietnam era, on issues of the environment and civil rights, no matter what it did to his career. In other words, he had integrity’something in short supply today.


As you might have guessed, that ‘secret’ Cat Stevens show scheduled for New York’s Highline Ballroom for last night didn’t happen. What did happen: Stevens, aka Yusuf Islam, was cleared for entering the U.S. but didn’t get his work visa in time. A new show is being set up for New York, but the scheduled Los Angeles event’set for May 11th’is going forward.
‘Some of us will try to brave the weather and see the Yankees beat the Sox tonight at the new, expensive stadium. Others will head to Time Magazine’s annual dinner for the mag’s 100 most interesting people. There are some great choices on the list (Lang Lang, Penelope Cruz, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu) and idiotic ones (the women from ‘The View’-huh?). Anyway, maybe hip hop star M.I.A. will meet Ted Kennedy. You never know’

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Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.
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