Ne-Yo, Jamie Foxx kick off Michael Jackson tribute

By Jill Lawless

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Oct. 8 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

US actor and singer Jamie Foxx performs at the Michael Forever the Tribute Concert, at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011.

Joel Ryan) EDITORIAL USE ONLY, Associated Press

CARDIFF, Wales — Three generations of Michael Jackson's family — with a few notable absentees — joined an eclectic roster of entertainers Saturday to pay tribute to the King of Pop, a celebration of the late star's life overshadowed by the Los Angeles manslaughter trial of his doctor.

On a stage shaped like a giant glove, participants performed songs from across Jackson's career — from his childhood with the Jackson 5 through monster solo albums like "Thriller" and "Bad."

Participants urged fans to ignore the criticism and planning glitches that marked preparations for the show in Wales, and to revel in the celebration of Jackson's musical legacy.

"It's not about the controversy," said R&B star Ne-Yo, who kicked off the show with a rendition of "Billie Jean," complete with some passable moonwalking. "It's not about the trial. It's not about his death. It's about celebrating his life. It's about celebrating his music."

The crowd at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium did just that, roaring with approval as Jackson's brothers Marlon, Tito and Jackie — three-fifths of the original Jackson 5 — took the stage to perform "Blame It On the Boogie" with British boyband JLS.

"Can you feel his spirit in the house tonight?" asked Marlon. Judging by the cheers, the fedora hats and the sequined gloves in the audience, many could.

The lineup for the "Michael Forever" show included Christina Aguilera, Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight, Leona Lewis, Jennifer Hudson, Cee Lo Green — and, via video, Beyonce.

The concert has divided the King of Pop's family and followers. The three brothers and sister La Toya were performing, while Michael Jackson's mother Katherine was in the audience and his children Prince, 14, Paris, 13, and 9-year-old Michael Joseph Jr., known as Blanket, briefly took the stage to thank fans for coming.

"We're very happy to be here on this special night to honor our father," said Paris, who like her older brother smiled and appeared confident, while Blanket stood stoic and shy.

While 13 Jackson family members attended — including vocal group 3T, composed of Tito's three sons — Michael's brothers Jermaine and Randy and sister Janet have stayed away, saying it is wrong to hold the show at the same time as the manslaughter trial of Dr. Conrad Murray.

Before the show, Marlon Jackson said he respected his siblings' decision.

"Each one of us grieves differently," he said. "We want to celebrate the positive side of his life, the positive things that he did."

Jackson died in June 2009, at age 50, as he was preparing for a string of comeback concerts in London.

His last hours are being relived in graphic detail at the trial of Murray, accused of giving Jackson a lethal dose of the anesthetic propofol and other sedatives in the bedroom of his rented mansion on June 25, 2009.

Some fans have said it's inappropriate to hold the tribute show during the trial, but those who came to Cardiff said it was a fitting antidote to the grim courtroom spectacle.

"There's a lot of negativity in that courtroom," said Ronnie Lee, a 32-year-old truck driver from Pembroke, Wales, sporting a "Thriller" T-shirt. "This is a chance to say, 'Thank you Michael' and celebrate the music."

Fans from across Europe gathered outside the stadium, where vendors did a brisk trade in King of Pop T-shirts and hats like those once worn by Jackson.

"Whatever happens in that court, we'll never get Michael back," said Karin Kiewiet, 40, a local government worker from Emmen, Netherlands. "This is a good opportunity for us to begin grieving."

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