“Dude,” I pleaded, “I can get tickets to any show on the tour.”
In my eyes it was a fair trade. Free concert tickets for a place to stay. The new album was out and a monster tour all over the world was in full swing but one that would not touch the American mainland. It had been at least five years since the last tour but there was no sense that everything was winding down, heading towards retirement or that this would be the last show. I only sensed that for a tour that size NOT to touch the United States it seemed unconscionable to miss.
Having playfully twisted my buddy’s arm I flew to London from my home in California for a once in a lifetime event at Wembley Stadium. On the famous Metropolitan Line heading up to the historic venue we rattled off which songs were likely to be performed and which ones were our personal favorites, hoping the two lists would overlap more often than not. Would the oldies medley be different this time? Would it matter?
London fans have always set the bar for adoring and supporting their music icons. Still, very few artists dared to announce not just one but multiple dates at the original Wembley Stadium instead of the arena nearby. Adding to that would be the festival atmosphere of open seating on the field itself instead of the orderly reserved seats for premium prices at American venues. I also knew the energy of the crowd would be just as electrifying as the show we had all gathered to see.
July 15, 1997. Some 73,000 descended on venerable Wembley on a clear, late afternoon to fellowship with and bask in the presence of one man. And this was a Wednesday. In the United States we only see packed stadiums like that on Sunday afternoons in the Fall. Our spot on the field was half-way back in the midst of a human ocean yet we still had a good view of the stage. What would the opening number be? Would it matter?
Not a bit. Over the next two and a half hours the fans showed out as much as the man putting on the show. The opening was bombastic, the ballads beatific, the dance numbers dazzling and the signature moves as silky and sizzling as ever, this in a production already ten months on the road with three more months to go.
His greatest hits were then and are now permanently behind him. His detractors will fade in to the shade they struggled to cast upon him. Will it matter? Not to the exhausted but satisfied fans then, now and always. Decades from now "Wanna Be Startin' Something" will kick some party in to high gear just like it did that yesterday's Wednesday at Wembley. That is HIStory.
Rest in peace, Michael Jackson.