Mary J. Blige tops Jackson tribute in Vienna
By Petra Spescha
VIENNA (Reuters) - R&B stars Mary J. Blige, Akon and Chris Brown and veterans Natalie Cole and Sister Sledge will honor the late Michael Jackson at a concert in Vienna later this month, with more stars due to be announced this week.
Thirteen artists so far have been confirmed to perform at the concert, set in front of Vienna's Schoenbrunn castle on September 26, Michael's brother Jermaine Jackson and producer Georg Kindel told reporters at a news conference in Vienna.
A total of 20 to 25 artists are expected to confirm eventually, they said. More names will be revealed at separate news conferences in London on Wednesday and in Berlin on Thursday, Kindel said.
In front of an expected audience of 65,000 -- plus millions on TV screens worldwide -- artists will reinterpret Jackson's greatest hits including Billie Jean, Thriller and Bad.
Jermaine will sing a virtual duet with his late brother, who died from a drug overdose on June 25 and will be brought to life by video projections on the concert stage, a 50 meter wide stage with a golden crown on top in front of the 17th century palace.
"For one song Michael will come back to us. It will be a magic moment for all, who loved his music," Jermaine said.
"This is how Michael would have done it. He always did things over the top."
The singers will be supported by the band and dancers who were to accompany Jackson on his planned "This Is It" series of comeback concerts in London before the king of pop died in June.
Actress Angela Bassett, who played the role of Michael Jacksons' mother Katherine in the two part film "The Jacksons: An American Dream," will present stations of Michaels life.
In a grand finale, all performers, which will also include German-based boy group US5, will sing "We Are The World" or "Heal The World" together.
Michael Jackson's mother Katherine and his and Jermaine's children will attend the concert, Jackson said.
Tickets for the concert are being sold in stages for 63 to 518 euros ($91-$745) each. More than half have been sold.
Jermaine said he deliberately chose Austria's capital as setting for the tribute because his brother loved the city, where he last performed in 1997 on his HIStory World tour.
"Michael has toured here, he also loved history and he loved the different castles and just the beauty, the culture, the music here in Vienna," Jermaine said.
"I knew it was the perfect fit," he said. "He will always be in our hearts and I am sure he somehow will find a way to be with us this evening."
(Reporting by Petra Spescha; writing by Boris Groendahl and Petra Spescha, editing by Paul Casciato)