In 2007, and especially in 2008, Michael often talked to me about touring. He always said the same kind of thing – that he didn’t want to do a big tour but rather a series of major concerts in major cities around the world, such as London, Tokyo, Sydney and New York.
His announcement of the This Is It tour in London on 5 March 2009 came as a huge surprise to everyone, myself included. Over the following weeks, the number of concerts swelled from an initial ten to an astounding 50. 50 concerts in one city. That was very different to what he’d spoken about over the previous two years.
Many of us worried that there were too many concerts, that the tour would be too grueling and demanding, even for him. But he seemed positive and enthusiastic from the get-go.
“Was it a surprise? Were you surprised?!”
And over the following months, he often talked to us about the rehearsals and asked us what songs we would like him to perform. He even talked about continuing the tour to other cities, including New York and Tokyo. When I visited him inside CenterStaging Studios on 16 April, he told me he was very excited because he’d just come up with the closing sequence for the show.
When Michael wasn't rehearsing, he was often working on new music in the studio behind his house. On the evening of 22 May we stood captivated as he played part of a song over and over at top volume. It had a base like Smooth Criminal and built up to a dramatic chorus. It sounded sooo amazing. Michael came over to talk to us five times that evening and he was smiling so much.
Everything seemed fine. For months, everything seemed fine.
"They did the schedule wrong."
The first indication I got that he wasn’t entirely happy with the tour was on 29 May, which was his last day of rehearsal at CenterStaging. He spoke with a European fan who told him that we were unable to buy tickets to all the This Is It shows, firstly because everyone was limited to buying only four tickets per credit card and also because all the best tickets had been sold to a secondary ticketing site called Viagogo, which was selling them for hundreds or even thousands of pounds.
Michael Jackson fans
Normally the biggest fans are at the front because they arrive first and wait the longest, not because they fork out the most money. But the only tickets we could buy at face value, of £50 to £75, were for seats that were the furthest from the stage. (Note that artists usually get a percentage of the FACE VALUE of tickets sold, so Michael might have gotten £20 for a ticket that sold for £1,000!)
After speaking with this fan about the tickets, Michael called the other nine of us into the studio. This is the conversation that took place, as I wrote it down that evening:
MJ: I love you, I love you, I love you. I wanted to tell you that I didn’t know that the concerts were seated. I didn’t know about that and I’m going to do something about it. They did that without my consent. They just did it for obvious reasons.
All of us: To make money, we know. We know it’s not your fault.
Jill: We know how complex this is and how many people are involved.
MJ: They did the schedule wrong too. It was supposed to be show, day off, show, day off, show, day off.
Jill: We are worried we won’t be able to keep up with you.
MJ: (laughs) I put everything I have into the shows. I work so hard. But I’m only one man. There is only so much I can do. (sounding emotional)
Me: Michael, please don’t push yourself too hard. Please look after your health. You are more important than anything. You don’t have to do all 50 shows. If it’s too much, just cancel them. Don’t let anyone pressure you into doing anything you don’t want to do. Only do what you want to do. It’s YOU who we love.
MJ: Oh thank you, you’re so sweet, thank you. Bless you all. I also wanted to say that I’m sorry that we don’t put the window down sometimes but it’s for security reasons. I know you all wait for me and I love you so much.
All of us: Don’t worry, we understand Michael. We love you. We love you more.
MJ: Thank you for your love and thank you for your loyalty.
He clasped his hands together, bowed his head, and stood there in silence for a while. We could feel his energy reaching out towards us, filling the room.
Unfortunately someone betrayed Michael by selling him out to a British tabloid, which reported some of the things he had said to us (and I believe to this other fan) the next day. AEG were quick to issue a statement denying the validity of the story.