Jackson comeback gig 'a flop,' reviews say

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LONDON - British media rounded on Michael Jackson and the organisers of an awards ceremony where he appeared late on Wednesday, calling his first public performance since his child molestation trial last year "shambolic".

Far from the full rendition of mega-hit "Thriller" the world's media had been led to expect at the World Music Awards in London, Jackson instead sang the chorus line of his charity single "We Are the World" with a choir of children.

When he reached for the higher notes he appeared to struggle, and mid-song the sound was inexplicably cut.

U.S. star Chris Brown sang "Thriller" instead, even wearing the familiar red leather jacket of the original video, but he failed to placate a crowd who had not come to see a stand-in.

"Jackson the flop" was the Daily Mail's headline in its online version on Thursday, describing what many had hoped would be a triumphant comeback.

The review, which accused Jackson of not trying, added: "It was enough to make you cry. And not in a good way.

"However many times he told us he loved us (and there were many) -- and however much we yelled and screamed and pinched ourselves, his performance was a shambles."

The mass-circulation Mirror called the event an "embarrassing comeback" and focused on those in the crowd who booed at seeing Jackson sing just four lines of music.

Its rival The Sun, Britain's top selling daily, gave 48-year-old Jackson just one star out of five for his evening's work and dwelt on Jackson's "strange" appearance.

Organisers of the annual World Music Awards were also criticised for a chaotic evening.

Besides sound problems during Jackson's performance, around half the winners of main awards did not show up to receive them, hostess Lindsay Lohan made only a few fleeting remarks and there were long waits between each performance.

The organisers were not immediately available for comment.

How the show affects Jackson's bid to revive a flagging career in music remains to be seen.

For years he has been better known for his changing appearance and lurid accusations against him than for his songs.

Since being acquitted of child molestation charges at a trial that ended in June 2005, he has lived the life of a recluse, dividing his time between Bahrain and Ireland.

But despite losing his crown as King of Pop long ago, he still generates hysteria among loyal fans wherever he goes.

Hundreds of well-wishers waited outside Wednesday's event for a glimpse of the most successful entertainer of all time. Inside, they chanted "Michael!" throughout the evening and booed some of the acts who came before him.

One banner held up in the crowd read "The King is Back".

Judging by the wider reaction to Wednesday's performance, he still has a long way to go.
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