Jackson Vienna concert line-up falling apart
By Caroline Copley and Alex Dobuzinskis
BERLIN/LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Plans for a Vienna tribute concert honoring Michael Jackson have been dealt a blow, with singers Mary J. Blige, Chris Brown and Natalie Cole not expected to perform, despite efforts by the late pop star's brother, Jermaine, to organize the event.
In Berlin, Jermaine Jackson and organizers on Thursday played down the lack of confirmed big names for the September 26 concert in front of Vienna's Schoenbrunn castle before an expected audience of 65,000.
"The star is Michael Jackson -- it's not about name dropping and who else will be there," the show's producer Georg Kindel told a news conference.
Tickets for the concert called "The Tribute" -- where Jermaine Jackson also plans to perform a medley of Jackson Five hits -- are being sold in stages for $92 to $755 (63 to 518 euros).
But U.S. representatives for Blige, Brown and Cole said on Thursday none of the three would perform in Vienna, despite statements by the concert organizers earlier this week that they would perform there.
That leaves only some lesser- known performers still definitely on board to sing at the show, including Sister Sledge, best known for the 1979 dance track "We Are Family."
Karynne Tencer, a Los Angeles spokeswoman for Blige, said in an e-mail that the singer will not perform at the tribute concert. "She wanted to but she had a previous commitment in Milan" on September 26 at an event for fashion company Gucci, Tencer told Reuters.
A person close to Brown said on condition of anonymity the R&B star will not perform at the tribute show. The "Kiss Kiss" singer was recently convicted of beating his former girlfriend, the pop star Rihanna, and he would need to get a judge's permission to leave the United States.
Maureen O'Connor, a Los Angeles spokeswoman for Cole, said she will not be there because days earlier she will attend an event in Tennessee for Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, and can not make it to Vienna in time.
O'Connor said organizers of the Jackson tribute show had reached out to Cole. "There was a conversation, but she was never committed to do it," she said.
'A LOT OF CONFUSION'
Show organizers plan to announce a list of confirmed acts in Vienna next week, after Jermaine Jackson has personally confirmed who will attend.
"It seems that there is a lot of confusion regarding the confirmed talent for the tribute -- we are rechecking and confirming each artist personally," Kindel said.
Plans call for "numerous international stars" to reinterpret Jackson's greatest hits, including "Billie Jean, "Thriller" and "Bad," according to the show's website.
Michael Jackson died of a prescription drug overdose on June 25 in what U.S. authorities describe as a homicide. They are investigating doctors who treated the singer.
Friends and musicians including Stevie Wonder, Jennifer Hudson, Mariah Carey and Lionel Richie performed at a public memorial for Jackson in Los Angeles in July that was watched on television by more than 31 million Americans and many more around the world.
Michael Jackson's mother, Katherine, pledged her support for the Vienna concert in a video message aimed at allaying rumors of a family feud.
"I am looking forward to being there," she said in a video recorded on Wednesday at the Jackson family compound in Los Angeles. "I am sure it is going to be a great show."
(Editing by Jill Serjeant and Philip Barbara)