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EDITIONS
Friday, 14 June, 2002, 21:26 GMT 22:26 UK
Jackson still has messiah touch
Michael Jackson with David Blaine and Uri Geller
Jackson in the rain with Blaine, left, and Geller, right

"Michael Jackson coming to Exeter." The thought of it alone was quite extraordinary.

But when the man himself actually appeared in front of thousands of cheering fans at a Third Division football club's ground of which his friend Uri Geller is chairman, it seemed that "extraordinary" was to be the word of the day.

And if the audience reaction was anything to go by it appeared to be more than just the visit of the King of Pop, but more the coming of a musical messiah.

Limousines

Since the rumours that he was going to visit the county started a few weeks ago, there had always been a healthy degree of scepticism, especially after an alleged sighting of Jackson at a North Devon theatre the year before which turned out to be a rather good look-alike.

But as the stands started to slowly fill and we heard talk that some stretch limousines had arrived at about 1615BST, there was the sudden feeling that something major was about to happen.

And nowhere was the change more palpable than in the audience.

It wasn't a full stadium. Another couple of hundred people could have fitted in quite comfortably.

Michael Jackson
Jackson greeted young fans from his vintage car

It also seemed a little too relaxed at first. Ticket holders casually walked to their seats, some whistling loudly, glad to be there, but all of them seeming to be measured and controlled.

Several acts came on first, including two bands, a modern dance troop and a tribal African dance group, and they were received well, with a good amount of appreciative applause.

But again it was very measured - until the headline act was announced and that's when the security presence greatly increased. Something was definitely afoot.

And when an open-topped vintage car drove into the ground with a familiar figure semi-hidden under a black umbrella, there was only one way to describe the reaction - the oft used phrase "The crowd went wild".

Media scrum

But then things seemed to fall apart somewhat.

The plan had been for Jackson to arrive in the car, which would be driven around the ground so as he could wave the crowd.

Some 100 yards down one side, so many people had gathered round the car that it couldn't move.

The media scrum and over-enthusiastic fans halted part of the plan.

The crowd had been warned that if that happened, he would leave. To give him his due, he didn't.

Children

Jackson stepped out of the car for a minute before making a wild run to the relative safety of the specially erected stage in the corner of the pitch.

Apparently he had been scheduled to only talk for three minutes, but he did stay longer than that, at times hardly being able to make his speech because of constant appreciative shouting and his occasional laughing at the reaction.

Fans shouted their glee, their declarations of love, and some children were allowed to join him on stage with American magician David Blaine and spoon-bending friend Uri Geller.

He thanked everyone for their support, he requested his audience to give their support for the people of Africa and those with HIV, and that, "We must learn to live and love each other before it is too late".

Magician David Blaine tried to carry out a few tricks after Jackson's speech, but not too many eyes were on him.

Polite

Jackson then tried again to make his circuit around the ground in his vintage car, but this again was cut short when more fans came on to the ground, with the car soon making a beeline for the exit.

But though some might have thought that this spoiled the end, it didn't seem to matter.

The people had seen their hero. He had stayed a while and spoken to them.

He politely said thank you, that he believed England would win the World Cup and waved goodbye.

He left, leaving several thousand people with feelings of complete disbelief that they had just witnessed his visit.

It was certain that to his fans, he is still the King of Pop.

See also:

01 May 02 | Entertainment
07 Sep 01 | Entertainment
08 Mar 01 | Entertainment
05 Mar 01 | Entertainment
14 Jun 02 | Entertainment
14 Jun 02 | Entertainment
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