Having become more accustomed to courtrooms than concert arenas – riding out a painfully public battle against paedophilia charges, troubles in Neverland and a cash spat with Sheikh Abdulla of Bahrain – Michael Jackson is finally ready to reprise his role as the King of Pop.
The singer is scheduled to arrive at the O2 Arena in London tomorrow to announce a handful of concert dates at the venue this summer.
Details of the performances are being fiercely guarded until the announcement at 4pm but the promoters bill the concert series as one of the most "spectacular and extraordinary events" that his fans will ever see. One source said the shows would be spread over "a few days" rather than a full month, as earlier rumoured.
Jackson, 50, has been talking with organisers for months about staging his live revival, pencilled for July. He will reportedly secure £1.5m a night from the comeback shows. It is not known when ticket sales will begin but there is already speculation tickets will be resold on eBay for thousands of pounds.
Rumours of the singer's spiralling debt have been growing since the end of his child molestation court case in Los Angeles in 2005, when he was cleared. It is believed revenue from the residency at O2 will help Jackson's waning fortune. He was forced to sell his beloved Neverland Ranch last year after falling behind on the running costs, which total $3m (£2.1m) a year.
There has been speculation that Jackson is on prescription drugs and grappling with stage fright but organisers have apparently been assured that he is ready for the comeback.
The concerts would be a coup for the O2 Arena – they will, in effect, relaunch Jackson's career in Britain rather than in the US. His last studio album was Invincible in 2001 and no details have been confirmed as to whether the singer is working on new material to accompany his return to the stage.
Jackson last performed in 2006 at the World Music Awards in London but he disappointed fans by singing just a few lines of the song "We Are The World". It was his first appearance since being cleared of the child abuse charges. He was originally due to play at the O2 Arena in January 2008 when it was reported that he was in negotiations to play a 10-night residency.
The timing would have coincided with the 25th anniversary of the release of his landmark album, Thriller. Jackson has not toured Britain since his 1997 HIStory world tour and his last performance in London was in front of 72,000 fans at Wembley Stadium that summer. A year earlier, he performed at the Brit Awards and was famously interrupted by the buttock-baring singer Jarvis Cocker.