The Black Eyed Peas have mysteriously cancelled, tickets are being flogged at half-price and half of the family is refusing to attend today's Michael Jackson tribute concert at the Cardiff Millennium Stadium.
Even so, the three Jackson siblings who masterminded the event insist that the show will not be an insult to the pop singer, whose painful final hours are currently being played to the world daily from an LA courtroom.
"We respect the decision of Jermaine and the other members of my family [to stay away]," says Marlon Jackson. "When you try and please all, you please none. The concert is to honour Michael, to pay tribute to his life and career and remember all the great music he did with The Jacksons and on his own."
Brothers Jermaine and Randy have criticised the event, saying the timing was inappropriate while Jackson's physician, Dr Conrad Murray, was standing trial for involuntary manslaughter. He has pleaded not guilty to causing the singer's death in 2009 by administering a lethal dose of the sedative Propofol.
Marlon, 54, Jackie, 60, and their fellow former Jackson 5 member, Tito, spoke to The Independent between rehearsals for the Michael Forever concert, which will feature Christina Aguilera, Leona Lewis, JLS and Smokey Robinson. However, the trial continues to overshadow the show, whose organisers have been banned from using Michael's image and likeness on promotional material due to legal issues with the Jackson estate. The brothers, who perhaps knew Michael better than anyone, cling to an unshakeable conviction that he did not have to die.
"We don't want to elaborate on the trial but I think justice will prevail," said Marlon. "I think Michael was here to live a long life. He wanted to see his kids grow up. We're sorry he's not here but he's here in spirit."
Michael had been desperate to get in shape for his planned 50-night residency at the O2 Arena, added Jackie. "It would have been the first time his children would have seen him on stage and he was really looking forward to making that happen."
The brothers, who will be joined by Michael's three children, sister Latoya and Katherine, the Jacksons' 81-year-old matriarch, say the concert will offer the family some relief from the gruesome evidence, unearthed during the trial, of Michael's demise, aged 50, in 2009. Jackie said: "It was good for Mum to get away, to take a little breather because they were showing all kinds of images in the court of Michael [one picture showed his dead body on a hospital trolley] and she took that hard. So it was good for her to come out here and remember her son..." "In a more positive light," interjects Marlon. Tito said: "I was there [in court] last week and it's very hard. But we have a large family and there are only so many seats in the courtroom. Half of the family wasn't attending anyhow because there wasn't appropriate seating. I want the fans to understand that."
This week the court heard a tape of Michael's slurred voice talking about his pain because he "had no childhood". The Jackson 5 became pop sensations after being ruthlessly whipped into shape by their father, Joseph, according to music legend – a claim denied by at least three of the siblings. Was it all worth it, given the damaged individual Michael ultimately became? Marlon said: "I think music is what the Lord wanted this family to do. We reached so many people across the globe. Bringing everyone together to enjoy themselves and have a good time, that's what we were about."
The story of the concert
*September 2009 Tribute concert due to take place in Austria cancelled after high-profile stars pull out.
*December 2009 Plans for a Wembley Stadium concert, led by Jermaine Jackson, abandoned.
*July 2011 Katherine Jackson announces a concert at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff that will "produce an authentic and memorable tribute that my son would love". It is supported by Marlon, Tito, Jackie and Latoya. Promoters Global Live Events promise a show "you would envision Michael attending" featuring "talent that he loved".
*August 2011 Kiss removed from bill after Gene Simmons's associates Jackson with child abuse. Beyonce's "live" satellite appearance downgraded to a taped contribution. Jermaine says he is "saddened" that his mother is being "used" to "prop up" the event.
*September 2011 Trial of Dr Conrad Murray begins. Jermaine and Randy Jackson criticise the show's "inappropriate" timing.