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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

High-Tech HIStrionics Awe Crowd

It was not a concert that suffered from an excess of subtlety.


High-tech fireworks, de rigeur ear-splitting volume, jumbo video screens, the trademark dancing prowess of the performer, the screaming thousands of fans spanning a range of several decades -- all combined to make Michael Jackson's performance at Dinamo Stadium on Tuesday night a sight for sore eyes and ears.


Bursting from a spaceship that exploded through the bottom of the stage, the 38-year-old Jackson, clad in a gold space suit, drew shrieks of delight from a near-capacity crowd estimated by concert organizers at 40,000. Fans had paid a hefty $25 to $50 at ticket kiosks for the privilege of seeing the American star display his famous plasticity and hearing him belt out favorites from a career that has spanned more than three decades.


After a nearly three-hour wait -- punctuated by canned messages in Russian, English, German, French, Japanese and Spanish counting down the minutes remaining before Jackson's appearance -- the processional segment of Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" announced the star's arrivals as fireworks simultaneously burst overhead. The technical virtuosity of the computer-generated opening segment contrasted sharply with the spartan plainness of the aging stadium. But as Jackson strutted from his space capsule, the crowd's euphoric reaction indicated it thought the wait, modest venue and expense were worth it.


"I paid $300 on a round-trip ticket from Uzbekistan," said Elvis Batuyev, 23, a hotel administrator from Tashkent. Batuyev said he liked Jackson because the performer is an "artificial" person: "No one knows really why he looks like that, or what he looks like." Batuyev spent $50 on his ticket and said before the show, "I hope I'm not disappointed."


"HIStory," Jackson's first world tour since 1993's "Dangerous," does not appear to have disappointed audiences since it opened in Prague earlier this month. And as part of his essentially rehabilitative, pre-concert publicity in Eastern European cities, Jackson has made a point to meet with highly placed officials -- including Czech president Vaclav Havel in Prague. In Moscow, the star's Monday schedule included a brief visit with Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov, followed by a 15-minute t?te-?-t?te with Alexander Korzhakov. That former presidential crony, according to an Interfax report, was presented to Jackson as the current chief of the presidential bodyguard service. Rumors circulated at Tuesday's concert that Korzhakov, reportedly a devoted Jackson fan, was in attendance.


Jackson has made visits to orphanages and attendance at children's events an integral part of his tour's peripatetic schedule. In so doing, Jackson seems to be fighting head-on the blot on his reputation created by accusations presented three years ago that he molested a 13-year-old boy.


The Associated Press reported Tuesday that, in conunction with this lingering issue, a Russian student newspaper, "Latin Quarter," had protested Jackson's presence in Russia. A press release from the students, who had dubbed their campaign "Michael Jackson -- We Don't Want You," included a photo of students' picketing his second visit to Moscow.


Despite this, thousands of Russian fans have turned out to see not an accused malefactor but a pop legend. The Russian capital, the fourth city on Jackson's itinerary, followed the lead of Prague, Budapest and Bucharest in providing a warm -- if initially wet -- reception.


But the threatening clouds over Dinamo spat only the rare and feeble drop on Tuesday's concertgoers. Attendees included a French family whose son, Jonathan, 14, has been a "great fan," said his mother, Marie-Paul, since he was 3. But Jonathan has nothing on Adil Sherifa, 24, a Moroccan student in agronomy at Moscow's Timiryazevskaya Academy, who said he has been a Jackson fan "for a hundred years."


As the concert continued on toward midnight, dozens of crestfallen and chilled fans waited outside the stadium gates, unable, through empty pockets or bad planning, to get a ticket. Katya, a 17-year-old student, said scalpers were asking $20 for tickets, or slightly below face value. All the same, the price was one "I can't afford," Katya said, as snippets of Jackson's "They Don't Really Care About Us" wafted through the night sky.