Though Britney had reportedly pulled out of the show due to a contract dispute, she cut a deal that allowed her to perform after all. Her appearance will be cut out of the upcoming CBS-TV special, though. It was hard to hear her, but the audience loved it — and it was worth it just to see her slink around the stage in a tight green dress with Michael pretending to stalk her like a dog in heat.
After another lengthy break, Chris Tucker appeared to introduce Michael's solo set. Michael walked on stage with a box and removed his black sequined jacket, fedora, and, finally, a white sequined glove. Much to the crowd's approval, he ripped into "Billie Jean." He sounded great and busted out all the classic Michael moves, including plenty of moonwalking.
Then, he brought out former Guns 'N Roses guitarist Slash to perform "Black or White" and "Beat It." During "Beat It," Michael and a dance troupe acted out the choreography from the video, and the crowd couldn't get enough. He ended that set with his new single "You Rock My World," and left the stage in a haze of fireworks and explosions.
At this point, it was midnight, but the producers asked the audience to stay for one more number. After another interminable wait, the entire lineup appeared onstage for an all-star version of "We Are The World," conducted by Quincy Jones. Even Kenny Rogers showed up to sing his original part, and Dionne Warwick and Yoko Ono were there, too. Finally, Michael thanked everyone for coming, and said his final "I love you!" of the night, and then it was over — four hours after it had begun.
So, was the show a pretentious, over-hyped, and overblown salute to one man's ego? Sure, it was. Did the audience care? Not as long as their hero was moonwalking, singing, and shouting "I Love You!" The crowd's unbridled outpouring of emotion for the man long derided as a tabloid freak proved that "The Gloved One" might not be an accurate nickname. Perhaps "The Loved One" would be more appropriate.