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Is this the final countdown for Michael Jackson?

IS it a comeback or a swansong? Will he sing or lip-synch? Has he still got the moves?

Michael Jackson's brief appearance yesterday at London's O2 Arena, where he plans a series of 10 concerts starting on July 8, raised more questions than it provided answers.

The 50-year-old did at least show up, looking more robust than in recent photographs.

But his announcement was confused, and left reporters and hundreds of screaming fans wondering whether his first series of gigs in 12 years would actually be his last.

"These will be my final shows ... performances in London," Jackson said.

"When I say this is it, I mean this is it. I'll be performing the songs my fans want to hear. This is it, this is really it, this is the final curtain call."

Randy Phillips, president of AEG Live which signed Jackson for the concerts, had few concrete answers.

He did not rule out more concerts in London and elsewhere in the future, and much more than just music appears to be riding on the summer shows.

"None of us are sure," he said. "I didn't want to get so far ahead of what he wanted to do."

He added: "We're holding dates," referring to the O2 Arena where Prince performed 21 nights in 2007 to critical acclaim. "We don't know how big the demand will be."

On Jackson's health, Phillips was more confident, saying the performer, who had looked frail and gaunt in recent months, has passed a lengthy physical examination.

And asked if Jackson would sing or lip-synch on his eagerly awaited return, he replied: "He's singing."

AEG Live have a plan to work with Jackson for the next three and a half years that involves concerts, new music and movies, including a big-screen adaptation of Jackson's seminal hit and video "Thriller."

While the man who made 1982's "Thriller," the biggest-selling album ever, still has what it takes to move his fans to tears, many commentators were less impressed.

Several noted that the humble surroundings of a chilly hallway and makeshift stage did not befit one of the most successful pop artists of all time.

Jackson has been a virtual recluse since his acquittal in 2005 of child abuse charges.


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