Michael Jackson Disappoints in Stage Return

The star – surrounded by kids – sings only a few lines at the World Music Awards

Photo: MJ Kim/Getty

Michael Jackson made his long-awaited live stage comeback Wednesday night in London at the World Music Awards.

His fans were left, at the very least, disappointed. And the press reports were scathing.

“Jackson the flop,” reads the Daily Mail‘s online headline Thursday. Of his performance – Jackson’s first since he was cleared of child-molestation charges last year – the paper said, “It was enough to make you cry. And not in a good way.”

An “embarrassing comeback” said the Mirror, making note that Jackson only sang four lines during his performance. And, in its review, the Sun gave Jackson one out of a possible five stars.

After an hour of the crowd’s waiting and anticipating, Jackson, 48, finally came on stage to accept the Diamond Award from Beyonce, who said: “If it wasn’t for Michael Jackson, I would have never, ever performed. He has made such an impact on my life and every performer’s life. Michael Jackson, I love you!”

Driven to the stage in a blacked-out Mercedes surrounded by more than 20 security guards, Jackson grasped the award but had to wait for the crowd’s screams to die down before he could be heard.

“There have been so many who have loved me and stood by me throughout my 42 years I have been part of this business,” he said. “I would like to thank my wonderful children, Paris, Prince, and Blanket, for their unconditional love and support.”

Jackson then disappeared off stage, leaving R&B star Chris Brown to perform his version of “Thriller,” backed by a dozen zombie dancers.

It was past 10:30 p.m. by the time Jackson finally performed his few lines, of “We Are The World,” backed by a group of young children. Observers noted he failed to hit some of the higher notes.

Throwing his sparkly Roberto Cavalli jacket into the crowd did cause a sensation – as well as a gasp from the designer himself, who was dancing with Paris Hilton and Jade Jagger in the VIP area. Also attending: Nelly Furtado, Andrea Bocelli, Katie Melua, Tommy Hilfiger, Rihanna, Rachel Hunter and Eva Herzigova.

Lindsay Lohan who hosted the show, told PEOPLE before Jackson’s appearance: “It’s been a long night but I’m very excited, the ‘Thriller’ costumes are amazing.” The actress had a rough time of it with the crowd, too. She was booed twice for flubbing her lines.

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