NEW YORK -- He twirled. He moonwalked. He chirped a "Hoo Hoo" or two.
He escorted Elizabeth Taylor to her seat. He reunited with his brothers. And he heard his audience impatiently chant his name while Marlon Brando tried to lecture them about children being hacked up by machetes.
He said "I love you" a zillion times.
With that mix of song and dance, pathos and the bizarre, Michael Jackson was back on an American stage.
In a 3 1/2-hour concert at Madison Garden on Friday night, the self-styled "King of Pop" brought along both his old friends and a Who's Who of a new generation of performers in before an audience of trusty fans who paid from $45 to $2,500 to once more hear such signature hits as "Beat It" and "Billie Jean" once more.
Jackson, 43, has been orchestrating his long-awaited reentry to the pop scene for months, spending millions recording a new album -- "Invincible" -- and on image rehabilitation.
Jackson in looking for redemption in both senses two decades after he helped give birth to the MTV Generation with his pioneering videos and blockbuster "Thriller" album made him the most successful pop star in the world.
But his "King of Pop" title became an embarrassing target of ridicule in subsequent years amid declining album sales, his increasingly eccentric behavior and tabloid-feeding scandals.
"I think this performance is crucial for him. It's his opportunity to prove he can still perform at a high level. This is the chance," said whiz kid record producer Rodney Jerkins, who helped Jackson assemble his new album, which will be released next month.
Though Jackson himself may not openly acknowledge his need for redemption, or a comeback, "he hears people saying it," noted Jerkins, 24. "He has to know it. He knows that's what people think."
Jackson's reemergence campaign picked up intensity last week with the release to radio of "You Rock My World," an upbeat, funk-driven track from album, and the campaign continued with a brief appearance with the pop group 'N Sync during Thursday's MTV Video Music Awards in New York City.
But Friday's affair at the Garden was the most dramatic step in the campaign -- his first formal U.S. concert performance in more than a decade. The concert, "Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Celebration," was billed as marking his three decades as a solo artist and, along with another Monday night will be boiled down into a two-hour television special on CBS.
Before Jackson took the stage for his solo set, he teamed up with his brothers on a medley of their old hits.
After the concert, Jackson, the other performers and 1,200 of the concertgoers -- including his 350 celebrity invitees -- were scheduled to attend a carnival-themed party at Tavern on the Green in Central Park.
Bryan Kalman, the restaurant's catering director, said the group would be met by white-gloved waiters offering caviar and champagne while a barker beckoned them inside to play old-fashioned midway games.
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