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Live-concert audience got short end of the stick


John Stamos sheepishly took the stage during Michael Jackson's nearly 12-hour "United We Stand" benefit concert. It was 10:30 p.m. - about two hours before the concert actually would end - and Stamos, the host of the event, apologetically explained to the already impatient audience that he was going to have to cut in on the program and record his closing speech for the TV cameras, because the show was running almost three hours late.

An audience of about 46,000 had gone to RFK Stadium for one of the most star-studded events ever held in the area. They were the unlucky ones - at least compared to television viewers, who can watch a pared-down, two-hour version of the concert tonight on ABC from the comfort of their living rooms.

When it airs at 8, the made-for-TV-without-any-regard-whatsoeve r-for-its-live-fans extravaganza likely will be a slickly spliced, almost enjoyable version of what those who stuck it out in person now recall fondly as the Concert From the Far Regions of Hell:

During interminable pauses between acts, the audience was hostage for 15 to 40 minutes at a time with little else to do but take pathetic stabs at The Wave. Halfway through the scheduled nine-hour concert, it was apparent that the event was running so late that much-anticipated artists like Train and comedian Chris Tucker would have to drastically shorten their performances.

Oh, and stadium concession stands ran out of food a good five hours before the event ended, leaving fans grumpy, tired and starving. Forget the Survivor contestants in Kenya - they had nothing on the concert fans, who endured hardship, hunger and behinds that hurt for days afterward.

Sure, the event had its pluses.

Aerosmith delivered a rocking performance that had fans stomping and head-banging so much the stands actually swayed. R&B; boy wonder Usher deservedly drew screams when he out-Michaeled the King of Pop with his modern versions of classic MJ moves like the Moonwalk.

'N Sync provided unplanned hilarity when the group tried to enforce a minute of silence in honor of Sept. 11 victims - and enterprising teen-age girls filled the empty air with strains of "I LOOOOOOVE YOU, LANCE!" A perplexed-looking Mariah Carey added to the giggle and snicker factor when she lingered a little too long on stage after taking her bow, fiddling with her microphone as if she had something more to say, before her backup dancers gently led her away.

And Michael Jackson capped the insanity after midnight with an underwhelming finale featuring artists as diverse as 'N Sync, Christian singer Billy Gilman and Carey singing his nouveau "We Are the World" single, "You Rock My World."

Despite the star power on stage, MJ and gang delivered a discombobulated performance. Half of the artists couldn't be heard over the thunderous track, and the other half seemed to be squinting into the TelePrompTer.

But the evening's unquestioned highlight came after the song had reached its sorry end. The red, white and blue confetti had been shot through the air and the artists had begun to shuffle off stage when Jackson whispered into the microphone: "One more time?"

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