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60,000 Attend Free Michael Jackson Concert

July 17, 1996 GMT

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei (AP) _ For the first time in his career, Michael Jackson performed for 60,000 fans who didn’t pay a cent to hear the concert _ the tab was picked up by the world’s richest man.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who turned 50 on Monday, marked the occasion with the most lavish party ever held in this oil-rich nation on Borneo Island. The sultan paid an undisclosed amount for the pop star to perform Tuesday night.

Tour officials said it was the first concert Jackson has ever performed where the fans didn’t pay to get in. Jackson kicks off his World History tour in South Africa this week.

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The concert was beyond the wildest dreams of most of Brunei’s 200,000 people, whose tiny Islamic country has little in the way of nighttime entertainment.

``This sort of thing never happens in Brunei. We just had to come to see Michael Jackson, especially as the concert is free,″ said Benny Chow, 18, who shouted above the pulsating beat of Jackson’s ``Thriller.″

The sultan did not attend the concert _ he was dining with Prince Charles. Earlier in the day, the sultan and the prince played polo, the sultan’s polo boots delivered to the polo field by helicopter from his 1,778-room palace.

The sultan’s two wives, their children and other relatives were at the Jackson concert, watching from two royal balconies on either side of the stage in an open-air amphitheater that was built for the event.