The “last time”, “farewell tour”, and now “the final curtain”.

When it comes to which branch of the entertainment industry has the “sayonara” or “adios” box office come-on down pat, you can’t beat the music business.

Today you can add Michael Jackson to the roll call of retirees, following an overnight London media conference after keeping 2000 screaming fans and media retinue waiting 90 minutes to hear him confirm he will be playing a farewell 10-date residency at the 02 Arena in July. In what was undoubtedly yet another bizarre public appearance of recent years — if you don’t count his regular expeditions in and out of court houses — he wasted few words and very little time in announcing he was bringing down the “the final curtain”. Although The Times Online labelled his comeback and farewell the “grand finale curtain raiser”.

But Jackson’s final curtain as he sees it only relates to his last ever London stage performances and those involved in his London promotion certainly don’t rule out a subsequent world tour as a possibility (believe it). But if you were relying on the edited news footage being shown on Australian TV bulletins this morning, showing the “king of pop” typically attired in glittering regal jacket, you could be mistaken for believing the 50-year-old financially crippled rock deity was bringing down the final curtain on all live performance.

I’ll be — I’ll be performing the songs my fans want to hear. This is it — I mean this is really it. This is the final — this is the final curtain call. Okay. And um, I’ll see you in July. I love you — I really do — you have to know that. I love you so much. Really — from the bottom of my heart. This is it and see you in July.

Yet he had just moments before at that same news podium said this as reported by The Guardian:

“I love you so much. Thank you all”. He then began chanting: “This is it! This is it!” along with the crowd. “I just want to say, these will be my final show performances in London.”

So not the final curtain, other than as it refers to returning to a London stage.

For the man estimated to have sold more than 750 million records and the biggest selling album in history — Thriller, with its latest estimate put at a staggering 65 million assisted by various reissues — this is some comeback. After being forced into selling off his California ranch and putting up for auction precious pop memorabilia to help keep creditors at bay — he’s been in massive debt until now.

In fact, it appears his new-found income — where he would not be announcing any dates without first receiving a significant upfront advance — has caused him to now want to withdraw his auctions items. Given the prospects of a massive gross from a potential 200,000 London box office, a new album in the works and sure to be tied into the concerts — along with the near certainty of taking his new show around the world — any suggestion of a final curtain couldn’t be further from the truth.

But nothing makes a box office sing like the pending retirement or farewell on whatever basis you sell it to the public — when a legendary performer claims to be riding off into the sunset; at least as it affects live performance.

Barbra Streisand’s fabled 2000 farewell tour, which cleaned up in Australia and went on forever before stopping, came back again in 2006 and is still performing today. Cher did a similar number; and even the ageless Tina Turner, who kissed goodbye to live performing years ago, is back again.

But the most cynical in Australia relates to John Farnham’s 2002 “Last Time” tour, where the basis of the massive dates up and down the country was sold as Farnham’s decision to withdraw from future national touring. Hence his 2005 coupling with Tom Jones in major concerts around Australia had some “Last Time” punters threatening to sue to get a refund. Now Farnham and his manager, recently freed after serving a jail sentence for tax evasion, are said to be preparing another national tour.

Fortunately, former Genesis singer and big name solo artist Phil Collins had the right perspective when he went out with his “First Final Farewell Tour”.

As to whether Jackson will eventually make it down to Australia — well, perhaps he should have a word with Andre Rieu, Pink or even Coldplay who can assure him some Aussies can still stump up the cost of a concert ticket!