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Saturday, July 05, 2008

The George Michael Concert Review

I saw George Michael last night. As good as I'd expected, or hoped, but better than I thought, if that makes sense.

George is about as consummate a performer as it gets. The trouble with George is, people look at him and think he's cocky or arrogant and elitist. When you see him in concert, you see that's totally not true. He beams and bounces and gets all schoolboy excited with the crowd roaring around him. You can see he just feeds off it and loves the adulation, but in a 13-year-old fat kid's "I can't believe it's me they love!" kind of way, even now after all his years as a star. It's pretty cool to see that youthful joie de vivre still popping out.

I remember George around the time of Faith, 1987 or so, had met up with Michael Jackson to talk about doing a duet with him, but George had no qualms about shortly thereafter saying to some magazine, "He was too weird. Working with someone like that..." and basically calling MJ a total nutbag back when everyone was still thinking Jacko was a genius, not so much a Whacko. He didn't go in for the bullshit, not even at his peak.

So when George is up on the stage, saying "It's good to be across the border from the States again. I'm so less likely to be shot up here," or "I'm fucking EXHAUSTED! Whew!" before he belts out another stunner, his bubbly nice-guy attitude just commands the night and you're left thinking "I'd love to have a beer with that guy."

No "I Want Your Sex", but most surprisingly was no "Jesus to a Child". Still, a great show. The first of two encores began with a stirring, beautiful, haunting version of "Praying for Time", a song he'd first recorded 17 years ago but is still freakishly apt about society and the environment. If ever a song cried out to be re-released, it's that one. Fantastic lyrics, awesome melody, but a very important message.

Waiting on the last encore, the crowd began chanting "Freedom, Freedom, Freedom". So, naturally, he delivered. He played a song they said they'd never played before, that was from 20 years ago, so right around Faith, but I didn't recognize it. Maybe I will when I see the name on the set list he'll put up on his site next week. Speaking of "Faith", the entire audience sang along and hit every word. George looked beside himself he was having so much fun.

He's still got his sense of humour, too. At the beginning of the concert he began playing this ridiculous over-the-top remake of his old Wham! standard, "I'm Your Man". The audience politely got into it, clapped along. Then he abruptly ends it, says, "Nah, I couldn't do that to ya!" and the bouncey bass of old kicked in and the crowed roared as he reverted to the original version -- complete with Wham! video footage on the screen behind him, including shots of Andrew Ridgeley.

The set, much has been made of in the press. Awesome in its simplicity and its scope. Using video in a whole beautiful new way. Sleek, sexy, just like George's old image. Fabulous. You'd have to see it to get it, but the entire set was a movie screen, from the rolling curved floor up to the rafters, with incredible footage featuring everything from burlesque dancing and JFK with Marilyn to an incredible video essay of Amsterdam's red light district, when he did his beautiful rendition of "Roxanne" from Songs From the Last Century. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

All in all, everything I wanted. And I nailed it and guessed all the songs he'd sit on a stool for (heh): A Different Corner, Kissing a Fool, One More Try, and Roxanne. Don't you love guessing at stupid shit and being right? It's so fun.

I'm very glad I went. I'm sad he hasn't toured more. He's one of those rare pros who doesn't just do it 'cos he's a professional, but because he still clearly just loves it. It so shows.

Sigh. I'm sad, 'cos there's a good chance I'll never get to see him in a gig again, and what a fucking shame that would be. Who knows. But at least now I've seen him sing his music. I've only ever seen his cover tour, and while I STILL remember his fucking incredible covers of Superstition and Play that Funky Music and Lady Marmalade... it's nice to hear his awesome catalog getting played, too.

And his VOICE... better than ever. Wow. The sound quality was exquisite last night -- easily the best-quality sound in a large stadium show I've seen in a very, very long time. Just crystal clear. But his voice, wow!

Ahh. Good for George. This tour will put him back in standing with the music world, I think, who sometimes forget what a great writer and vocalist he really is. One of the best of his generation, easily, if not the best vocals, I think. Probably why no one ever tries to cover his music. He seems very underappreciated, and I think the time has come to show the guy a little more respect. But I think he's going to get it now. Good. :)