Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1099

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George Michael: Royal Albert Hall 25/10/11

George Michael - Symphony Orchestra: Royal Albert Hall 25/10/11
George Michael - Symphony Orchestra: Royal Albert Hall 25/10/11

Royal Albert Hall, symphony orchestra, first night of UK icon George Michael tour, it doesn’t get much better than this dear reader. Having already played to packed stadiums across main laid Europe, 25th October was the chance for UK audiences to see George Michael’s new showcase. Fans have seen him play charity concerts, pop concerts, unplugged, and via satellite, but this is the first tour where George has been accompanied by an orchestra, and it was definitely worth the wait.

Sheer fabric, reflecting red lighting was all that was between the audience and the stage, as we waited patiently during the thirty minutes delay for the show to start. Finally the orchestra begun and George launched into "Through;" the fabric disappeared and a vibrant red visual was projected onto the back of the stage, where George stood for the whole song for some reason. For the second song "My Baby Just Cares For Me" George finally came to the stage front, much to the delight of his fans. George cut a fine figure in a tailored suit and trademark sunglasses and designer stubble as he acknowledged his fans on all sides of the venue. Cheekily substituting Lana Turners’ smile for Ricky Martins’ in the song, the jazz influences were still very strong, indeed I wondered if this was in face a jazz show, but my fears were soon allayed. The orchestra accompaniment to "Cowboys and Angels" was amazing; if you loved it on CD you would have been blown away by the sound of the sweeping strings this time around. George introduced the track saying it was one he has never performed on tour, and personally this alone was worth half the ticket cost.

This however is not a greatest hits tour, George has already done that in recent years. This tour was George performing song some of his favourite tracks of his own and other singers accompanied by an orchestra. Given that this was something that George has wanted to do for a while, and the intimacy of the Royal Albert Hall, I was expecting George to speak and interact much more with his audience. We had a few one liners, one that the 2011 Comic Relief song "True Faith" was about addiction which is something he knows nothing about which drew a laugh. Another one about Terrance Trent D’Arby was a fellow Sony sufferer and finally another about how he thought "Wild is the Wind" was by David Bowie and that was pretty much it. The only other time George spoke at length to the audience was in describing how a few of the songs reflected his relationship with ex partner Kenny. Admittedly this was very personal, but it would have been so much nicer to have had more anecdotes, or insight into how he felt about the songs singing them years later or why he chose the songs, heck he could have even bitched about his celebrity friends.

That aside George’s version of D’Arby’s "Let Her Down Easy" was very moving and delivered in a softer way than the original which brought the lyrics to life. "Wild Is the Wind" did have George moving around the stage and dancing a little, and where I believe George’s vocal was most powerful that night. Other covers of the night were Rufus Wainwright’s "Going To A Town," Rhianna’s "Russian Roulette," Billie Holiday’s "You’ve Changed," and a special tribute to Amy Winehouse "Love Is A Losing Game." Some of the covers were performed better than others; unfortunately the Winehouse cover didn’t do much for me. Nina Simone’s "Feeling Good" definitely did move me, and I assure you it was due to the magic of the music, not the Dita Von Teese burlesque images that were in the background. George’s own tracks were still definitely firm favourites with the crowd, "A Different Corner", "Kissing a Fool" and "Praying for Time" were all flawlessly sung, but given more emotion with the accompanying orchestra the songs were amazing.

I did wonder what his backing singers were doing as for most of the show they were not needed, but when they sang with George in the encore medley of hits with just a 5 piece band, I knew like everything else in the show they had not been wasted. Fans were finally on their feet and danced to "Amazing", "I’m Your Man" and "Freedom" even George danced along with his audience as only best he can. The response was a banner reading “George we kiss your hairy Greek arse”, these fans were clearly not your fly by night type. The night ended with George singing "I Remember You" accompanied by just a harp, which was a beautiful way to bring end events. As people filed out the orchestra continued to play versions of songs the songs performed during the night.

George is already a global icon, and this show had all the quality that a fan of an icon would expect. It would have been nice to have had got more of the George behind the sunglasses, and experience more of the wit that his friend credit him with having. However one can only assume that George wanted the music to speak for itself, if that was the case then it undeniably did. Although George has naturally matured, he showed that he is still one of the best male vocalists of our time, and stands far ahead and apart from the “blue eyed soul” label given to other white soulful vocalists like Michael McDonald, Justin Timberlake, or Robin Thicke. A fine show George Michael, your hairy Greek arse should be very happy with the end result!
Words Richard 'Ricardito' Ashie

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