George Michael celebrates recovery at Vienna gig


Chart star George Michael declared it was “great to be alive” as he made a triumphant return to the stage in Vienna after fighting for his life 10 months earlier.

The 49-year-old, who performed at the London 2012 Olympics closing ceremony, resumed his previously postponed Symphonica tour in Austria, where he spent weeks in hospital battling pneumonia last November.

Thousands of fans packed the Stadthalle Wien last night as the singer, whose real name is Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, took to the stage in a purple suit and his trademark sunglasses.

The show - for which Michael has donated 1,000 tickets to the medical staff, as a thank you gift for saving his life - was the first of a number of rescheduled dates around Europe, including Paris and UK cities like Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff and London.

Michael paid a heartfelt tribute to the Austrian medical staff who brought him back from the brink of death.

"This is one of the greatest honours of my life, to sing to the men and women who saved my life," he said, before performing a rendition of Nina Simone's Feeling Good - a request from one of the doctors.

"It seems the right time for a request," he added.

Backed by the Czech National Symphony orchestra, he sang flawless and powerful covers of Rihanna's Russian Roulette, Rufus Wainwright's Going To A Town, Simone's My Baby Just Cares For Me and Sting's Roxanne, as well as his own songs including Father Figure, Waiting For That Day, Cowboys And Angels and Patience.

Michael, who changed to a black suit during an interval, returned for two encores, which saw him performing a medley of his hits - Amazing, I'm Your Man and Freedom.

Before his final song, his new single White Light, he revealed: "One last treat for you all before we go. I think given the manner of men and women who did save my life, we could not go without singing this song. Let's hear it for the people who saved my life!"

Following another date in Vienna on September 6, Michael - who celebrated his 30-year career in music in June - will head to Paris for a charity gala concert and Amsterdam before returning to the UK.