George Michael, Earls Court, London
Tuesday 26 August 2008
When George Michael walked on to the stage at London's Earls Court, in one of the final dates of his two-year farewell tour, he told fans that they were lucky to see a show that he had practised 103 times. He was right: this was big-budget showmanship at its best.
Michael's style – stacked heels, blazer, signature shades – hasn't changed much since his heyday. But then neither have his loyal followers: they were there for a good dose of nostalgia, and that is what they got.
The show opened with his 1990 track "Waiting for That Day" and "Fast Love" from 1996's Older, but it wasn't until Michael launched into the Wham! classic "I'm Your Man" that the evening really got going.
Like so many songs from Wham!, the 1980s band Michael formed with Andrew Ridgeley, this track is a singalong classic. At times, the audience was crooning so loudly that Michael was just the MC, directing an ensemble performance in the world's biggest karaoke bar.
Upbeat songs were mixed with slower numbers such as "Father Figure", which showed off his still pitch-perfect voice, even if perching on a stool left him looking like a middle-aged member of Westlife.
Between songs, Michael displayed the self-deprecating wit that has helped him to remain popular for so many years. Returning from a string of dates he has just played in the US, he joked that Americans know him as "the bloke who did 'Faith', among other things". This was just the first reference to that infamous sex scandal. He later appeared dressed as a policeman for "Outside", the satirical 1998 song he recorded after being arrested by an undercover police officer for engaging in a sex act in a Beverly Hills lavatory.
Surprisingly good covers of "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face", first made popular by Roberta Flack, Nina Simone's "Feeling Good" and "Roxanne" by The Police showcased his versatility and vocal range.
The opening chords of 1987's "Faith" drove the crowd into paroxysms of excitement. One got the feeling that they'd have happily coughed up the ticket price for that song alone. Wrapping up with 1984's "Careless Whisper" and the anthem "Freedom 90", Michael once more had the house singing along. At the end of this mammoth "farewell" tour, however, no one quite believed him when he sang, "I'm never going to dance again."
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