George Michael, State Opera House, Prague
Wednesday 24 August 2011
"I'm totally winging it," George Michael admits. Justifiably, the "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" singer has the "jitterbugs". It's been a turbulent couple of decades and this is an emotional, confessional gig.
There hasn't been a great deal of new material since his mid-90s peak, but there has been plenty of incident: the LA lavatory fiasco ("Zip Me Up Before You Go Go", as one tabloid put it); the car crash; the record-label wrangling; the drug taking (tonight he admits to passing out while talking on the phone to Rufus Wainwright, because he was "puffing" at the time); and the time served at Her Majesty's pleasure.
But, as the 48-year-old from north London once maintained, you gotta to have faith. And that faith is more than confirmed at this eventful start to his world tour, in which Michael is accompanied by a full symphony orchestra.
The former Wham! man has always been a captivating performer, unleashing his exquisite soul voice on his best body of work, 1990's Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, a superior pop album into which he dips tonight. He serves up a rare "Cowboys and Angels" and is suitably agonised on "Praying for Time". But, in the main, this is about Michael's crooning re-interpretations of other artists. Covering The Police's "Roxanne" is an error, but there are some smart covers too, including Terence Trent D'Arby's "Let Her Down Easy".
However, Michael's observations are too often laced with melancholy, loss and venom – "People like to make an exception for me," he claims. He looks most devastated before covering Amy Winehouse's "Love Is a Losing Game", informing us: "I'm in awe of this lady, the thought we won't be hearing her music anymore is so sad beyond words."
He's right, but come on, George, cheer up. It is a relief when we return to less awkward ground. "A Different Corner" is still an enduring, poignant pop record. And there is a giddy, thankfully jollier encore that includes "I'm Your Man" and "Freedom". Faith restored.
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