August 20, 2008

Review: George Michael, Live in Philly and DC, July '08

George Michael keeps retiring. It's such a cliche. He retires from live performance this weekend in London with The Final at Wembley. Then he's got a final Final lined up for Denmark next week. And then he'll tour the US again in a few years.

A few weeks ago I went to see Jorge's show here in DC. Countpopula (yes, his real name) attended the Philly date. Now, the Count and I go way back: I used to sing/dance and he used to stand next to me and look cute. But now I am finally letting him speak. For. One. Last. Time.

Countpopula: All I can say is, what a cathartic experience. Here I am finally getting to see somebody who I have been listening to for 26 years, and it was great. It may seem silly, but I cannot remember when I have gotten so emotional with the tears at any other show, including the reunion of the 5 original Duran members.

XO: I went to his Cover To Cover tour on Halloween in 1991. That arena was torn down, but GM - and you and I - are still standing! The surprise for me is that it took me back to the 90’s more than the 80’s. Although he has been a part of pop music since the early 80’s, I most associate him with college, when his two best albums came out. You saw him in Philadelphia right?

Right. The venue was full except for the top balcony, all empty.

Yes! We had nosebleed seats and they “relocated” us, so were only about 5 rows from the floor. Brilliant. Our section was filled with cheap-seat people. Les miserables who’d been brought down. It was an odd crowd.

George's voice was beautiful, and some of his performances were stunning. Praying for Time (SO much better than when on American Idol), Kissing a Fool, Father Figure and One More Try were particular highlights in the ballad category.

I don’t think he did Praying For Time in DC? Maybe I am forgetting it. He did a few things I was “meh” about.

Roxanne wasn't much, but he sang the shit out of it, as was Feeling Good, which you and I both seem to loathe, but it did have a sexy Dita von Teese video to accompany it.

He said that was for all the husbands who’d been dragged to the show. There was a young boy near us and I was like, “Well, I hope he enjoyed Dita’s titties…”

I was glad to hear he hasn't ditched all the Wham stuff, although a little Wake Me Up, Freedom 83 or Edge of Heaven would have been nice. Still, hearing things like I'm Your Man, Everything She Wants, Faith, Too Funky, Fastlove, Careless Whisper, and Freedom 90 for the first time were SO nostalgic, and in a good way.

I wonder if Andrew Ridgeley will show up at the final shows at Wembley? It would be nice. If it does not happen then, I don‘t think it ever will. I suppose Andrew is wondering what he would do on stage? I think all he has to do is clap hands and bend over a lot. No need to sing.

I know some have said George doesn't hit all the high notes anymore, but really, there are not that many who do in the live setting, just to save their voices. There was a short moment where he asked the venue to turn the AC down a bit because it was drying his throat out.

How Madonna of him. Did he do all your favorites?

He didn’t do my favorite--A Different Corner--but he did so many great things, it didn't really matter, although I think the audience wanted I Want Your Sex.

My favorite was the first song, Waiting. He did so many hits that I was trying to anticipate the encore and I’d guessed I Want Your Sex, forgetting about Freedom 90 – how could I forget that?

Hard Day was a nice little treat too. Surprising as many people knew the words to Outside and Spinning the Wheel that did!

Don’t get me started on the woman behind us. A redneck type who kept emitting high-pitched squeals and then would not only sing along, but riff. She kept ad-libbing to Hard Day with her horrible singing voice. Maybe it was Britney! I never looked at her. I have a longstanding joke with friends that I add ‘Woah! Yeah!” to the end of every song lyric and this woman literally did that. I kept praying her voice would wear out – it didn’t, but she was such a nutty fan that she moved down closer. I wonder what she thought of how George looked? We thought, “Oh, he looks great!” until we saw him on the big screens. He is 45 and looks like a 55-year-old Greek shipping magnate who’s been spending too much time on his yacht. The awful glasses, the medallions and chains. Wow.

He may look older, but the voice is still in good shape, even after all the joints. I'll be surprised if Whitney will be able to pull off what he did. Of course, he was never addicted to CRACK.

I was thrilled by Kissing A Fool. He sounded better on that now that he is older. He did change the notes on the bridge (“When you need the hand of another man…”), but it worked fine. He still has a basic set of like two dance moves that only he knows how to do though – that was pleasing! I thought the staging would be dull – all video-based, but it worked.

The screens were kind of cool, but nowhere near what I think Darren Hayes did on his last tour. I don't know how he didn't fall over with all those lights rushing under his feet!

I loved the staging for Flawless, where the lights crawled up the stage. I also like how he used the backing vocalists in various permutations. I think it was One More Try where they sort of surrounded him.

He seemed truly humbled with America's response. He got down on his knees and bowed to us, and kept talking about how hard it must be to be a George Michael fan. He was really trying to put forth some real energy.

Which is good, because the last time I saw him, at the Equality Rocks show in the 90’s, he was a really bitter pill. I wonder if this tour will affect how he approaches his career? He does like to talk about retiring, which I find tedious. Probably to smoke ganja!

If I never see him again, it was worth it…the more I think about the show, the more impressed I am at his ability to unite such a large crowd in an intimate way. I'm not sure even Bono can make such a big venue feel so tiny.

True. And I realized how accomplished he is at such a young age. This was one of those “soundtrack of our lives” shows, which tend to be very life-affirming. And then you think, “This man is stinking rich!”

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