Written by Dominick A Montalto for THE ARTISTS FORUM MAGAZINE
Edited by Jeremy Baumann for THE ARTISTS FORUM, INC
5 out of 5 stars
BY GEORGE, HE’S STILL GOT IT
NEW YORK, NY (Wednesday, July 23, 2008) It’s been seventeen years since British pop singer George Michael wowed audiences in North America with his natural talent for musical performance. This summer brings the third and final leg of 25Live – Michael’s current world tour, honoring the Silver Anniversary of this foray into the music industry, to packed venues in several cities across the country. The show was comprised of a twenty three song set-list which included hits old and new; from his legacy with Wham!, to his chart-topping solo albums Faith, through Patience.
Fans filled the Madison Square Garden Arena in midtown Manhattan shortly before the two and a half hour show began. The audience began screaming even before Michael appeared, as lights began to reveal the special effects which cascaded down the centerpiece of the stage: a curved, ultra-modern, armchair-shaped video screen that extended from ceiling to the stage and a set of steps leading to a lower stage area.
On either side of this technological masterpiece, whose metal surface contained three thousand MiStrip LED molecules, stood two video screens that not only displayed the constantly shifting and varying special effects, but also highlighted George, his six back-up vocalists, and the nine-piece band performing throughout the show.
All night long, the images passing from screen to screen allured and enthralled the audience with their size and crispness; at one point near the end of the show, while George was singing “A Different Corner”, a touching ballad, red- and brown-colored leaves were tossed across the screens as if whipping in the wind, and seemed to project out toward the audience.
During the bluesy turned up tempo version of Spinning the Wheel, an old-fashioned film reel rolled up the center screen displaying shots of various American icons and scandalous moments, including Marilyn Monroe and the infamous photo still of President Clinton embracing Monica Lewinsky. During several performances in the show, the songs were accompanied by the original music videos that ran on MTV, including the hits Fastlove, I’m Your Man from Wham!, Too Funky, Roxanne, and Freedom 90.
The show began with George singing a reprise of “Waiting” backstage, and after belting out the verse, “Is it too late to try again?/Here I am”, a door opened in the center screen allowing him to make his entrance to an audience that immediately erupted in deafening applause. It was an ingenious way for George to greet his fans, matching his musical stature, and begin his eagerly awaited return to the stage.
Appearing in an all-black suit and his signature shades for the entire night, except for a minor wardrobe change late in the show for “Outside”, Michael’s voice was impeccable and sexy; it is always a sublime moment when you first hear the long-familiar voice you’ve been listening to for almost twenty years sing live.
Switching from a fast-paced dance number to a more relaxed and intimate piece, Michael never failed to invite the audience to sing several of the lyrics for him in each song, calling upon them to scream and wave their hands high. Early on in the show, he gratefully thanked the crowd for their loyalty during the last twenty five years, and prefaced his performance of An Easier Affair with the words, “This is a song about doing whatever you want, and not giving a fuck about what other people think.” Later, before singing Amazing, he announced that this was a song celebrating love and for his partner, Kenny. The encore included his first solo ballad hit Careless Whisper, and Freedom 90, before which, he came out on stage asking his fans what they wanted to hear, since it would be his last number for the evening. The crowd overwhelmingly screamed Freedom, and that’s exactly what he gave his audience, not only in those last remaining moments, but all night long.
Michael claims the love he feels from his fans comes from the fact that they have been able to connect to his music because of its largely autobiographical element. Michael’s performances, Freedom 90 and Amazing in particular, demonstrated his comfort with this notion in the joy with which he sang. He displayed his love for his fans in the gracious way he accepted their repeated ovations, and by taking moments out to interact with them on a more conversational level. Michael’s ability to open up and keep charged the connection that his music, lyrics, and vocals create in his ever-youthful public has enabled him to keep his audience happy throughout the years, in spite of periods of recording silence.
The least enjoyable time of the night was when he took a twenty minute break, while the most outstanding and pumping moments of the show were found in the songs Everything She Wants, An Easier Affair, Too Funky, Amazing, “Flawless (Go to the City)”, and the finale, Freedom 90.
Though a consummate balladeer, these are the songs through which the provocative, yet unmistakable talent that is George Michael shines incandescently. Michael’s dance hits are driven; the electric spirit of the rhythms moves through him, causing him to find a groove and stay with it, dancing and singing his heart out, enticing his fans to do the same.
Although periodically out of the spotlight and finding himself a victim to public scrutiny throughout his career, George Michael’s return to stages across the world over the last three years has been nothing short of delightful. George Michael’s voice intoxicated his audience all night, proving that not only does he still have it, but also that he never lost it!
For more information about George Michael , visit: georgemichael.com