by guest blogger Ada Onwudinanti
Date: October 14 2012
Venue: Earl’s Court (London, UK)
It’s Sunday October 14, 8 PM. I’m in my seat in block A1 of Earls Court, and looking around me I see that almost every seat is finally filled. It won’t be long now before George Michael will make his big entrance. It’s the second-to-last show of the Symphonica: The Orchestral Tour. A kind of jazzy Muzak is being pumped through the sound system; the biggest noise however doesn’t come from the music but from the audience. Earls Court is a huge venue, it holds around 17.000 people who right now all seem to be talking excitedly, creating a lovely – and loud – buzz.
We can see shadows moving behind the beautiful red curtain that for now is hiding the stage from view; the members of the orchestra are taking their seats on stage. After a few minutes we hear odd sounds coming from behind the curtain: a few drum rolls and the sound of thirty or so musicians all tuning their instruments at the same time.
Then the lights go out and we all cheer as George starts singing the first song of the night, “Through” – from his 2004 album Patience. The cheers turns into a roar when he sings the line: “So hear me now”. Clearly, the crowd likes what it hears! Because George is once again in fine voice; he is one of those artists that sounds at least as good performing live as they do on the CD. At the end of the song the curtains finally open slowly and there he is, standing at the top of the stairs in the middle of the stage, dressed in a beautiful black suit. On the big screen behind him the word Symphonica appears in bright white letters against a vivid red background. After the last notes of “Through” George walks to the front of the stage and beams at us as we give him his first standing ovation of the night. No question about it, he’s in a very good mood tonight and I know we’re in for a wonderful night.
The first half moves rather quickly. We get plenty of ballads and up-tempo songs, with George urging us to get to our feet for the up-tempo songs. “Lets see your hands”, he orders us and we all clap along and wave at him, hoping for a look in our direction. One of the highlights of the first half of the concert is the Rufus Wainwright cover “Going To A Town”. This is a wonderful, powerful song with amazing lyrics. But it took George Michael’s vocals and the orchestral arrangement of Henry Hey – the musical director of Symphonica – to bring out it’s true magic. It’s a big song and George gives it his all. Another highlight is George’s emotional rendition of one of his own songs: “You Have Been Loved”. As he’s done every night this tour George dedicates this song to the memory of his mother and his deceased former lover Anselmo, prompting 17.000 people to go “Aww” in sympathy for this talented man who’s still grieving the loss of his loved ones.
George ends the first half of the show on a high note with a cover of the classic “Brother Can You Spare A Dime”, that’s been given the big band treatment. In the middle of the song he lets the orchestra take over for a little while. I heard the orchestra rehearse this bit last year in Verona (it was an open air venue) and it’s amazing what this group of talented musicians can do when they go all out. Sitting in the warm evening breeze and hearing that orchestra play during the sound-check is one of my happiest memories of the Symphonica tour.
We start the second half of the concert still in party mood with another George Michael song: “Waiting For That Day”. From behind the curtain George tells us to get to our feet again. It’s big fun and we even get to sing along: “You can’t always get what you want”! Perhaps not, but singing along with George Michael sure is nice.
George is busy wowing the crowd and in between singing his heart out for us he even finds the time to turn down a wedding proposal. A girl in the crowd is holding up a green sign. It says in big yellow letters:” Hi George, I’m Kelly, will you marry me??!! It’s actually a very cute sign – it even has lights – clearly crafted with love and attention for detail. Kelly brings it to every show she goes to, how she manages to smuggle it in every time is anybody’s guess. After seeing it so often George finally takes pity on her and lets her down gently. “I can’t marry you Kelly”, he tells her to the delight of the audience, “I’ve got a boyfriend”. Ever the gentleman he blows her a friendly kiss to make up for turning her down. Needless to say Kelly is over the moon, a full day later she’s still on cloud nine, tweeting excitedly about what happened.
Halfway through the second half of the concert George gives us a little, knowing smile. “You’re gonna like this one”, he predicts. Heh, he knows us so well, the crowd goes indeed ballistic when we hear the first few notes of A Different Corner. It’s so popular with every crowd and it isn’t long before everyone is singing along with George: “Little by little you brought me to my knees”!
Before we know it, it’s time for the last song of the night, “Feeling Good” (a Nina Simone cover). George asks us: “London, are you feeling good?” Of course we are! Everyone has been on their feet for the last few songs. First there’s the Rihanna cover of “Russian Roulette” which always goes down a treat. Then there is a new, up-tempo version of “Praying For Time” which I think is far better than the original. It’s got partly new lyrics, written by George in 2011 during the first leg of Symphonica.
After “Feeling Good”, George Michael bows gracefully for us, bids us good night and walks off stage. The crowd goes berserk, doing all they can to lure him back quickly.We get two encores; first up is the medley of “Amazing”,” I’m Your Man” and “Freedom 90”. The medley is a crowd favourite at every single show, even the rather stuffy crowd at his charity concert at the Royal Opera House last year couldn’t resist having a big old party! At Earls Court everyone is dancing in front of their seat and having a blast.
After the medley we get another encore: “I Remember You”. It’s a sweet song and George clearly loves singing it, for the last time that night pouring all his feeling into his voice. “Think of this as a lullaby”, George instructs us. “Try to be quiet”. The crowd is indeed reasonably quiet. The management of Earls Court however is not, halfway through the song a voice over the intercom begins talking about train times. It doesn’t matter, nothing can ruin this wonderful night!
Our guest blogger Ada is a huge George Michael fan. She currently runs a George Michael Tour Blog that provides detailed reviews of MANY of George Michael’s Symphonica concerts AND 25Live concerts. For more George Michael tour awesomeness, log on to Ada’s Unofficial George Michael Tour Blog.
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