Reviewed by John Aizlewood for the Evening Standard
George Michael, Earls Court, November 06
George is still your man
Love, as popular music informed us long ago, is strange. Take George Michael. After the daftness of his outing, after the embarrassing public snoozing after late-night drives; after the dreadful covers album and after the mixture of fear and sloth which prevented him from touring for 15 years, he remains dearly loved.
So just after Star People, Michael received a lengthy ovation merely for sitting on a stool. "This tour has reminded me that for all the shit we see, there's still so much love around," he noted. "I sorry I didn't realise that many years ago."
Michael has always been musically bold. Last night's 160-minute show (albeit with a momentum-sapping interval) was no exception. With a band tucked away in darkness on a stage set which resembled a budget Jailhouse Rock set and far-from-lavish graphics, Michael mostly had to fill the enormous stage by himself.
A tall task for one who never pretended to be a natural showman, who still refuses to remove his sunglasses and who dances like a hod-carrier from Hoddesdon.
That he succeed so completely, that he managed to entrance the whole aircraft hangar was tribute not merely to the crowd's adoration (some remarkably hopeful women screamed at him), but to his genuinely brave decision to offer a concert to listen to rather than watch. Sometimes, less is more, hence the highlight, Praying For Time.
For that always stately ballad, Michael, accompanied only by someone the crowd couldn't see on keyboards, eschewed big screen and graphics and simply sang: the silence and reverence from the floor was deafening. Sometimes, it seems, Michael's off-field activities-obscure just where his gifts lie.
Erstwhile Sugababe Mutya Buena duetted in sultry fashion on the adult-themed This Is Not Real Love, but there were greater surprises, chiefly My Mother Had A Brother, a moving tale of Michael's probably gay uncle who committed suicide in 1963, "when this country treated being gay in the same way as Africa does today".
There were mistakes too and not just the cartoon helicopter with its resolutely unhilarious "LAPeed" livery which accompanied Outside. Shoot The Dog was an anti-Bush rant so mind-numbingly heavyhanded I made enquiries as to whether it is possible to donate compensatory blood to the Republican Party (it isn't). It climaxed in toe-curling fashion with a 40-foot inflatable President-style figure being fellated by a British bulldog. George Michael is 43 years old.
For the most part this was joyous, greatest hits fare, even Wham!'s I'm Your Man and Everything She Wants. Meanwhile, Careless Whisper's "guilty feet have got no rhythm" line remains as stunning now as it was in 1984, Freedom ("something which this country seems to be forgetting," he sniffed) was a jaunty closer and, if the backdrop to Jesus To A Child suggested Christ was a white Brad Pitt lookalike, the song's towering grace was undimmed.
"Fantastic, really fantastic," he murmured as a parting shot. He wasn't far wrong.