Ladies and Gentlemen | An Evening With George Michael

state_george-michael_sm.jpgOn a night that coincidentally marked his 45th birthday, the two-time Grammy Award winner came out on stage old-school style, equipped only with a microphone and a stool.







Recently, I traveled to Los Angeles where I had the pleasure of seeing the magnificent George Michael live in concert. This is Michael’s first U.S. tour since 1988, and it was definitely worth the wait. Although he’s been out of the pop music spotlight for over a decade, it was obvious to all of us lucky enough to see him that, even after all these years, Michael is still one of the greatest and most talented singers in the music industry today.

The L.A. concert took place on June 25 at The Forum. The place was totally packed, chock-full of enthusiastic fans wearing the infamous "CHOOSE LIFE" t-shirts, which George’s band Wham! sported back in 1984 in their breakthrough video "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go." Admirers stood in long lines to buy concert booklets, key chains, and the requisite posters, too, in advance of the main reason we were all there: To hear the amazing man himself belt out all of his most famous, most popular tunes.

In a marvelous concert that lasted just over two hours, the British soul/pop/rock icon sang just about each and every one of his songs that has ever topped the charts. He even treated us to a few gems that weren’t all-out hits, songs that only his truest, most diehard fans would know and love. In addition, he delivered several Wham! tunes, including "I’m Your Man" and "Everything She Wants." But almost as suddenly as it began, in the blink of an eye it seemed the concert was over, and Michael’s 120-minute-plus electric, eclectic set had whizzed by. Honestly, I could’ve easily stayed in the arena for another two hours at least, listening to Michael perform even more. He was just that captivating, just that incredible, just that good.

What I loved most about the entire show was that there was absolutely no pomp or circumstance. From start to finish, Michael confidently commanded the stage by himself, proving that the only things a truly talented, real singer needs are his voice, his band and his backup singers. Simple, basic fundamentals — that ought to be the name of the game for a bona fide, authentic professional singer. That’s it. No need for half-clad video vixens strutting on stage beside him. No need for shocking pyrotechnics intended to razzle dazzle and leave the audience deaf, blind and/or speechless. No way, no such silliness required.

Obviously Michael agrees with me. On a night that coincidentally marked his 45th birthday, the two-time Grammy Award winner came out on stage old-school style, equipped only with a microphone and a stool. Simple, basic fundamentals and he was set, secure in his own natural talents and proven ability to entertain. Wisely, and thankfully for every one of us in the audience, Michael didn’t even bother to book an opening act. It’s like he read our minds and intuitively knew that, after 20 years of waiting for him, we had absolutely no interest whatsoever in seeing anyone else on stage that night but him. After all, why dally with a boring appetizer when you can dig right into the scrumptious main course?

Another wonderful thing that I loved about Michael’s performance is that he sang his songs live the same way he does on his recordings, and as a result, everyone in the audience could happily sing along with him. If you ask me, that’s exactly how a concert should be. I can’t stand it when I pay good money to see a show, only to discover too late that the artist has decided to get "creative" and rework his hit music, failing to realize that most fans will be left feeling out in the cold, totally disappointed and frustrated by the weird, non-familiar changes. Thankfully, Michael didn’t go there. Instead, he was the consummate performer, singing each tune the way we’ve all grown accustomed to hearing them on our decades-old cassette tapes, albums and CDs, and inviting the crowd throughout the evening to sing along with him, particularly during his final exhilarating encore of "Careless Whisper."

After enjoying my super cool evening at the Forum, I left the concert with an even greater appreciation for him than I’ve had ever since he first burst onto the scene nearly 25 years ago. Sure, I grew up with Wham!, and I certainly was his number one fan during the "Faith" years. I loved his music so much that I continued to listen and support his soulful sound even after he fell off the pop charts and subsequently off the music industry radar. That’s why seeing him perform live was such a special treat.

I’ve been listening from afar with my own ears for more than 20 years, but finally, on June 25, I actually got to see with my own eyes, up close and personal, what a truly gifted musician, singer and songwriter George Michael really is. Even now, weeks after the extraordinary event, I’m still in awe of the fact that, for one brief shining moment, I experienced a dream come true watching him live on stage. Trust me, ladies and gentlemen, the best of George Michael really is just that captivating, just that incredible, just that good. | Retannical D. Russell

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