Wham! performed in Miami Baseball Stadium as part of the WhamAmerica! 1985 tour on September 6, 1985. This concert review was written by Annie Hull and published in St. Petersburg Times newspaper on September 9, 1985.
From the start, British pop supergroup Wham! has treated itself to an exclamation point following the title of the band. And they deserve that punctuation mark when it comes to record sales. Wham! is the first album of the decade to produce three consecutive No. 1 singles.
But when it comes to live performances, a crotchety old English teacher would have whipped out her 1 red pen and slashed away the “!” in – Wham! She and other discerning pop ‘music fans would have suggested Wham, with a comma. Their concert last Friday evening at the Miami Baseball Stadium was full of pauses and dragged-out versions of their records. When a band only has two albums to draw from, it makes every song good to the last teenybop drop. Musically, the show was excruciatingly dull.
Wham! is George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley. Both 22 years old, they have managed to catapult from nobodies to teen idols. This is their first U.S. tour. They should be riding around the country in a secondhand Greyhound playing tiny concert halls, in Santa Fe or Boulder or Birmingham. Instead, these guys are playing a limited stadium tour and will probably come close to selling out each time they blow into town. It’s the Age of MTV Reason, where logical rock ‘n’ roll dues are never paid. Wham! is making it big with no visible scars to show for it.
BUT LOGIC plays no part in the teen idol business. In Miami, Wham! delighted more than 34,000 absolutely berserk admirers, most of whom were young and female. The scene near the stage was something out of an old American Bandstand clip, when the girls would see Elvis or Fabian and start speaking in tongues. ‘ Wham!’s music wasn’t what evoked the squeals and shrieks. Sure, it was decent enough Bazooka formulaic pop. But what made the crowds go wild was the video screens, especially when the camera lingered on George Michael’s black leather-swaddled rear end. ‘
The concert opened not with roaring vocals, but with an instrumental version of “Everything She Wants.” The Wham! boys pranced “back and forth across the length of the stage for a good five minutes, with not one peep coming from Michaels’ mouth or one lick coming from Ridgley’s guitar. They sashayed across the stage as if it were a Miss Universe Pageant swimsuit competition. This type of sexual camp invited riotous behavior from the girls up in front.
Wham! played for almost two hours, but their set was mostly songs from their second album, Make It Big, the record that made Wham! recognizable in the U.S. They played a few songs from their first album, Fantastic, which initially bombed in the U.S when it was released here a couple of years ago. The crowd knew the lyrics word for word. Wham! also introduced a new song called “The Edge of Heaven,” which is a decent little pop tune with an un-Wham!-like semi-steaming guitar solo.
The music was an unsurprising yet accurate delivery of their recorded songs and videos. What the music was lacking in soul, Michael and Ridgely made up for in their erotic aerobics. They are fit for any Las Vegas revue or chorus line. These guys work. Throughout the entire two hours, they were crooning, running, gyrating and doing Singin’ In the Rain improvisations.
EVERYTHING ABOUT the show was shiny. Most outdoor concerts consist of dirty ankles and warm beer. Not the Wham! show. It was played on a green baseball field with Pepsi as the main beverage. Even the battalion of glistening, yellow Port-o-Lets that flanked the right of the stage appeared more prop than necessity. Wham! is a toy store gadget that sings of credit cards and love machines. But that’s what most of its listeners seem to identify with.
“The Whammer Boys are like people I know,” says David Gohman, 20, of Orlando. “I don’t know any guys who act like Springsteen. Wham! is much more about real life.” Springsteen, who often sings of unpleasant truths like unemployment and broken dreams, is idealistically a million miles away from what the kids at Wham! understand. They are infinitely interested in a cool haircut and a private cordless phone in their bedroom.
The crowd seems to appreciate Wham! for much more than their music. Wham! is a total pop package to be reckoned with. “They are sex symbols, but to both men and women,” says Christopher Vidal, 25, of Key West. “They are universal and glamorous.”
Joni Romanchek, 16, of Satellite Beach, says she started liking Wham! “before anyone else did. They are total entertainers.” She admits partiality towards George Michael, as does most everyone else. Wham!, for the most part, is George Michael.
Though the crowd was largely young girls, there were quite a few exuberant mothers in the audience. Hanging over a stadium rail was a young boy trying to get his mother’s attention. “Mommy, mommy,” the kid whined and tugged on his mother’s tight Calvins. Mommy, however, was in Wham! bliss and couldn’t hear a thing. Her binoculars were bouncing wildly on her chest and she was dancing to “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.”
OTHER MOTHERS, however, were less pleased with the Wham! concert. Several parents were separated from their children in the crush of the crowd. Fire hoses were turned on the crowds to cool them down and to keep them back from the stage.
Susan Croughwell, 40, of Miami, was soaked by the water and somehow lost her daughter in the chaos.
“The water is a big problem,” Croughwell said, dripping from the onslaught of a hose. “Okay, sure, at 5 o’clock when the sun is out. But now it’s dark. People are getting trampled on for no reason. And no one is telling the crowds to scoot back,” she said. In fact, every few minutes near the front of the stage, a stretcher would haul off a body that had been battered by the heat and crowds.
“I don’t know what their parents will say when they get home,” Croughwell said. “The ones on stretchers look like they’re tripping out on acid. I mean, 20 years ago when I was a hippie, drugs weren’t that bad.”
Over 130 fans were treated in the first aid room, according to Mark Knobel, medical events supervisor for the City of Miami. “These are young kids, they are excited, they can’t sleep or eat the night before the show. They’re vulnerable.” Knobel said most of those treated were young girls with heat exhaustion or high anxiety. There were reports of a possible ruptured spleen and fractured skull due to the surges of the crowd near the front of the stage. Very few cases were drug or alcohol related, according to Knobel.
Aside from the first aid room, the rest of the night was good-hearted hysteria. Katrina and the Waves took the stage first and played a ragged seven-song set. The Pointer Sisters followed with an energetic hour of their most recent music, but the big stadium seemed to swallow their spirit. Still, the music was just fine. They came on at twilight in their infamous neon can-can outfits, kicking and strutting and doing the Neutron Dance. They plugged the show into more energy than Whaml’s music would generate.
But Wham! is the reason the crowd came. They were not disappointed. In pretty wrapping paper held together with hairspray, the Wham! boys were presents from heaven to their young fans. It will be interesting to note how long the kids will fancy their Wham! toy before they throw it down for a new sensation. For now, Wham! has their undivided loyal and financial attention.
- Wham!’s Last Week, Smash Hit Magazine (July 1986)
- Wham! Interview in Miami During the ‘Careless Whisper’ Filming (1984)
- Teeny-boppers, moms, yuppies rock out with Michael (Orlando Sentinel, 1988)
- George Michael: The Lone Star State Interview on Q Magazine (June 1988)
- Wham-bushed! (Record Mirror, 1983)