Concert review of George Michael’s performance at the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland USA on August 6, 1988 for the Faith World Tour. The article was written by Michael Anft for The Evening Sun newspaper (Baltimore, MD) published on August 8, 1988.
IT WAS ABOUT 20 minutes before this decade’s Elvis was set to shake it when a swell of shrieks and screams filled the Capital Centre last night. Teenyboppers made mad dashes toward the commotion in the back of the arena, while others mugged and waved banners for roving cameras (from MTV, perhaps?).
A George Michael imitator had come out to mug for the cameras, causing a bit of pandemonium in the process. Michael’s faithful, never ones to miss a trick, were overjoyed until they figured out the scam. Then, they were disappointed.
Fortunately, Michael, our toy in babe-land, didn’t let them down. His 17-song, 100-minute set in front of the packed house proved that he has recovered from his six-week break for minor throat surgery. Michael also proved that he recognizes his crowd’s projective capacities, allowing said ‘boppers to peal their way through large segments of some of his hits solo, as it were.
Since this was only the second night of a lengthy U.S. tour, Michael can be forgiven for trying to save his voice. At least he temporarily interrupted that omnipresent shrieking.
Michael started off predictably with the propagate-the-species funk of “I Want Your Sex,” punctuating his cadences with moves lifted straight from The Pelvis and James Brown. Sex machine, you bet. His stage backdrop, a cage bathed in mood lighting found in only the finer motels, filled out the animal imagery of the song perfectly, even though he played his “Sex” rather safely vocally, as he did on many of the other upbeat numbers.
He didn’t spare the cords on his ballads, however, dynamically building climaxes to the finer moments of Stevie Wonder’s “Love’s In Need of Love Today,” his own, sub-Freudian “Father Figure,” “Careless Whisper” and the dreamy “Hand to Mouth.” “One More Try” especially elicited the swoons of audience fantasizers, many of whom tried, rather unsuccessfully, to conjure up their own harmonies.
It wasn’t as if they hadn’t already had their chance to duet with Gorgeous George. “I Knew You Were Waiting For Me,” his hit with Aretha Franklin, was filled out by thousands of young lungs, as was half of the Bo Diddley-beat-inflected “Faith.” Although there’s a campiness akin to singing along with a Wayne Newton medley in all of this, the strong bond between audience and performer was undeniable.
Michael, with the help of his better-than-adequate seven-piece backing group, did manage to get the funk out on some numbers, even though his voice was lacking a certain wanton spirit on many of them. Michael is in a class by himself in the genre that tritely became known as blue-eyed soul, a fact that comes to light when he gives full reign to his gift for guttural inflections and occasional falsetto.
His studied talent served him well on numbers like “Everything She Wants” and the raucous “Monkey.” He failed to truly light into Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music” (his would-be biography?), though, perhaps becoming overwhelmed by self-consciousness.
Still, by the encore, which included a way-too-long cover of LaBelle’s “Lady Marmalade” and a reprise of “I Want Your Sex,” he still had them shrieking in the aisles.
All Michael has to figure out now is whether he wants to be the second coming of Elvis or the next Mitch Miller.
- George Michael Interview with Capital FM Radio with Dr. Fox (Dec 1998)
- Wham! Interview: The Morals of Funk (Sounds, 1982)
- George Michael: The Lone Star State Interview on Q Magazine (June 1988)
- George Michael: The Reluctant Pop Star (Calendar Magazine, Sept 1990)
- BBC Hardtalk Interview with George Michael (2003)