Concert review of the performance George Michael gave at the at BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise, FL, USA on August 3, 2008 as part of the 25 Live Tour. Review written by Leslie Gray Streeter for The Palm Beach Post on August 8, 2008.
He wasn’t in the best voice: A persistent cold, sinus infection and the culmination of two long months of touring played havoc with some of the high notes he tried, and stopped him from attempting others altogether. And the neatly trimmed Leslie Gray Streeter salt-and-pepper beard covered a face more lined than that of the dewy young boy often seen frolicking, larger than life, on the screen behind him.
But on Sunday, the last night of the American leg of his “25” tour, George Michael’s soul-pop voice still powerfully and confidently filled Sunrise’s BankAtlantic Center, even in its occasional husky moments. His signature move a clappy side-to-side maneuver that’s somewhere between a hip shake, a shimmy and a club-worthy booty dance remained energetic and vigorous. And even two decades after the height of his pinup perfection, the former Wham! singer retains a sexual zing that had all the boys and girls twittering.
If Michael can deliver such a musically and emotionally punchy show, as he put it “sick as a dog,” it blows my mind imagining how good he would have been healthy.
And to think that the evening, spanning his early 1980s Brit boy-band success as one-half of Wham! to his latter-day status as a neo-disco god, started on the wrong foot because of a nearly hourlong delay. The printed tickets declared that the show would start “promptly” at 8, and by 8:50 p.m., the near sellout crowd tried cheering and clapping to rouse Michael onto the stage.
“Where are you?” a woman in our row asked. The answer came a few moments later, as Michael’s voice, singing Waiting (Reprise), was heard from behind a giant screen that swept like a wave from the floor to form a wall behind the stage, flashing images and colors like the disco dance floor from Saturday Night Fever.
“Here I am,” Michael sang, emerging black-clad from a door that opened suddenly in the screen.
If anyone had been annoyed by the delay, which, the singer apologetically explained, was cold-related, all appeared to be instantly forgiven.
He launched into the cheeky anti-monogamous come-ons of Fastlove, the crowd singing along with the refrain borrowed from Patrice Rushen’s Forget Me Nots.
He followed that with a sultry, slowed-down R&B take on Wham!’s I’m Your Man, and the crowd seemed satisfied to have even that brief nod to Michael’s past with former musical partner Andrew Ridgeley. But Michael, delightfully, was not.
“Come on, people. I wouldn’t do that to you,” he said, as the band restored the song to its perky 1985 origins to video flashes of Michael and Ridgeley in all their Choose Life T-shirted, sun-kissed poolside bare-chestedness and shoulder pad-blazered glory.
While some artists may have ignored the cheesiest portions of their resume, Michael, to his credit, willingly featured highlights from throughout his career, both the well- and lesser-known.
“I’m not trying to make a comeback in the States,” explained Michael. “But being the last night, we’ve got some partying to do.”
And so there was, with the majority of Michael’s material, including Outside and Father Figure, aging remarkably well. Everything She Wants, the 1984 saga of a money-grubbing bride and her overworked young husband, stood out alone as dated and, though well-sung, as goofy as it was 24 years ago, because ballads to the disco-heavy hits, you’re still going “If she’s a money-grubbing shrew, make her get a fr-king job!” But, you know . . . the ’80s.
Backed off high notes
Everything else was near perfect Michael gamely attempted a few of Father Figure’s high notes but backed off them when they didn’t come, staying in his rich lower register. He and his backup singers delivered a gorgeously organ-adorned gospel take on One More Try, and later he donned a police uniform, recalling the video for Outside, itself a nod to his Los Angeles arrest for indecent exposure. He covered much of his disco-heavy latter work including 1990’s Too Funky and 2006’s An Easier Affair.
Besides One More Try, the evening’s highest points were his cover of Nina Simone’s Feeling Good, which he said had become the “anthem of the tour,” and the final encore, Freedom ’90. The latter song, which in its original release appeared to be an artist’s rebellion against label attempts to package him, now reads like the poignant struggle of a young man coming to grips with his sexuality.
As the colors of the rainbow flashed behind him, Michael summoned what was left of his voice to sing “All we have to see/Is that I don’t belong to you/and you don’t belong to me.”
The funny thing is that in that moment, with assorted throngs of gay men, groups of ladies on a night out and thirtysomething couples of every orientation reliving their early adolescence, that wasn’t exactly true.
At that moment, George Michael’s words and struggles and even his 1980s fashion faux pas did indeed belong to the passionately singing audience, and theirs to him.
There were a couple of other songs it would have been nice to hear, like Kissing A Fool or Monkey, but the evening satisfied.
- List of Duets and Backup Vocals
- George Michael Interview with Capital FM Radio with Dr. Fox (Dec 1998)
- George Michael: Artist or Airhead? (Musician, 1988)
- George Michael’s Oprah Winfrey Show Interview (2004)
- BBC Hardtalk Interview with George Michael (2003)