Learn the story of the night Aretha Franklin joined George Michael on the stage with him in Detroit on August 29, 1988. Article was written by Gary Graff for Detroit Free Press and published on August 31, 1988.
“It was wonderful, fabulous, just great,” Aretha gushed during a late dinner Monday at the Palace Grille, more than an hour after she had joined George Michael on stage at the Auburn Hills arena.
For the more than 16,200 fans who packed the Palace for each of the British pop star’s shows Monday and Tuesday, she couldn’t have put it better.
Franklin’s presence — to recreate the duo’s chart-topping duet, “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) — helped turn the 25-year old Michael’s Detroit-area stops into international news. Teen pop star Debbie Gibson flew in from her own tour to catch the duet, enjoying the dinner with Michael before the show. “Entertainment Tonight,” “Good Morning America,” MTV and Black Entertainment Television showed up, and the Associated Press was besieged with requests for photos of Michael and Franklin together.
But without the cameras, without Franklin, without Gibson and without the extra hype, Michael’s two hour, 16-song show as still an Event, a cohesive, well-paced piece of pop theater that was a slap on the face to anyone who once kissed him off as a lightweight pop tart.
Thanks to his “Faith” album — which has sold more than 15 million copies — the former Wham! leader is at a popularity peak right now. But rather than coast on his success, he and his seven piece band — which featured native Detroiter and opening act Deon Estus — kept the fans on their feet, screaming and dancing and singing along from the second the house lights went down and Michael charged into “I Want Your Sex.”
Michael kept them there most of the night, too, with a stage show out of a Broadway producer’s wildest dreams and a set that included most on the ‘Faith” album, some choice bits from Wham! (“Everything She Wants,” “I’m Your Man,” “Careless Whisper”) and covers of Stevie Wonder’s “Love’s In Need of Love Today” and two disco-era hits — Wild Cherry’s “Play that Funky Music” and LaBelle’s “Lady Marmalade.”
Like his predecessors in the world of hot — Prince, Madonna, Duran Duran — Michael sold sex, but he included romance in the package. He wasn’t afraid for instance, to quiet the crowd and ask his fans to sit down and listen to quiet numbers like “Father Figure,” “A Different Corner” and “One More Try”. And during the uptempo songs he prowled the stage, executing perfectly timed bump maneuvers that were as much the mark of a man enjoying himself as they were attempts to seduce the audience.
“The happiest moments for me are on stage,” he said in an interview earlier this month. “That feeling when you know a crowd is going absolutely crazy and had a great time can’t be beaten.”
That was certainly the case at the Palace. Just before reprising “I Want Your Sex,” Michael told the crowd that “No bull– , this was the best night of the tour.” He may well say that to all his audiences, but it was definitely a great night of entertainment for the people who paid to see it.
- Wham!’s Last Week, Smash Hit Magazine (July 1986)
- Queen Sees More Duets (Detroit Free Press, 1988)
- George Michael Interview with Capital FM Radio with Dr. Fox (Dec 1998)
- ‘Last Christmas’ Movie Production Notes
- After George Michael Strained His Back (Smash Hits, 1985)