Greg Kot of Chicago Tribune wrote this concert review of George Michael’s performance at the Rosemount Horizon in Chicago USA on October 20, 1991 during his Cover 2 Cover tour.
It used to be easy to write off George Michael as just another in a long line of pretty-boy pop singers, but no more.
As he demonstrated Saturday night at the Rosemont Horizon, there’s more to Michael than just gleaming teeth and carefully fertilized facial stubble.
Despite the more somber image presented on his last album, “Listen Without Prejudice, Volume I,” the 28-year-old Brit still puts on a show steeped in skin-deep pleasures. Scrape a little deeper, however, and Michael’s brand of dance music reveals surprising backbone.
Although he’s now the, er, butt of a joke made famous in a savage “Saturday Night Live” parody, Michael acted as if he could care less that some skeptics view him as a self-absorbed prima donna.
Even as Michael sashayed across the stage with the well-lubricated finesse of a disco regular, he didn’t seem to take himself all that seriously. What mattered was the music’s inescapable groove, and many in the nearly full house took the singer’s cue and shimmied along with him.
More surprising was the catholicity of Michael’s taste in dance music, his figurative embrace of its black, Hispanic and gay pioneers.
This connection was made explicit Saturday by Michael’s choice of songs from David Bowie’s “Fame” to Rufus’ “Ain’t Nobody” and the Latin and house rhythms that he and his eight-piece band ran through them.
Jonathan Moffett’s driving kick drum quickened the pace of the Temptations’ “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” and turned it into 10-minute epic that would’ve fit snugly into the late-night mix at a West Side warehouse party.
Deon Estus’ subterranean bass propelled Soul II Soul’s “Back to Life,” during which Michael was joined by vocalist Lynn Mabry for a duet that was as much heard as felt, in the heat-seeking interplay of their voices and bodies.
Michael also demonstrated the roots of modem dance music in soul, rhythm and blues and gospel with arrangements that blended the latest keyboard technology with acoustic guitars and a choir.
He dipped back to his days in the pop duo Wham! for “Freedom,” only to strip the pop song of its froth by employing only his voice, Danny Jacobs’ acoustic guitar and Estus’ bass.
For “Freedom 90,” in which Michael repents for his Wham! image, he brought out the red-robed 19-voice choir for a finale worthy of a Baptist church.
On a night that Michael paid tribute to other artists and songs and re-arranged many of his own, it was fitting that when he sang Elton John’s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” John himself bounded onstage to belt out a few bars.
Like John, Michael reminds us that even in the transitory world of pop, some songs and even a few singers are worth a closer look.
- George Michael: Artist or Airhead? (Musician, 1988)
- “Michael Unmasked:” George Michael Interview in Chicago Tribune (1988)
- George Michael in Q Magazine Interview (October 1990)
- ‘Too Funky:’ Story of A George Michael Charity Record
- Symphony Orchestra Tributes to George Michael