George Michael – A New Chapter: Review, Nice 2011 Symphonica : The Orchestral Tour

23 09 2011

Back in 2008 when George Michael declared he would not be touring again, what he meant was he would never tour in the same rock n roll fashion of the past 25 odd years. He wanted to “close at the top”.

He’s been from a “teen heart throb” disco king, to A list rock star, to coming out as a gay man during the past 30 years. He has used his appeal to raise funds for the Aids hospice London Lighthouse appeal, Aids Foundation, Equality Rocks charity and the Rainbow Trust children’s charity and many more.

His most recent fund raising was in March 2011, in support of Comic Relief. George released his cover of the New Order hit, “True Faith,” and his fans responded in kind by purchasing the song and doing their part to help raise over £74,000,000 for this UK-based charity.

He is definitely one of the top global icons in the music industry, having sold over 100 million albums in the world. He has had his highs and lows and more highs. The conundrum for such a mega star who has achieved so much, is where to go from here?

Well you can either keep rockin, a la Rolling Stones style; hit the Las Vegas Boulevard and walk in the footsteps of the King Elvis; or do something different. George surprised some of his fans perhaps by teaming up with the The Orchestra Symphonica – to build something that is above your typical lounge bar crooner performance. The new tour will deliver over 60 concert performances across Europe. He is performing not only a carefully chosen selection of his songs, spanning all his remarkable near 30-year career, but also some of his favourite songs from other artists. It’s a punishing schedule and one hopes that his magic voice will hold out.

George has been working with the orchestra to present a new classical spin to each song that he will perform. As his publicity notices claim “It’s unmistakeably George Michael, but not as we’ve ever known him.”

So this leads up to the concert in Nice, France 22 September 2011. I was one of the lucky people to secure tickets and here is my personal review of the show:

The Audience Await

The teasing continues

The 6000 plus, mainly 40 something crowd, waited expectantly for the grand new show. Sexy red shadows painted the long silk curtains with floodlit accents; then changed to icy Indigo blue at the sound of the distant orchestra commencing their musical repartee. To hoots and hollers George Michael emerged on the stage. Dressed in the de rigueur uniform of successful creatives, though with Armandi style black suit and matching tie. Wearing “bad ass” tinted glasses and sporting a short-cropped hairdo and refined beard, George commenced with Through. One was immediately presented with a very grown up George. His relaxed style and singing ease reflected the true power of his voice. He came across as a man who knew what he wanted to achieve and exuded pure class and confidence with every breath he took.

Visions of yesteryear crooners and Las Vegas style shows did enter in my head as I sat back to enjoy the show. George remained seated on a stool at the beginning of the show – a la Tony Bennet – but revved up his performance as the evening progressed. In fact, there were a number of obvious differences to other ‘rock” shows I have recently attended. During the first half of the two part set show, one could only see a few people holding up cameras or mobile phones to capture a souvenir shot. This was in stark difference to rock concerts where 90 percent of the crowd are all wannabee cameramen/women. Clearly this audience was not from the profile of X, Y or 2.0 Generation, who want to have most of their living moments recorded and shared online. As a result, it was quite a refreshing and liberating event to enjoy the clear sounds of George’s voice, minus screaming girls and absence of waving hands blocking one’s view with a camera phone.

U2’s Bono was urging his fans to put the cameras down and enjoy and dance to no avail during his Claw show back in 2009 – Clearly now he knows what he needs to do to achieve that goal!

George Michael - live Nice Sept 2011

During the first hour of the show, George moved through his eclectic list of songs. Including those songs that greatly influenced his own music and writing. This selection included My Baby Just Cares for Me – the famous 1928 jazz number by Walter Donaldson, as written for the Ziegfeld musical comedy Whoopee.
George’s performance of “Kissing a fool”, delivered real passion. He was sweating profusely as the hypnotic light show swirled behind. The lighting was in fact, one of the most high tech and imaginative I have witnessed. It included a huge 3D projection of George, thus allowing all the fans to get their up close and personal view of their star. As he pumped out the lyrics faultlessly – no auto-tune required for George – one reflected that he is finally true to his lyrics in this song:

But you’ll never find piece of mind, til you listen to your heart.”

No longer a music producers’ pawn, but able to choose when and what type of music he wants to work with and share with his fans.

On this note, I should mention the excellent musical arrangements performed by the Symphonica orchestra. Around 40 musicians serenaded the audience with the new nuances laid over the original songs that were then given a unique classical twist. I especially enjoyed the harp and cello performances.

This softer George, was clearly wearing his heart on his sleeve, as he acknowledged and sang tributes to his mother (You have been loved), a new song for his beau, Kenny Goss, as well as a tribute to Amy Winehouse during the second half.

Tribute to Amy

During the twenty-minute break, fans speculated on what songs would be shared during the second part. George had promised the audience that there would be the opportunity to sing and dance at the end of the show. It struck me it was like a father bribing his children to stay calm, go with the flow, to allow him to unveil his new baby of re-mixed music and then he would reward the crowd’s patience with some upbeat greatest hits. After all, the fan base had grown up with George, and whilst nostalgia is great, we did have to admit, that we perhaps couldn’t party the way we did back in the 1980’s!

The group at bar enjoyed also speculating on a potential costume change and the ability to hear more upbeat songs to tap along with!

Sadly no costume change materialised and the sleek, George, Clooney-style, continued to entertain for the remainder of the evening.

Humour was applied with his introduction to the “John and Elvis” number. Recounting that this song could apply to fading rock and roll stars such as Elton John and of course himself!

A wonderful montage of images from the 1970 – 80’s, played behind of the songs in the second set. These were clearly personal choices from George on people that have touched his life and indeed, the world (John & Yoko, Mother Teresa, Princess Diana, Mandella etc).

The tempo changed once again for the art deco inspired rendition of “You Changed”. The 1930-40 pin up girl imagery was spot on and it provided the crowd with a reprieve to the slightly heavier performance to-date.

He included his True Faith number that had raised 74,000,000 for charity. Here there was a heavy robotic effect placed on his voice. Whilst it was interesting to hear how George’s voice could sound with this effect, it was perhaps overproduced for my liking.

One poor ten-year-old sitting behind me, had fallen asleep, clearly dragged to the show by his mother, and I hoped that we would finally be rewarded with a good 30-minute dance period. Sadly, this was not to be. One can definitely feel for George who must be tired of requests to belt out the old numbers for the umpteenth time. But that is secretly why we all came…

The closing number, Feeling Good, from the 1964 musical “The roar of the Greasepaint” seemed a fitting tribute to George. Clearly a song he may have heard whilst lying in his pram (being a 1963 baby). It was immaculately delivered; sounding like the something one of the great jazz performers would have belted out.

For George, yet more pertinent lyrics that could resonate with his new musical direction:

It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life
For me
And I’m feeling good

And so, for the moment we had all waited for… the encore. George brought forward his backing group of four, tom-tom player and electric guitar musician. We had been patient, we had been promised the chance to sing and dance, and George finally delivered – but only just. Returning for the first encore, he rattled through a melody of three hits: Amazing, I’m Your Man and Freedom. Everyone was on their feet dancing, singing, screaming for George to take off his tie and boogie with us, as in the good old days. No matter that this is a period of austerity, for those brief moments, everyone had the opportunity to forgot about their personal problems and enjoy good old fashioned entertainment with a nod to nostalgia and those halcyon days when we were young and loved to rock!

However, he fled the stage but returned to finally close with I Remember You. We were now all warmed up, ready to party the night way, and sadly, like a disappointing sexual performance, it passed too quickly. We were left with a bitter-sweet moment –but ready to try again another day.

It was a great night. Well done George!

Playlist at Nice

• Through
• My Baby Just Cares For Me
• Understand
• Cowboys & Angels
• Going to a Town
• Kissing A Fool
• Let Her Down Easy
• You Have Been Loved
• Idol
• Brother Can You Spare a Dime
• Intermission
• Patience
• John & Elvis
• Roxanne
• Wild Is The Wind
• A Different Corner
• Where I Hope You Are
• You’ve Changed
• True Faith
• Love is a Losing Game
• Russian Roulette
• Praying For Time
• Feeling Good

• Encore

1. Amazing / I’m Your Man / Freedom

2. I Remember You

*Blog/Photography by Sandra S C Arthur

George Michael, Nice, France 2011

To read other gig reports click the “music’ tab on the right hand side.




5 responses

24 09 2011

My report was removed from the George Michael website… Come on George, if you enter into social media you have to accept comments – good or bad. “there no such thing as bad publicity…”

27 09 2011

I was at the same concert..found it disappointing..and like the Emperor’s New Clothes, think that many people felt the same..but don’t want to be the first to say.
So..I’ll say it.
A self absorbed, indulgent, performance that was more like a group therapy session than a concert. Whilst George was baring his soul in this 3D confessional, many of us were left flat and low by the sad, melacholic performance. Only sad songs, many unknown to the audience. Obsruce tracks by artists sang at a funeral pace. Styling by Ringo Starr and atmosphere by Leonard Cohen.
I left the concert feeling low and depressed..much like George himself.
Wake me up when he has gone, gone

10 10 2011

Tonight was the first show of Michael in Rotterdam. I first enjoyed the ballads, but after 5 or more i was waiting for some old songs, wich never seems to appear. In the break i already heard people talking how slow the show was and that it made some people sleepy. We all hoped that after the break more old songs would appear, but what a shame, more of the same sad ballads, no interaction with the audience and more depressing music. I could not stand it any more and the three of us left, really disapointed of a completly unbalanced show, I came to tribute George for his fabulous sound and music and left dissapointed and depressed. The era George is definitely closed, if he only wants to sing his own songs and not have any feelings how our generation still wants to see the old George and the new George as a mix. Sad but true George in a Nightclub is oke not on stage anymore!

29 10 2011
Dave Harris

I took my wif who is a fanatical GM fan.£126 each in a box at the Royal Albert Hall. A totally self-indulgent performance with noc lassic songs of note.

Pretty poor and many, many disgruntlerd not so young ladies…

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