Main | Thursday, July 24, 2008

George Michael At Madison Square Garden

Last night I trekked to Midtown with Aaron for my fourth "oldies" concert in a week, George Michael at Madison Square Garden. Neither of us are particular fans, but while the last George Michael record I bought was probably the 12" of 1982's Wham Rap, I'm not not a fan either.

Most of my interest in George Michael over the last 25 years has come from his progression to being an (albeit initially unwilling) out gay man who has still remained globally popular. Therefore I was curious to experience this phenomenon of a major openly gay, LTR'd but unapologetically non-monogamous pop star playing the "world's most famous arena."

Last night was the second of two sold-out shows at the Garden, where we arrived to find the audience comprising about 70% females (lots of mother/daughter combos), 20% gay men, and 10% very patient boyfriends/husbands. About 45 minutes after the advertised "8PM Prompt" showtime, George Michael took the stage with six backup singers and with his band semi-hidden on the three-story riser tucked behind a mammoth trio of innovative video screens which were also part of the stage floor.

Over the next 2 1/2 hours we got 22 songs culled from George's Wham! and solo years, plus two covers: Roberta Flack's First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, and a torchy version of The Police's Roxanne. I thought the show leaned too heavily on the ballads, but 15,000 screaming females probably would disagree.

In light of George's frankness regarding his love of park cruising and his open relationship, it would have been amusing to hear him perform his 80's paean to safe sex and monogamy, I Want Your Sex. Oh, well. However, it would be unfair to deny that I got a tingly thrill to hear George introduce Amazing as being "about the man that I love" and then hear the entire arena roar its approval. Throughout the show, George was rather chatty and personable, with a few of the usual rock star shout-outs thrown in: "You are the best audience of the entire tour!"

After two encores, George returned to proclaim that the final song was about "being whatever the fuck kind of person you want to be", then launched into Freedom '90 as the massive video screen throbbed with a cartoon iteration of the gay freedom rings. Nice. Very, very nice.

Love or hate him, fan or not, you've got to admit that George Michael has, against all probable odds, somehow created something oddly magical. He hasn't charted a hit single in America in over a dozen years, but I'd bet that in a dozen more, he'll still be able sell out the Garden. I'm not about to rush to download his catalog, but after last night, I like him personally much more that I had.

Madison Square Garden Setlist
: Waiting, Fastlove, I'm Your Man, Father Figure, Hard Day, Everything She Wants, One More Try, First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, An Easier Affair, Too Funky,Star People. [Intermission] Faith, Spinning the Wheel, Feeling Good, Roxanne, Kissing A Fool, Amazing, Flawless, Outside, A Different Corner, Careless Whisper, Freedom '90.

Video: Closing number Freedom '90 was a 20,000-person sing-a-long.

[Photo credit: NewNextNow Blog]

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