Thursday, 8 September 2011

Symphonica - Gig Report Köln (September 7)

When George Michael is happy on stage, he is very happy indeed. That wonderful 100 Watt smile of his can light up an place as big at the Lanxess Arena. It's very obvious George is overjoyed to be back doing what he does so well. It's equally obvious that his fans are over the moon to have him back.
There's a lot of love in the air during these concerts, flowing from the audience to George and - rather  more unusual for stars as big as he is - the other way round. It's a quite a special feeling to be part of it all.

There is this one line in Through, the opening song of the show.
They may chase me to the ends of the world, but I got you, babe.
On the first night in Herning he pointed to all of us in the audience, telling us with this one gesture that he's glad we're there for him now that he's hurting so. He didn't do that tonight but even so it's clear that singing for us night after night makes a difference. I'm just so glad that we can help him in some little way. After all, his music has helped so many of us through times of heartache and sorrow it's only right to give something back to him if we can.

One sentence review: George brings a magical night to Köln

Please read on for more details of the night. If you prefer to read the Dutch in-depth review, you can find that here.

Memorable stuff:

George Michael quote of the day:
"They [the audience in Berlin A.] were lovely, but I've got a feeling you'll make more noise. I don't know why."

Teehee. I love GM's little mindgames. He's a sly one. Of course the audience exploded after his challenge to beat Berlin and George's little gesture when we made all the noise we were capable of is too cute for words.You can watch it here.

High point of the evening:
There are quite a few songs on this setlist that will bring tears to my eyes or joy to my heart, so it's not easy to pick just one high point. But tonight I caught myself waiting for one song especially: Russian Roulette. 

The second that heavy beat starts up, I'm hooked. The original is pretty darn nice too, but George totally made this song his own. The Rihanna version has quite a heavy beat, but somehow it's almost tame compared to the Symphonica version. That beat draws you in, tugs at your heart, tells you you're alive. You can't not react. An amazing cover.

Other highlight: well, the medley or as I call it the mini 25Live is such great fun. I giggle as I see George Michael instantly reverting to his 25Live GM persona, calling out various 25Live catchphrases (although I've yet to hear an "How you're doing at the back" from him, heh). And, it has to be said, also fumbling his lines which he was doing so regularly during 25Live. Well, you're forgiven George, after a night of singing his heart out he's owed a mistake or two.

I'll never forget:
George has taken to thanking his orchestra, the musical director and band & singers profusely. He's so proud of this show and proud of all the people who create the magic with him. The Orchestra got a shout-out during Brother Can You Spare A Dime. Just before the medley he thanked them again.

And then he proceeded to thank the director and band & singers by name. He was especially nice to his singers, giving the women a full body hug and the men a manly half-hug (heh) and when I saw them all together I was so moved. I have to admit I got a bit tearful.
I'd been so sad for him, having to tour all on his own this time. But when I saw the affection between him and "his voices", I was reassured somewhat. Our man is in good hands.

Quality stuff:

Vocal performance:
The vocal performance is very good. Not quite as "out of this world good" as in Herning, but still so good that most popstars would trade their soul for a live performance like that. And remember  he was just coming off a few days rest in Herning while he'd been touring and travelling for week and a half in bad weather before this show.
Also, I think he wasn't quite happy with his IEM tonight and couldn't hear himself properly; he was fiddling with the IEM and the controlbox on his belt a whole lot more than usual.

The setlist didn't change all that much, but the order of the songs sure did.
I think they're trying to find the right balance between the first and second half. Until tonight the setlist always felt a bit uneven to me, with most of the "big songs" which get the loudest cheer from the audience all packed into the second half. So I think the reshuffling is a good thing. You've Been Loved was put in the first half, and True Faith got pushed back to the second half.

Understand is still the newest addition the setlist, we didn't get to hear that new cover that Lindsay's been blogging about. You and I is back, no longer an encore but placed near the end of the second half. No problem, the medley is more than enough encore all on it's own. It doesn't really matter got dropped (or did it? Can't remember), didn't particularly miss it.

Tonight I saw the show from above as I didn't have tickets for the Arena Floor. So while I wasn't as close to George as I would've liked I did get to see the whole stage for the first time. The stage is almost round, with the whole orchestra sitting in a big pit. There is a kind of catwalk encircling this pit. It would be so cool if George would walk on it. But maybe the catwalk is not designed to hold the weight of a man, not even one as skinny as GM is these days.

And oh did I feel dumb when I saw the same red curtain as in Herning hanging before the stage. Because I was so close to the stage last time I didn't realise that the curtain was part of the whole Symphonica stage setup, I thought it was something specific to the Herning Arena.

The visuals backgrounds are absolutely beautiful. From the space-like thingy in Patience, and the blue maze of Going To A Town to the breathtaking blue and red interlinking squares in Russian Roulette - my personal favourite - they are all stunning to look at. Kudos to the company who made them!

The lighting on this show should also get a mention, as it's spectacular. Very elegant and - fortunately -  quite camera-friendly.

As far as I could see he was wearing his beautiful suit for the whole show. Good choice!

Other stuff:

What George did: banter with the crowd
My, my, was he ever chatty tonight, especially in the first half. It's heart-warming to hear him talking to the audience as if to a friend.
He's gotten rather good at introducing the songs, telling us a bit about the background of nearly every song. For instance: he explained that Understand could be seen as a sort of follow-up to Everything She wants. The two characters of that 80's song are still in a relationship and after all those years and raising a couple of kids together  the man realises his wife cares more about him than he ever knew. It turns out she's not with him for his money after all.
See, I love these kind of introductions. He sounds so proud of the songs he's chosen, obviously loves them all. And by telling us in detail about them it's as if he's urging us to love them too.

He also got quite serious while introducing True Faith. He told us how he came to record this song about addiction. (He saw the clip on TV the evening he was a free man again ). "And", he said, "I suddenly heard the lyrics in a way that I'd never heard them before and thought, well (sighs), pretty much sums up my experience over recent years."
Now I heard him tell this story before on BBC radio on the morning of the songs premiere. But it's one thing thing to tell it during a pre-recorded radio interview and quite another telling it to a live audience of 10.000+ people. He's being so honest with us!

I am so incredibly proud of him. Changing your life, saying: enough is enough and meaning it, living your life accordingly, is one of the hardest things to do. George Michael is such a strong person and to me he is an inspiration.

What we did: audience reaction
Well, we were loud! More than loud! Everyone in the audience was up for having a wonderful evening and we let him know from the get-go. And George Michael loved it, lapped it up and asked for more.

A few times during the evening the crowd got to its feet to show him how much we appreciated a song. He got a kick out of that too. Now that we're almost into double digits with Symphonica shows it's no longer a surprise that people get crazy after Russian Roulette, so the lights came on after the song had ended, always a sign that it's ok to go wild for a bit. There were standing ovations for Russian Roulette, and Feeling Good. A Different Corner and Love Is A Losing Game got a big reaction as well.

What they did: orchestra and singers
In a way, George's voice is the lead instrument in the orchestra. He takes such pleasure in showing us just what this instrument is capable of.

After George had thanked the audience with the medley and with I Remember You he ran off stage. The orchestra started playing again and slowly the curtains closed on a wonderful night.

The closing of the curtains with the band still playing is a nice touch, mirroring the start of the show with the curtains slowly opening upon a singing George. What spoiled the effect somewhat was that I could see a couple of stagehands frantically tugging at the curtains to get them to move. Heh, those curtains must be really heavy.


  1. Hi Ada, I love your blog and the way you describe the aspects of the symphonica...I love it! Thank you for the videos and for sharing your experience with all of us that cannot travel to see and hear the Incredible George! XXX :) Thank you, Ada!

  2. thank you, Ada, for your blog! we love it!

  3. Thank you both for the nice comments. It's great to be appreciated, lol.