Friday, 4 November 2011

Symphonica - Gig Report Dublin November 3

The last time I went to the O2 Arena in Dublin was a little over 4 years ago; it was still a relatively small venue called The Point then. Saskia, a very nice Dutch George Michael fan, and I arrived at The Point at 5 AM. No, that's not a typo (I wish!), we really got there that early to bag ourselves of a front row spot. And would you believe it, we weren't even the first in line! GM-fans are nothing if not dedicated!
Having gotten to bed around 1 AM earlier the same night, after the first of George's two shows in Dublin, we were both knackered! Somewhere out there is a pic of Saskia and me, sitting in the queue and sleeping the sleep of the exhausted George Michael fan. But in the end it was all worth it because we got what we wanted: front row, right in front of the autocue. One of the best nights I had in 3 years of 25Live.

The Point turned red for George
For tonight I bought myself a front row spot, no queueing necessary, and thank heavens for that. The Point is now the O2 and completely changed inside and out. It's even more beautiful and even though some 6.000 seats were added it's still an intimate venue. I love The Point, definitely one of my favourite venues! Love the staff there as well, everyone is very friendly. And they are very safety-conscious, which I think is admirable! An example: we were all guided through a maze of crowd barriers to the Luas (Dublin tram) back to the city centre. No fuss, no pushing, staff on hand to guide us in the right direction and answer questions. Very well organised!

One sentence review: Dublin: George & crowd have a blast at Dublin: round two.

If you want to read the Dutch review, a link for that will appear here when it's ready. In the meantime you could check for updates on twitter (dutch_ada).

The songs
One of the things I like about Symphonica is that it gives you a second chance to get to know a song you never truly appreciated before. For me, Cowboys and Angels is such a song. I didn't hate or anything, just never really got why people raved about it. But thanks to Symphonica, I woke up a few days in a row with the last minute of Cowboys and Angels playing in my head. You know the bit where he goes: "Future, future ...". It's nice, a lovely dreamy, lullaby feeling which goes very well with not being fully awake yet.

And then here are the songs that you love from the very first time you hear them, like Safe. It's such a pleasure to hear these beautiful songs performed live! Safe is  a song I turn to when life gets bad. It's a 'comfort song', a place to hide from pain and sorrow.
A few years ago my wife had a bit of a health scare. It was a very scary time for us. I remember sitting in the hospital waiting room while she was with the doctor, almost out of my mind with fear, with this song on repeat on my mp3-player. Praying the song. When she came out of the doctors office I could tell from the look on her face that she was indeed 'safe'. When I heard Safe live for the first time I was transported back to that time and cried new tears of gratitude.

The man and his band
As I said on twitter, that must have been one hell of a dinnerparty George threw for his band and singers on Wednesday in Dublin! George and everyone in the band were even more smiles than usual tonight. If you haven't seen the pic yet that Jay Henry was kind enough to share with us on twitter - check it out and you'll get an idea of the happy vibe tonight.

George Michael is mesmerizing on stage, as we all know. Stage presence is strange stuff, it can make the mundane look special. I always love it when George stands up so dramatically halfway through Idol. It works, it really shouldn't, but it does!

George tweeted that "for once he was actually lost in music" on the last night at the Royal Albert Hall. In contrast, Henry Hey seems to be lost in music nearly every night of Symphonica. Tonight he was back on conducting duty and at his laid-back, swaying, smiley best! Still love that man!

George added two new shout-outs: one for Ben Butler on Safe and one for Phil Palmer on A Different Corner! And we get to see them on the big screen as well. Oh and speaking of A Different Corner, it's not just a crowd favourite, the backing singers totally love it as well, singing and clapping along!

Before tonight I'd never heard anyone refer to their heartache over their divorce - because that's what it amounts to after more than 10 years together - as "my little hard-luck story". Poor George, Where I Hope You Are was so emotional tonight. At the end, with the "I'm so sorry"s sounding very sincere, he sort of hugged himself, looking so forlorn and sad I wanted to give him a hug then and there. I hope it gets better for him soon. And in the meantime he can and does work through a bit of the pain and grief every night, in front of people who love him.

Not in the band
Oh and to make it clear once and for all: yes, I am black but no, I am not in the band nor am I one of George's backing singers - can't hold a tune to save my life actually. Don't know what it is about Dublin but fans keep thinking that!
Four years ago, when we were all queueing outside The Point, the staff were nice enough to give us our own Portaloo. When I was awaiting my turn to use it, a fan asked me if I was part of the backing group. (Back then the voluptuous Perry sisters were part of the tour as well - no one in their right mind would mistake me for the ultra slender Lucy or Shirley!) I was so astonished that I didn't even point out the bleeding obvious: that if I were a famous backing vocalist on tour with the great George Michael, I wouldn't be reduced to using the outside facilities!

Tonight a lady in the row behind me also convinced herself I must be part of the band! Telling her I definitely was not did nothing to get her off the idea, reasonably pointing out to her that if I were in the band I would be backstage instead of sitting in front row didn't help either. Shirley (@mollie5555) who talked to her later on assured me she got the idea because she saw me talking to Bev. Huh?

The lighting

I know I keep raving about the lighting of Symphonica, but I just can't help myself. There are so many fun details. Tonight I noticed during Idol that when they want to light Henry Hey (yay!) they switch on two little discreet lights mounted to a kind of rail overhead which runs in a semi-circle all around the stage. One of the lights is for the piano, the other one for Henry. And it's not just a pool of light, it's a circle of light rays. Very beautiful.

Something new: End Credits!
And finally: twitter fandom
Twitter has changed the George Michael fandom for ever, because of twitter we now have fun innovations like the twitterconcert and the twitterreview. I love new stuff like that!

Most GM-fans on twitter are aware by now of the existence of the excellent Dutch twitterteam; follow them via @GeorgeMichaelNL or @SymphonicaTour. I am not part of the twitterteam by the way, but as a Dutch fan I'm really, really proud of them.
Sometimes tweeting live from the venue, sometimes collecting and retweeting every informative tweet from GM-fans in the audience, the twitterteam works tirelessly to share the magic of Symphonica with all the lovelies.
The Dutch twitterteam rocks! So take a bow: @Dutchieemy, @TanteGeraldine, @AnnemiekGM, @HappyS74, @MagdaGMfan and @FreeekMaudi! You all do a great job!

And then we have that other great innovation: the "George Michael by Twitterlight series" by @memelarmour. It's a fantastic concept: reviewing a show through the eyes of countless others! A mix of fantweets, wacky and irreverent observations about George and quotes out of press reviews, they are a totally new take on reviews and brilliantly funny! Go check them out here (links to all twitterlight reviews at the bottom of the page). And here is a wonderful straight-up review of the one show she herself went to. Thanks Marie!

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