Monday, 7 November 2011

Symphonica - Gig Report Royal Opera House November 6

This was always going to be a special night. A Symphonica concert for charity in the beautiful and venerable Royal Opera House! A mix of hardcore fans from all over the world, London-based fans and your usual Opera House crowd would be a sight to see. Plus George Michael and everybody working for Symphonica appearing before us in a tuxedo or beautiful dress. What's not to like?

But I had no idea it was going to be this great. It was an incredible night and I felt so lucky to be in the audience. For the longest time I wasn't sure if I should go  to this one, (the black-tie dress code scared me senseless) but I am so glad that in the end I got up the nerve to go in my nicest clothes. Two weeks ago I picked up my tickets at the box office and when I asked some more questions about the dress code the man handed me my tickets and said to me: "Just dress up and have fun!" I took his advice, relaxed about the dress-code and had indeed lots of fun.

George singing Cowboys and Angels: no sunglasses!
One sentence review: A truly magical night in the Royal Opera House

This is the English review, a link for Dutch review will be here when it is ready. You could always check for more updates on twitter (dutch_ada).

"That is weird", I thought when the curtains opened, "why is George standing all the way to the left and not in his usual place centre-stage?" A few minutes later all was made clear. At the end of Through George Michael walked to the front of the stage, those big white letters appeared on the videowall and apparently I was at a show called "Onica"! 

Heh, the seat I had bought for the paltry sum of 125 pounds offered a severely restricted view with most of the left half of the stage invisible to me. They somehow forgot to mention that on the ROH website. I didn't mind at all, for I had a fantastic view of George. I was sitting front row Stalls Circle Left, and when I looked to my left, out over the empty pit, I somehow had a superb view (not a side view!) of George.

And George wasn't  the only one I could see perfectly. If I looked straight ahead, down into Stalls Orchestra (the ROH equivalent of the Arena floor) below, I had a perfect view of row 5, the 'celebrity row'. David Furnish and sir Elton John were sitting in the first two seats! I was severely tempted to yell Yoo-hoo at sir Elton, but I behaved myself and kept silent. (That's a reference to ultimate guilty pleasure the Nanny which did a fun episode with Elton and David; with Fran Drescher playing the Yoo-hoo lady).

I didn't even wave at David Furnish, who was sitting there with a big grin on his face and looked as if he wouldn't mind a friendly wave. David was wearing a lovely red jacket and what was probably a very expensive but dress code breaking pair of jeans. And while food and drink were strictly forbidden in the auditorium - two gentlemen in our row were asked to step outside to finish their glass of champagne - he sipped contentedly from a bottle he'd brought with him. Such a rebel!

Next to David en sir Elton was a woman I felt I should recognize (she looked famous) but didn't. Next to her was someone I only recognized after staring at him with unseeing eyes for ages: David Walliams.That was so weird; before heading off to the Royal Opera House I'd just read up about him on the entertainment page of Yahoo (apparently he's still not back to good health after his heroic Thames swim) and there he was, only a few feet away from me. David is really tall, by the way. Also, a George Michael fan (or just really, really polite), because he was as George would say "listening beautifully".

The real George Michael:
It's no secret that George loves coming home to sing for his London fans. So what is George like in London? 

The George Michael stylist is still MIA, someone should send out a search party for the poor lady. Because who let George walk on stage wearing those shoes/boots? At  a black-tie event - at the Royal Opera House? He has told us that he's not superstitious but I'm not so sure. I can see absolutely no other reason why he's been wearing those ugly things since Rotterdam, they sure don't go well with the rest of his outfits. But hey, he's George Michael, he's a superstar, he can do whatever he likes.

But he's also just George, his mother's son, and that's who we got to see as well tonight. Right at the beginning he told us that this night was so special to him because his mother loved coming to the Royal Opera House. Aww, that's so sweet. Even though the evening was in honour of the memory of Elizabeth Taylor, I got the feeling that his mum was very much on George's mind. That maybe he was trying very hard tonight to make his voice sound especially wonderful- for her. I think it's great that he's mentioning her almost every night, maybe a result of all that "proper grief counselling" he's been getting?

There was someone else he definitely was trying his best for - sir Elton John. This was actually another sweet moment. Idol is currently the third song on the setlist and in his introduction George told us the next song was written by Elton John but that  that he wasn't sure if he was in the audience yet. (Maybe Elton had warned George that he might be a bit late coming in?) And then he called out, almost timidly: "Elton?," sounding quite young all of a sudden.
And just like that, the dynamic between them (and maybe one of the reasons for all that very public bickering they've gone through before finally making up again) became a lot clearer to me. George looks up to Elton, or at least the young George that is still part of the 48-year old George does! 

George sang Idol impeccably, by far the best version I've heard so far. He must have been so pleased about that. I had fun looking at Elton and trying to see what he thought of George's version of Idol. But alas, Elton must be a good  poker player, because his face didn't give anything much away. But he did give  George his full attention, his eyes never wavering from George until the encore.

In the first half George was near perfect! Going To A Town was truly magnificent and Let Her Down Easy which I love so much made me cry. I have never heard his voice sound more warm, more tender!

I loved the new video for You Have Been Loved dedicated to Elizabeth Taylor tonight, consisting of shots of Elizabeth Taylor from babygirl to old age. I hope we get to see them again, would be such a shame to make such a beautiful montage for use on one night only.

George told us that he thinks John and Elvis are dead has some of the best lyrics he's ever written. So if George wrote the lyrics does that mean that David Austin wrote the music for this one? Not sure I agree with George by the way, I can think of a couple of songs offhand with 'better' or 'deeper' lyrics, but what do I know? I'm just a fan, not a critic.

George wasn't all that chatty but when he did talk he didn't spare the opera-loving crowd too much, he got through quite a few feckers andd fuckings before the night was done! But he didn't make any quips about the prostitutes in Roxanne, so good choice there!

The visuals for Song To The Siren changed a bit, the image of George is no longer projected in the sea of blue. Pity!

Let's get this party started:
Well, as George remarked early on, this Royal Opera House crowd was not his usual audience. But even though the fanclub was given just a very small allocation of tickets, the fans were out in force. All of them smartly dressed, although I spotted a few youths in a jeans and shirt in the standing places behind us in Stalls Circle. 

And the Opera-loving part of the audience, George did what he could to wow them. And he succeeded! It took them quite a while to get into the swing of things, most of them didn't stand up for Amazing. But when we got to I'm Your Man they all seemed to realize that resistance was futile and let rip. The placed was rocking! I don't think they see that too often at the Royal Opera House.

Every Other Lovely In The World (tm @tantegeraldine):
To the right of me were a woman and her daughter, both big George Michael fans. They were both from Guatemala, the mother still lived there. She had come to England for a while to be with her daughter while she was recuperating after an operation. The younger woman had bought tickets for them both to see George together by way of thanks. Aww, I love stories like that.

Of course, filming and taking pics was strictly forbidden, and of course no-one took a blind bit of notice. On the floor below me I saw an elderly gentleman take pics with an enormous camera, fitted with big lenses and all. Compared to his camera, even Bev's camera is on the tiny side! I would just love to know how he smuggled that in! Nice to see a man of his age with a love for George!

And finally: a pure Symphonica!
I think this might be close to George's original vision of Symphonica, what he wanted to do when he first planned the Symphonica Tour. Beautiful music in beautiful venues, with only a small-ish, well-behaved audience. I loved tonight and will treasure the memory forever.


  1. Wonderful review! Keep up the excellent work!

  2. I saw GM twice in Spain for Symphonica. I flew from Seattle specifically for the 2 shows and they were as memorable as any great events in my life. Thank you for taking be back to those memories with your descriptive review!