Thursday, 25 October 2012

Symphonica - Gig report London EC (October 17)

Well, you've come a long way", said the man at the box office in Manchester after glancing at my address before he handed me my ticket. He touched a nerve and for one second I asked myself what I was doing so far away from home. And then I forgot all about it till I was walking with another fan, the wonderful Trish (@TrishJweb) back to the Earls Court subway on the evening of October 17, 2012. It was lovely to see her again after we had spent a very nice evening together at the last of the Royal Albert Hall shows; she was the fan who sold me her spare ticket so I could go to the sold-out show. We were discussing the show we'd just seen - that's always so nice about meeting up with other fans.

We got close to the entrance of the station, and  I got my Oyster card out of my pocket. Trish looked at me in wonder: "You've got an Oyster card!", she exclaimed. "Of course", I said and then it hit me, I live in the Netherlands and have a London Oyster card for travel on the London subway while Trish who lives an hour away from London doesn't have one!  Thing is, I've been in and out of London for Symphonica (and before that 25Live) so often that I finally realized getting an Oyster card was the smart thing to do.

It's all worth it to hear that voice and to see that smile!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Symphonica - Gig report London (October 14)

Companies like Seatwave get a bad rap, and part of their reputation is certainly deserved. Billed as a fan-to-fan ticket exchange site, what they actually are is the place where touts come in out of the cold and where some promoters sell a portion of their best seats in their desire to get a piece of the huge secondary ticket market.

But if you look closely there are also quite a few genuine fans with spare tickets to sell. If you can find them you might get yourself a great deal! Because what mostly gets forgotten when people have heated discussions about the secondary market is that it is indeed a market. This means that prices can soar to unbelievable heights if demand is high. Remember those shows Adele did last year at the Royal Albert Hall? Yeah, those tickets went for as high as 5 to 10 times face value.  But if demand is low(er) or the concert date is pretty close prices drop, sometimes way below face value. I got an excellent floor seat,  block A1 row 8 at the middle aisle, for £ 70! Even with the extortionate Seatwave fee that came out to £ 86 which is more than 10 pounds less than if I'd bought it on general sale. On Tuesday I once again turned to Seatwave because I wanted to see the incredibly talented Ed Sheeran on his sold out Hammersmith Apollo run. I got another nice seat for about 5 pounds more than I would have paid if I'd bought from the primary sources.

So my advice is this: use Seatwave and other sites just like it only when the concert date is pretty near, and go for the tickets you have to collect at a Seatwave office - or, in a pinch an e-ticket. That way you will avoid the heartache of people selling tickets they don't actually have (which is the main complaint about Seatwave) and you might get a great deal.

Counting down to the end of Symphonica, only more to go after this one.
One sentence review: Earls Court round 2: double the fun!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Symphonica - Gig report London EC (October 13)


Well, now that's more like it! The last time I looked at Earls Court was late December 2011. All the lights were out and the place looked cold and empty, and even though it's just a building it somehow managed to look forlorn. George Michael at that time was still in the hospital in Vienna and I felt Earls Court was waiting for him to come back to set it alight again. So I rejoiced when I came out of the subway station this year and saw his name proudly up in lights again, the way it was supposed to. The wait was over!

Friday, 12 October 2012

Symphonica - Gig report Manchester (October 9)

The Amsterdam show was all kinds of wonderful, the Royal Albert Hall show was a magical night, and Cardiff was two days of glorious fun. But this, this was the show to be! It was just an amazing show from beginning to end. It took to 2 flights, 2 journeys by train in Holland and another 3 in England and 3 rides on Manchester's metro link to get me to the show and back home again, but it was so worth every second of travel and I would do it again in a heartbeat. It might just be that my excellent seat - front row right in front of George Michael - had something to do with that.

We knew even before George took to the stage that Manchester 2 would be fun, as he tweeted that he was looking forward to the show! And fun it definitely was! We got two new songs: a fabulous new arrangement of Star People and a cover of F.E.A.R., the Stone Roses song. It took the crowd a bit of time to get behind that last one, but when they did it was lots of fun! And we got to see backing vocalist Jay Henry in a star turn, singing a duet with George. As he tweeted later, it had been 'scary', but nervous or not Jay was very, very good! As was the whole Symphonica crew, it really was a magical night. Again!

George wouldn't be George without a bit of bling :)

One sentence review: Manchester the sequel - bigger and even better!

Monday, 8 October 2012

Symphonica - Gig report Cardiff (October 6)

Early on Saturday night (October 6) I was sitting near a window in the restaurant of my Cardiff hotel, having a quick bite to eat before heading out to the Motorpoint Arena to see George Michael in concert. Like everything else in the wonderful Maldron hotel it was excellent value for money. The curry was great, my pint (!) of coke was nice, but more importantly the view from the first floor was just fantastic. I could see all the way into the street where all the pubs and (night)clubs were and saw the young and not-so-young people of Cardiff getting ready for their Saturday night out.

Saturday Night in Cardiff: freezing in a little black dress!

Dozens of scantily clad girls clambered out of taxis and tottered by on impossibly high heels. The slinky black dress was a favourite but there were plenty more dress styles to be seen. What all women had in common is that they were dressed as if they were going to a party in the sweltering heat of a non-British summer. Which they were in a way, I'm sure sure those clubs can get pretty hot when they're full and the beat gets going. But when the girls are still outdoors they must be absolutely freezing with so little clothes on although you'd never guess it from their happy faces. I really enjoyed this glimpse into British (sub)culture and fully appreciated that Saturday night fun was something special here. So I wasn't all that surprised when George told us right at the start that we had been amazing the night before but that he expected even more from us tonight "because it's a Saturday!". Heh, you just can't help loving a man who comes out with naff stuff like that!

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Symphonica - Gig Report Cardiff (October 5)

They sure love their signs and regulations down here in Cardiff! When I picked up my tickets at the box office, the little booth was literally plastered with signs. Quite a few of them told us not to join the queue unless you bought your ticket from the box office or ticketmaster. Very sensible, as there's nothing they can do if a seller on eBay turns out to be a crook. Some signs were advising us to watch out for pick pockets and others told us to bring the credit card we booked tickets with when collecting said tickets and so on.

And then there was the sign posted at the entrance of the auditorium: Amplified sound levels during the show may be harmful to your hearing. Very true! My ears were ringing after the concert. Man, was this crowd loud! Only 5.000 seats in the house, but the Cardiff crowd produced at least as much noise as a crowd three times its size! Making very sure that George Michael knew he was appreciated in their town.

Sitting down for Father Figure!
One sentence review: George has an amazing time in Cardiff!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Symphonica - Gig Report Royal Albert Hall (September 29)

Late last year around the time of the postponed Earls Court shows my wife and I spent a few pleasant days in London - our flight was non-refundable and spending time in London during Advent isn't exactly a chore. We booked tickets for Messiah, the Christmas Carol Singalong and Carols by Candlelight at the Royal Albert Hall, with the Christmas Carol Singalong the clear winner entertainment-wise. It was an absolute riot - the private boxes were decorated with tinsel and Christmas lights, the crowd and the big choir on stage were doing the wave and absolutely everyone in the audience from 0 to 99 was having a wonderful time! We had seats in the Choir section with a perfect view of the whole auditorium and I can honestly say it was the most fun I've ever had for £15!

I thought I couldn't love the Hall more than I did that day but Saturday night was just as good! George gave us a perfect show at a perfect venue and what more can you ask for as a fan?

Finally a nice photo of the backing vocalists

One sentence review: A perfect George in a perfect venue!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Symphonica - Gig report Manchester (September 21)

So, Manchester! November last year I asked on twitter which UK crowd would be the most fun for a George Michael fan. Sam (@sjrsam) assured me that the Manchester crowd was especially fond of George. So the search for a good ticket was on! A few days later a wonderful row 4 ticket came up and without thinking too much about it I snapped it up. I'm glad I did because the Manchester crowd was indeed great, George was still in a fun mood and I had a wonderful time.

Medley Fun
One sentence review: George loves Manchester and Manchester loves George!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Symphonica - Gig Review Birmingham (September 17)

So, the second night back in the UK George Michael was - to my mind at least - even better than the first. That is usally the case whenever he does performs two nights in a row in the same city, which is why I wanted tickets for Monday as well! His voice sounded a bit fuller. He was obviously still on a roll, treating us to some minor variations in the songs and dancing up a storm. Once more everyone on stage and all 16.000 of us watching the stage had a great time!

Loving all the blue!
George was wearing a new, blue suit. I gotta say, ever since my belated discovery that my beloved red curtain isn't red at all (it's black, and it's actually the expert lighting that gives it that shiny red look!), I'm a bit unsure about any colour to do with Symphonica. So it took a lot of looking at my pics and even a quick ask on twitter before I was convinced this really was a blue suit.

It's a bit of an unusual colour for George, but I really like it - actually I think the whole look he's chosen for himself for Symphonica is great. I can't stress enough how glad I am George is not going the plastic surgery route but seems finally ready to believe that - no matter his age - his sex appeal will shine through. And it really does you know, just hearing George drawl "Oh yes", as the audience shows it's appreciation at the first tones of Kissing A Fool can send shivers down your spine!

One sentence review: George feels the love for Birmingham!

Symphonica - Gig Report Birmingham (September 16)

Over the years I've had the privilege to see George Michael all over Europe, I've also seen a couple of shows in America and quite a few shows in London. But it occurred to me last year that I had never seen him perform outside London in any of the other UK cities. All of a sudden I became very curious what he'd be like on his first night back on a UK stage. And so I bought a couple of good last-minute tickets for Cardiff, and started looking forward to being in the crowd that would welcome George Michael home. And then of course the universe had other plans for George and those Cardiff shows never happened.

Finally - Symphonica is back in the UK

Imagine my dismay when a glance at the new tour schedule told me that Birmingham was now awarded the honour of the first UK Symphonica shows of 2012, Cardiff being relegated to a place somewhere near the end of the tour. What's a loyal fan to do? After mulling it over for months, my desire to be there on his first nights in the UK finally won out. And I'm so glad I decided to go for it after all; they were brilliant shows and I got to see a whole new side of George!

One sentence review: Birmingham makes a noise for George!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Symphonica - Gig Report Amsterdam (September 14)

By and large I try to avoid telling people outside of the GM-fandom (aka normal people) how many Symphonica shows I've been to. As soon as they hear I've seen the show more than once you can see the thought "This a very weird woman" forming in their minds. What comes out though is the polite version. "But why go again?, they say. "It's just the same show, isn't it"? Well no, not really. Not all Symphonica shows are created equal.
But how do you explain that - even though the setlist might be exactly the same-  some shows are a perfectly nice night out while other shows blow your mind and leave you exhilarated, and smiling at the world for days. I don't even try and opt for a rather lame: "Well, you  know, he changes things around quite a bit". Hey, they're not fans, how are they to know that George almost never changes things around!

This pic says it all - I'll be a GM-fa n forever!
Friday night was one of those incredible shows! Today, writing this review I'm still buzzing with the memory of having been at an amazing show. It was truly amazing and it was on a different level from the shows I've seen so far. I totally agree with @dutchieemy: we got our old George Michael back! Long may it last.

One sentence review: George and the Dutch crowd are  f**ng fantastic!

Friday, 14 September 2012

Symphonica - Dutch review Vienna (Sept. 4)

This is the Dutch review - the English review is over here.
Dit is overigens geen klassieke review, dat is niet nodig want de feiten zijn inmiddels al lang en breed bekend. Meer een terugblik op hoe ik die eerste Symphonica show van 2012 beleefd heb.

George is back!
Zo, de kop is er af. George Michael staat weer op het podium met zijn Symphonica show, krijgt fantastische reviews en alle fans zijn opgetogen en razend enthousiast. Daarnaast was ik persoonlijk - en misschien ben ik daar de enige in hoor - bijzonder opgelucht dat hij er inderdaad helemaal klaar voor was. Ik vond het eerlijk gezegd nog al een drieste move dat hij relatief snel na zijn herstel weer zo'n vermoeiende tour had gepland. Zeker toen bekend werd dat hij de uitgestelde Australische tour er ook nog achteraan zou plakken! Net als veel andere fans had ik - met de beelden uit december 2011 van een breekbare en sterk vermagerde George nog op mijn netvlies - verwacht dat hij een jaartje zou overslaan. Maar nee, hij wilde niet langer wachten, wilde ons misschien niet langer laten wachten. En dus was het 4 september weer tijd voor een grote GM-re√ľnie.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Symphonica Gig Report - Paris (September 9)

So, another charity show at another famous Opera House. It's rather a big deal that George Michael bagged both the London and the Paris Opera House for his Symphonica Tour. Just like the London Royal Opera House the Palais Garnier is a stunning venue. Although the Royal Albert Hall will always remain my one true love, it was certainly memorable to walk around in such a old, venerable building, surrounded by so many smartly dressed people.

Isn't the lighting during Cowboys and Angels breathtaking?
I think George Michael must have secretly rejoiced in the fact that nowadays his talent, and his voice is so much appreciated that he's warmly welcomed in theatres as prestigious as these. He's certainly come a long way from being the boy with the blond highlights and the Choose Life t-shirt. And I'm glad for him because for a long time all he wanted was to be taken seriously as an artist. With the rave reviews still pouring in, no one will ever mistake George Michael for just another popstar again.

One sentence review: George Michael's star shines brightly at the Paris Opera

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Symphonica - Gig Report Vienna (September 6)

George Michael seems well aware of the army of devoted fans who are going to as many shows as they can afford. He tweeted after the first Vienna show that he was sure some lovelies would come to the second show as well. Heh, he was certainly right about that!

And so it was that on Thursday I showed my ticket to the nice lady at the entrance of the Floor section of Stadhalle. "Straight ahead, and to the right", she tells me and adds in an earnest voice: "It's the first row". I nodded my thanks, trying and failing to keep a straight face. "Yes dear, I know it's the first row, I've been rejoicing in this ticket, this front row seat, for months now, thanks very much". It was a big expenditure and made a big dent in my dwindling GM-funds but I just couldn't help myself. Front row at the second of the come back shows was a fabulous if way too expensive gift to myself and I was determined to enjoy every second of the night. And I did!

Those beautiful red swirls of  the 25Live visuals for Father Figure are back!
One sentence review: George and the crowd build happy memories of Vienna.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Symphonica - Gig Report Vienna (September 4)

Close to 20.30 the moment we've all waited for is finally there; George Michael steps onto the stage of the Wiener Stadhalle to rapturous applause. Clad in yet another beautiful suit, dark purple with a white shirt this time, and looking the picture of good health.

Looking very sexy in his new suit!
He's just a tad late, nearly 10 months late to be precise. But dear God, this is one time we didn't mind waiting for George! For a few awful weeks last year it looked like we would have to say goodbye to our man forever. As George himself will tell us in song later that night it took a great deal of music, science and the fervent prayers of his loved ones, fans and everyone else who wished him well to bring him safely through. So this show is above all else a celebration of life. And today life is good for George, that much is clear right from the start.

One sentence review: George Michael is BACK!!!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Back on the road again

Well, here we all are again for Symphonica, round 2! A little older and a little wiser. Or not as the case may be - really George, again with the overcrowded tour schedule? Never mind, George is alive and if you're reading this, so are you! And in the end, that's all that matters.

Anyway, Symphonica 2012 or #Symphonica2 as it's been dubbed, is about to start and I don't know about you but I'm all excited. Time to get back on the road again and live the the wonderful but hectic life of the die-hard fan.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Love In Action!!

This is a story about what happened a couple of years ago (2005). Every time I saw the prayers and  of George Michael's fans and and the many, many 'please get well George' comments in the comments section of the UK tabloids (yay!), the moving story of this American boy popped into my mind. What do these two people, a typical American teenager, and a British popstar almost thirty years his senior have in common? Being loved! Being loved by someone who has never met you, but who still wants to help in some small way. Because sometimes you just can't stay silent. Love is God. 

What do you think of when you hear the words 'Love in Action'? I'll bet you didn't think of young kids being locked away somewhere against their will, being robbed both of their freedom and the right to be who they are. And yet this is exactly what a 'Christian' organisation called Love In Action used to do. They changed a bit, they no longer hold teenage kids against their will, sadly the other part is still more or less true.

You see Love In Action was - and still is - one of those 'let's cure the gays' groups. All mainstream psychiatrist and psychologists agree that changing a person's sexual orientation is near to impossible. What you can do however is pressure or bully someone into changing their sexual behaviour (i.e. become celibate) and claim they have now left the 'sinful gay lifestyle'. Of course many of these 'cured' men and women become quite unhappy and self-loathing. What they certainly don't become is straight!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Why we need George Michael speaking out about gay issues

This is the second part in a series about fighting homophobia. The first part is here

It takes a village. Raising a kid and teaching them about life, that is. And one of the things we need to teach our kids is that being different is just fine!

There's a school of thought in the gay community that only 'safe' and squeaky-clean men and women should speak out about gay issues or become gay activists. George Michael would be the first to admit that his image is anything but clean. A very public outing, problems with drugs, a stint in prison, the facts speak for themselves. So George needn't apply. But I don't agree: we need everyone! Isn't that what equality & diversity is all about anyway?

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Fighting homophobia with education

This is the first blog post in a series about educating our kids about diversity and gay rights. I try to do my little bit, and of course I was inspired by a certain mister Michael to become actively involved. Heh, it's amazing to me how this one man I never met has inspired me to do things I never knew I could do and discover hidden talents along the way.

As some of you may know I'm in involved with our Dutch LGBT organisation, COC. I'm a member of their education group (in Dutch: voorlichtingsgroep). This is what we do: a team of 2 members of our group goes to a high school (by invitation only of course) and we become substitute teachers for a day. We teach a class about gay rights, or rather we don't teach so much as we use our expertise to let the kids teach themselves about gay rights. Teenagers are usually quite bright, if you encourage them to think things through, they can usually come up with the answers themselves.

Utter Delight: A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon

Reading is probably my biggest hobby. There's nothing better than going on a free holiday in the world of a good author. One of the reasons I love England so much is they've got charity shops filled with pristine second-hand books even in the smallest villages. Here's a book I picked up on my last London trip a few weeks ago.

Normally I wouldn't recommend a book that I haven't finished yet, but I can't help myself with this one. A Spot of Bother is just frickin' hilarious, and I can't recommend it enough.

Mark Haddon is the author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time; but I haven't read that one yet. I don't usually read the books that everyone is raving about, at least not until the furore has died down a bit. I'm funny that way. But I'll certainly pick up The Curious Incident from the library once I'm done with this one.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

From twitter rant to tabloid fodder

George Michael is back to his 'foulmouthed ranting self' on twitter as he predicted a few weeks ago. That's our George, such a charming way with (naughty) words! And how nice is it to see him back on twitter getting worked up about something or other. He really is getting better!