|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!
So what is George Michael like when he's not in London? Well, for one thing he's much more relaxed! Performing in London obviously means the world to him and he puts a lot of pressure on himself to do especially well there. Being wound so tight George can treat us to a magical, unforgettable show (August 25, 2008 comes to mind!) but I've also seen him struggle with a case of the 'London nerves' on more than one occasion.
There were absolutely no nerves in sight on Sunday. George was in total control, playing with the crowd and playing with his voice - trying out new stuff, seeing where he could go. He came on stage all happy after Through, and yelled: "Birmingham, I'm fucking back"!! My oh my, was he ever in a good mood!
I don't think I've ever seen George like this, he was pretty cocky actually. Although it took a bit of getting used to it was rather fun to see him so free. And was that a bit of Elvis I spotted during Brother Can You Spare A Dime? Yup, that wide sideways stand, those big circles with his left arm, that's pure Elvis - all that was missing was a rhinestone studded jumpsuit! Heh - UK George is pretty funny! And as he boasted himself, he certainly can still do it!
There even was some good-humoured banter with mr. Hey! George wanted us to sing 'happy birthday' for his sister's best friend Paula and mr Hey started us off on the piano. George: "Who said you could choose the key"? Heh, I love those two together.
A fun crowd
The Birmingham crowd took me by surprise. In some aspects they were a bit more reserved than the Dutch crowd had been two days earlier, not as quick to get to their feet for the up-tempo songs and there wasn't a stampede to the front. But they more than made up for it by being completely in thrall to George.
It started before we could even see him. Still hidden by the curtain George sang the line : "So hear me now", and the crowd went wild! As George would tell us later: "You just love to make a noise"! True! Every single dance move he made got an immediate and very loud response from the audience. It was as if there was invisible line connecting George to the crowd; pretty awesome!
In the UK there are mostly 30- and 40-something couples in the crowd. Which is why George started to joke again about the 'boyfriends who've been dragged along' and the 'guys who are getting bored by now'. But I think team GM.inc has got it wrong and they should look a bit closer - there are plenty of blokes who are big GM fans and I always get a kick out of hearing those extremely straight guys yell "We love you" at George! I was seated between two couples and I'm pretty sure if there was any dragging to be done, it would be to get the ladies to the arena! The guys to the left and right of me were singing along, their eyes never leaving George and obviously loving every minute of the concert!
A British night out
I'll never be OK with the UK custom of treating a George Michael concert as if it were mere background music to a girls night out. A few rows behind me a couple of female 'fans' were talking loudly, almost shouting to be heard over the sound of George singing, shutting up during the applause only to start up again as soon as George resumed singing. You got the feeling George was bothering them singing his heart out just when they were having such a nice chat. A couple of songs in I badly wanted to thump them but I confined myself to a few nasty looks. There, that would teach them!
Frankly I think behaviour like that is bloody rude and also completely weird. Why buy these expensive tickets if all you want to do is talk with each other? Seriously - just stay in, put on the Live in London DVD, bring out the alcohol and a bag of crisps and be done with it! It's much cheaper, and you'll do the rest of us who actually want to hear George sing a big favour. OK, that's my rant for the day over and done with!
Song of the Night
Let Her Down Easy - without a doubt! Back in the day I was a big Terence Trent Darby fan, so I'm glad this song is on the setlist. It's a real gem, I totally agree with George that it's "amazing". It's such a sweet little song, and George always emotes the hell out of it! I marvel at the the tenderness in his voice when he sings this. For those 4 minutes George is just about the nicest dad you can imagine.
A Different Corner was great as well, with so many people singing along. George again got a bit emotional singing this, but we held him close with our voices and our love and we all got through it.
And finally - paying it forward
A few years ago I booked a Ryan Air flight from Brussels-South to Dublin. I was on my way to a 25Live show (of course!) and Flying Ryan Air was the cheapest way to get to Ireland. No matter how it might look from my reports I'm nowhere near a millionaire so I've got a choice: I either travel in luxury and comfort or I take in lots of shows - doing both is out of the question! Mostly it's an easy choice. Anyway, after I'd paid for my ticket I found that the Brussels-South Charleroi airport isn't anywhere near Brussels - including Brussels in the name is a neat bit of false advertising. And I gotta say the same goes for the Birmingham Arena, which turned out to be a 15 minute train ride (and a 45 to 60 minute bus ride) away from Birmingham - it's a bit further than the Birmingham Airport in fact.
I'd never have gotten there on time if a nice girl, waiting with me at the bus stop near my B&B for a bus that just wouldn't come, hadn't taken me under her wings. Once she knew I was on my way to see George she got ever so helpful (her mum was a big GM fan!) and told me that I'd best take a train as the bus to the Arena would take forever! We took the next bus out to one of the city's many bus interchanges and she walked with me from the bus stop right through the centre of Birmingham all the way to the New Street train station where I could take a train to the LG Arena. I thanked her profusely and she explained she was paying it forward, some nice guy had walked with her and her friend for 40 minutes to escort them back to civilization after they'd gotten themselves completely lost after a concert. So now I've got a debt to pay. If you ever get lost after a George concert in the Netherlands and you see a black woman, come and say hi and I'll be very glad to help you out!