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!

When you enter the Arena from the entrance at Victoria Station you're high up - at the level of the first tiered section which is very high indeed. And to get to the floor seats you have to climb down a seemingly endless number of steps, without a handrail for those who suffer from a touch of vertigo. I took one look at the set-up and knew I wouldn't get down safely. Fortunately this was Manchester, where everyone was very nice to me, so when I asked the lady who admitted me to the auditorium if there was another way to get down she walked  me to an lift (according to her there were only 2 or 3 lifts in the whole arena - weird that).  She looked at my ticket again and expressed delight on my behalf because it was such a good seat. And she wasn't the only one, the ladies on the floor who directed me to my seat were equally happy for me. So sweet! Sam was right, even the stewards were fans of George!


All the 25Live moves are coming back!
Once upon a time there was  a man called George Michael who had a dream of performing many songs fromSongs From The Last Centruy with a symphony orchestra in concert. It would be a classy concert, full of beautiful ballads, his own and  a few carefully chosen covers.

If you want to see that particular man in action you'd better hurry, because he is fading - fast. You know how we were commended last year at the first show in Herning for "listening beautifully". Well, now that's no longer what George seems to want. He wants us up out of our seats, waving our arms about and shouting our heads off. I rather like it! It's funny how with a few changes in the setlist and some big changes in George's attitude Symphonica 2012 has become a completely different show than Symphonica 2011. I love them both but the 2012 version is definitely more fun!

Henry Hey loves George
It makes me happy to see George on stage with lots of people who like or even love him and his music. Everyone knows about Michal the harpist by now (he's a big GM fan) living the dream of being on tour with his idol. And the GM girls really are George Michael's girls, they love him with a passion that surpasses that of all but the most ardent fans, bless them. And after seeing so many shows I'm convinced: Henry Hey is a fan too!

That goofy grin on his face when he watches George do his thing says it all. Also, he sometimes is so busy with singing along, clicking his fingers to the beat of Father Figure or just plain following George with his eyes that he forgets to conduct the orchestra! In Manchester his hands slowly but surely dropped as he was enjoying the music until they were so low that they were shielded by his piano. There was no way anyone from the orchestra could see his hands in that position so for just one song he was only conducting his Yamaha and nothing else!

Playing favourites
It turned out Sam wasn't the only one who knew that Manchester equals fun, George himself was clearly looking forward to performing for the Manchester fans. He came on stage with a big grin on his face and treated us to a great voice, some fine dance moves and a lot of fun. He's still not all that chatty but we managed just fine without the talks.

During the night George got more and more happy until he was literally jumping up and down with joy at the start of White Light! So it came as no surprise when he told us just before starting the medley: "Don't tell anyone but you're my favourite". And that makes 3 times in a row I was sitting in a crowd that George professed undying love for, first there was Amsterdam, then Birmingham and now Manchester. I feel well and truly loved by our man.  I feel it's only fair, after all George is my favourite too!

Going it alone
I'm very lucky to be married to a woman who really likes George's music too. A lot of the big shows - Herning, Vienna and all the Royal Albert Hall shows to name but a few - we've seen together. For all the other shows I'm on my own though which is perfectly fine. I always meet old or new GM friends in the arena, say hi to Bev if I've got a floor seat and never feel  lonely for a minute.

In Manchester the lovely Shirley (@mollie5555) and I were standing close to my seat for a nice talk - and a bit of gossip. When the arena was almost full she prepared to walk to her own seat a few rows away. The man sitting behind me was astonished: "Are you here by yourself"? I told him yes and explained why it wasn't a problem. But the concept of going to a show on your own was beyond him. At the time it was rather funny but later I got to thinking about it. It says a lot about the GM fandom that I can go to shows all over Europe on my own without feeling cut off or lonely in any way. There are plenty of things that bother me about the GM fandom, but this is definitely one of the nice things about it.

Song of the Night
Oh how I love Going To A Town! In Manchester it was absolutely wonderful. The orchestra, the backing vocalists and George hit every note perfectly, and in perfect harmony! It is my fervent hope that the live CD that they were talking about last year will some day indeed will be released. I'd love to have a 'official' version of Going To A Town that I can play on my big sound system - over and over again!

It's not a pub - so sit down!
UK fans love their beer, and lots of it. For some strange  reason many British concert goers are not prepared to wait until the interval to get their fix, but go off to buy some more alcohol as soon as the mood strikes them. George wasn't even halfway through the second song - a particularly fine rendition of My Baby Just Cares For Me, when the first people around me stood up and lumbered towards the bar. Even the young women next to me, who were obviously fans - they squealed for a full minute when they saw how good their seats were - didn't last until the interval!

And what amazes me is that people don't even have the decency to wait until the end of a song to fight their way out of the row. It's all very distracting and I feel it's disrespectful both to George and the people around them. Which is why I wasn't surprised that security finally had enough at the end of the show and kept arguing with one very annoying man who'd almost done more walking around than sitting down during the concert. The argument got so heated that George even commented on it, asking security to stop arguing with the man. And I never thought I'd say this - and there must be a flying pig somewhere near - but on this one occasion I'm firmly on the side of the security team.  Seriously, behaviour like that is unacceptable and I don't blame security one bit.

And finally - George's keeper

If you've been at the front for the medley once or twice you're certain to have seen George's keeper, going by the name of Darren. He's the tall, slender black man whose job it is to  keep George safe from all of us at concert time. My wife and I first noticed him outside the Royal Albert Hall last year. It was just after they'd announced that the show of that night was cancelled and everyone was upset and searching for news about George. Which is why I approached him and asked him if he knew anything more than what we'd been told which was next to nothing. At first he was reluctant to even admit he had anything to do with Symphonica. We simply pointed at his laminated triple A Symphonica pass that was hanging around his neck for all to see! We then had a nice chat and he told us he was in security but wouldn't confirm he was one George's body guards. Hmm, that's as good as a yes, isn't it?

Anyway, since then I take pleasure in seeing him do his job so well. He's always around on show nights but you see him mostly during the medley. When George goes on his walkabout at the front of the stage, Darren walks along with him, in the space between the stage and the crowd. He tells the stewards where to stand to contain the crowd and keeps one eye on George and one eye on the crowd at all times. I am sure he knows all of us super fans by sight now.Despite his rather forbidding exterior, he does have fun with the fans sometimes - in Manchester I saw him mugging for the camera of a few fans when George was off stage between encores. I also saw him clasp the hands of  all the stewards when George went for his final bows, I took this as a quick sign of support for the venue security after the rebuke of his boss. I quite like Darren and I'm happy George is in such good hands.

No comments:

Post a Comment