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.

It was a terrific show with George very happy but still not chatting all that much. But the show is so lovely right now, I didn't really care. And anyway, he might talk a bit more freely next Friday when he's in front of a Dutch audience - as apparently he still thinks we're the only people living in mainland Europe who can understand him!

So he didn't say much, but what he said at the end more than made up for his earlier silence. He told us that he left Vienna last year with "some very painful memories" but that he would leave tonight with some "amazing, amazing memories". Well, I'm so glad for him that it's worked out this way. It's only right that the city he proclaimed to love so much during his 25Live concert of 2007 will live on in his mind as more than the place where dreadful things happened to him. Not to mention that this musical version of 'getting back on the horse' was rip-roaring fun for the fans.

Song of the Night

That's easy: Waiting For That Day! It's fast becoming my favourite song of the show. I'ts just so fun and George also looks as if he's having a blast singing it. It was one of the show stoppers of the night and a perfect way to start off the second half.

A Different Corner was also incredible. I don't know what was going through his mind but whatever it was, it must have been pretty intense. His voice was full of emotion, I haven't heard such a heart-felt rendition of A Different Corner since the first show in Herning last year. The crowd was going wild for it, clapping their hands raw at the end - and also in all the quiet bits of the song. Very special!

Symphonica - then and now

A few months ago George tweeted that he was working on improving the show. He did well; this show has indeed a different 'feel' to it than last year's show. For the most part I'm very happy with the changes. The show has lost it's slight veneer of sadness. Symphonica 2011 was beautiful, showcasing George Michael's huge talent and vocal range, but with the choice of songs and the order of the setlist (remember the break-up cycle as Bev called it?) things could get a tiny bit depressing. Symphonica 2012 doesn't have that problem, feels more balanced and to me the show is all the better for it.

Father Figure gets the audience involved early on as George gives away the last 'time' to the crowd. And of course there's the new start of the second half with the crowd pleaser Waiting For That Day. On the Vienna setlist many of the slow or sad songs of last year were missing: no Understand, Idol, Song To The Siren, Where I Hope You Are or Love Is A Losing Game and also no I Remember You as the last encore. Of all these songs I miss Where I Hope You Are the most, but I can totally understand that under the circumstances George isn't all that eager to relive that particular pain. But it's such a beautiful song that I hope it comes back.

Personally I wouldn't mind - at all! - if You've Changed were dropped and George's moving cover of Song To The Siren got a permanent spot on the setlist instead. But I guess that won't happen any time soon. As George explained last year it was Billy Holiday's version of You've Changed that got him seriously interested in music so it has a special place in his heart.

All things George

Seeing Symphonica again for the first time on Tuesday I became aware of how many little things George Michael does that make it such a happy experience for me to see watch him from a few feet away. So what are those special George Michael moves?

The big finish
George believes in big gestures - in life and on the stage. At first I pictured him rehearsing all those moves in the mirror at home, but now I think it just comes naturally to him. As with 25Live he likes to finish songs with one last big, dramatic sweep of his arm(s). Brother Can You Spare A Dime, Feeling Good and Russsian Roulette all end this way.
It's very hard though to get the timing exactly right for Brother Can You Spare A Dime as the curtain also closes at the end of the song to signal the break. If they close it too early the orchestra members are the only ones who get to see George do his thing, if they close it too late he'd look a bit silly just standing there. Before the show I'm always curious which way it's going to go.

On Tuesday night there were even more songs on the setlist with their own big finish. Thursday he went one better, ending the whole night with one last dramatic gesture, dropping unexpectedly to his knees at the end of White Light. A terrific end to the show but I really hope he didn't end up with bruised knees!

The chair turn
I love the silver chair George uses for the slow songs, it just looks so classy. I remember asking Lindsay last year how they keep it looking so shiny and new through all the  moves between cities. She didn't have an answer for me, but maybe there's some crew member who gives it a nice polish just before curtains up? Anyway, as beautiful as it is, it doesn't exactly look comfy. Until George sits on it, that is. Then it looks like his favourite couch, the way he relaxes, leans back on it and does one of his laid-back turns. We get to see rather a lot of them, whenever the orchestra takes over for a bit he does one or more slow turns. Thursday however he'd timed one just wrong, starting it seconds before he had to start singing again. He had to do a very fast turn, and I giggled seeing him spinning like that! He just made it and was facing the right way again at the start of the next verse!

The smirk
Anyone who's followed George for a while - in concert or even on Youtube - will have come across 'the smirk'. I rather like it, it's like a grin with attitude. I don't think any interviewer has ever asked George what's on his mind when he pulls that face, which is a pity because oh, how I'd love to know the answer. Of course it could also be that he's not even aware he's doing it. Anyway, in absence of an official explanation of the man himself, I'm assuming the smirk is a sign he's happy with his perfomance. If true, he was very happy about things on Thursday. He fairly smirked his way through the show! And why not, he was outstanding! Sure, he made a few tiny mistakes here and there but those only serve to show that yes, he's still human.

The wave
Compared to Symphonica 2011 George is walking around much more during the songs which is good news for the people sitting in the tiered seats. If he stands or sits centre stage all the time they only get a side view of him. So it's no wonder that whenever he gets near the sides of the stage there's a huge reaction from the audience! In Vienna the reaction was bigger than I'd ever seen before, every time he walked towards them the tiered section all but exploded with excitement, people standing up, shouting, clapping and waving their arms at him. And George waved back. He's got a nice wave, somehow George makes it personal and makes you feel he's especially glad to see you there!

The sandwich
And then there is the the sandwich, although that's not really a George move but more of a group effort! As we all know the sandwich - George dirty dancing  with his two backing ladies - became an instant hit with the fans. And how could it not? Here are two women doing exactly what most of the female fans and I bet quite a few of the male fans as well would love to do with George!
A very early version can be seen on the Live in London DVD during Fantasy where George in what was one of the highlights of the Final 2 concerts dances with two of his female singers. With Symphonica they built on that and made it much, much raunchier.

And it really doesn't get any raunchier than what they did on Thursday. I've never seen the sandwich last so long and get so - what's the word - oh yes, dirty! George was felt up extensively from the back and the front. Their hands were all over him, and to be honest it was very nice to see. Now I know why kids under 14 need to be accompanied by an adult, it's so the adult can shield their eyes through this bit! Even I got rather jealous of our lovely ladies. George didn't mind at all, and really I can't see any man - gay or straight - objecting to the attentions of two women as beautiful as these two.

Highlight of the night

Speaking of the backing vocalists, I can't stop talking about how much I enjoy listening to them. Whenever I see or hear other live shows I check out how well the voice of the artist gels with the voices of his or her backing vocalists.  I've yet to hear another artist come even close to George and his backing four!

Before the start of the medley when George is not onstage for a few moments, the four backing singers leave their seats in the orchestra and take their place at the front of the stage. At the moment we sadly don't get to hear their gospel warm up routine but it's still lovely to cheer for them when they have the stage all to themselves for a few minutes.They always get a huge applause, everybody loves them. And what's so fun is they really look down at the faces in front of them, wave at you and make eye contact if they can. So my highlight of the Thursday show was getting a nice wave and a wink from them! Thank you so much guys!

And finally - parking your car the Symphonica way

As I said in my previous review George only employs the very best. This even extends to the drivers of the Redburn trucks. After the show the red trucks come rolling up to the front of the Stadhalle. The big glass doors are opened wide and those big beasts get driven through the narrow entrance. There's so little room some of them even have to reverse into the Stadhalle.

Simply unbelievable!
It fits - but only just!

The foyer which just a few hours was filled with fans now gets filled up with truck after truck. It must take tremendous skill to manoeuvre those big machines in such a cramped space. It's hugely entertaining to watch. Despite getting very cold - I was dressed for the heat of the arena, not the chilly night air - I kept watching until the last of the trucks was safely inside. It's amazing what these guys can do, and has to be seen to be believed.

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