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!

George in Cardiff

I always love it when George is playing the same venue two nights in a row. The second night I'll be all relaxed because I know my way around. The same - well sort of the same - goes for George, he's usually a bit better the second night out because he's relaxed and he knows what  he can do with that particular crowd. After the fun of the night before he knew the Cardiff crowd would blow his socks off, so he was still in a very good mood when he came on.

There had been a few shows this year where he sang beautifully but almost seemed a bit pre-occupied (in light of his statement about the OZ cancellation not all that surprising) but tonight just as the night before he was enjoying himself immensely and really connecting with the crowd. I feel that's one of the strong points of  a good George Michael performance, making you feel that he's happy you have come to see him. Tonight he was doing just that! Vocally his performance wasn't anywhere near the best I'd heard so far on the tour but that didn't matter to me at all. In the break I had a nice chat with a few other die-hard fans who like me had quite a few shows under their belt and we all agreed that it was lovely to see him having fun again and that we'd rather hear a few bum notes than a flawless concert where he seemed a bit disconnected from the crowd. It really was a great show!

I was sitting on the floor nearly all the way to the left with absolutely no stage in front of me! If I looked straight ahead all I was looking at was a white wall, the little stage was quite a long way to the right. But getting a bit of a sore neck was a small prize to pay for a good view of George so I and everyone around me turned to the right. And George came came over to us so often that it was still a great seat. That's one of the things I really liked about Symphonica 2012, that George worked the whole room so to speak which he certainly didn't do the year before.

George posed for us quite a bit!

Whenever he came over to where we were sitting he'd give all of us a few excellent photo ops. This was done so skilfully and was woven so seamlessly into his overall performance that all those times I'd been sitting in the middle floor blocks I had been completely unaware that this was what he was in fact doing. I love finding out stuff like that - I always want to know how a big show like Symphonica works.

Song of the Night

The first time I heard A Different Corner on the Symphonica Tour (Herning, August 2011) it was a very emotional affair with George's voice breaking more than once, the heartache of the breakup with Kenny Goss clearly on his mind. As the tour went on he became less emotional while singing it, and a good thing too because our poor hearts wouldn't have been able to take it. Slowly people started to sing along here and there until the first night in Dublin in November 2011 when it became one big  singalong.
In Cardiff we all sang along again and had a great time. According to one of the long-time Dutch GM fan (@TanteGeraldine, boss of the excellent Dutch twitterteam) people have been singing along with A Different Corner for years and years, she tweeted that at the 1988 concert in the Netherlands the crowd was singing so loud that they drowned out George. Wish I'd been there!

What made me smile

I wish I had a sharp pic of the arena, but this is the only one showing how petite it really was.
Once again the little arena made me smile, it's just so cute - almost like a baby arena. It's not as cosy as the Royal Albert Hall, maybe because it's a square not a circle but it's still so intimate and nice. And the crowd was just amazing, two nights in a row.

I finally wised up and made use of the cloakroom. For £2 I got rid of my winter coat so I didn't have to worry about it during the concert. Storing a black bag would have set me back £5. I asked the nice lady what was so special about black bags that they were more expensive than a coat or a bag of any other colour. She laughed and said: Everybody asks about that! She explained that for standing-only concerts people put most of their stuff in a black bin bag and left the big bag with them. Apparently it was very popular. I giggled and thought back to the days of 25Live when I'd be queueing all day for a spot at the front. Thank heavens I didn't have to do that again!

As always George made me giggle a few times. It was quite warm in the arena, a lot warmer than it had been the night before. Some venues are quite bad at maintaining a comfortable temperature for fans and performers alike. (The really old venues are the worst as they're not allowed to have air conditioning). I remember Antwerp 2007 where the heat was simply ridiculous and we were all perspiring like crazy and George complained that steam was coming off him! In Cardiff he asked us: "Is it just me or is it fucking boiling in here?" Hee, he doesn't mince words now does he? But no, it wasn't just him, but as we weren't working hard and we weren't under those hot lamps we were OK.

As I said before I love humble George. So I was happy when he thanked us for "not being at home watching the X-factor." Heh, as if! He then told us he hoped it had been the right decision. The sound we all made then should have reassured him plenty.

What made me grumble

Two rows before me sat two women who were obviously fans, all excited about seeing George. They had glow sticks in their hand which they happily waved around during Through. They kept on waving the horrid things song after song, and you'd be surprised how distracting such a little light at the edge of your vision can be. One row behind them and one row before me sat two other women who also were big fans. They had the unfortunate habit of commenting on every song - loudly. I have no idea what started things off but suddenly the four women were  having a heated argument. It got so bad that they almost came to blows just before George started Going To A Town. After a bit of yelling that made it impossible for the rest of us to hear George's voice two of them clawed their way out of the row and stormed off.
Of course both sides thought they were in the right, but as far as I was concerned it was a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black, one side being exactly as annoying as the other. In the interval they were all complaining to various stewards, but unfortunately the floor was sold out so they couldn't be re-seated. When I left the venue after the show I saw two of them complaining all over again to yet another steward: "It completely ruined our night". Yes well, it wasn't exactly fun for those around you either.
Moral of the story: don't wave your glow stick around, don't talk during the songs and most of all don't complain to other fans about behaviour you don't like. In cases like this it's really best to grin and bear it. It's not worth it as it's simply not the kind of argument you have any chance of winning and the only thing it will do is spoil your own mood!

When George is singing you should just focus on George - and nothing else!
You know, having people bring their booze in the auditorium is bad enough. Quite a few times I went home with my handbag all wet and reeking of alcohol, because someone had carelessly spilled their pint of beer all over the floor but that's all in the game I suppose. But I absolutely hate the thought of  people smoking in there - no-one wants a fire in a place filled with thousands of people. And these yahoos weren't just smoking a cigarette, they were smoking joints! That's just ridiculous and at a George Michael concert it's particularly thoughtless. You don't smoke pot near a guy who's doing all he can to stay clean! Besides, I feel George's music is wonderful enough to be enjoyed without any enhancements.

And finally - choose your career wisely

For me Roxanne is mostly a nice photo op as I simply don't like the song, I know it's a fan favourite nearly everywhere but it does absolutely nothing for me. So I just sit back, relax and try to find the right moment to take a picture.

Beginners luck: this is from the first Symphonica show I saw (August 2011)
And I watch that wonderful video, and every time I watch it I marvel anew at it's
brilliance. It's so pure and honest and although I've seen it so many times the images never fail to move me. And I wonder about these girls, and what happened to them. Are they still alive, are they still healthy? Do they regret being in this video because it's still being shown to so many people years after it was made? I'm sure they couldn't have foreseen this happening when they said: "OK you can film us for a few minutes". Are they still selling their bodies or have they found some other, less dangerous way to make a living? I really hope so.

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