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!

Before the show Bev, the official GeorgeMichael.com blogger, tweeted that the show was scheduled to start at 7.30 PM. Heh, I loved the careful way she put that, she knew very well that George has a slight tendency to start his shows late - usually at least 20 minutes later than the official start time. As a fan on facebook put it: "Has someone told George that the show starts early?" Well, the show started at 8.10 PM and not a second earlier. Although to be fair, for once it really wasn't George's fault. Earls Court took forever to fill up and George never starts before almost everyone is in their seats.

George in London

Personally I feel Earls Court is an ugly and soulless venue and if that isn't bad enough the place is huge. To my mind that makes it extremely unsuitable for an intimate show like Symphonica. I'm very curious why team GM chose this venue for the last of the Symphonica shows, instead of say Wembley Arena - not that that's much better. Maybe the original plan was to film a DVD of the last shows? The Live in London DVD is proof that Earls Court is a very good venue for filming!

George the magician!
Before the first Earls Court show I was quite worried that George and Symphonica would get a bit lost in that huge venue and those beautiful ballads wouldn't go over well with a crowd that big. Well, I needn't have worried. Watching George woo the Earls Court crowd I realized I was seeing a master at work. It must be so tiring for a performer to project your energy to a crowd as big as that. Especially because George being George doesn't have an army of dancers or some big show to keep the crowd entertained.  It's funny, on the one hand Symphonica is such a big, classy show with the highest production values. And on the other hand if you look past all that it really is just one man, his songs and that amazing voice voice - that's it folks, that's all the show you're going to get. Sure, for the avid fan of Symphonica there is lot of entertaining stuff going on onstage - just watch the backing vocalists, conductor Henry Hey, or enjoy those amazing background visuals. But for the casual concert go-er it's just George. And still he managed to work his magic on the crowd - easily!

Symphonica is basically just George and his voice
On the way over to Earls Court a group op young people (your basic Will and Grace set-up plus one extra guy) were discussing concerts. As it quickly came apparent they were on their way to see George I shamelessly eavesdropped. After a few minutes they got to talking about Madonna's last show and how good it had been but how little actual live singing had been involved: I think they mentioned a little under half an hour. Heh, I would have loved to hear them talking after Symphonica - no show to speak of but live singing galore!

Song of the Night

I may not like Earls Court as a venue but there's one thing where it excels above all the other venues I've had the pleasure of seeing George perform in. I had a seat on the floor and looked around me during the arm waving bit in Praying For Time and I'll tell you, because of the height and the vastness of the place the effect was pure magic. Wherever I looked, all around me and high up above me I was surrounded by waving arms, making me feel like I was in a huge forest of waving trees. The energy of the crowd at a moment like that is unbelievable.
I was also on the floor both nights of the Final 2 and I still get goosebumps thinking back at how amazing Spinning the Wheel was. Believe me however excellent the Live in London DVD is it doesn't begin to show how beautiful it was. Praying For Time wasn't as mind-boggling special as that was but it came pretty close!

What made me smile

Phil Palmer looking up to heaven while playing
Guitarist Phil Palmer was shown on the big screen during A Different Corner. I guess nobody had told him before the show that they were going to do that again because he sure gave us some funny faces. I thoroughly enjoyed that!

Star People:  4 stars in action!
So cool to hear another Star People! The big question is why did George wait so long before putting it on the setlist. It's a cracker of a song and I love hearing it live. Also there's another reason for loving Star People - it's background visuals project plenty of light on the backing vocalists so it's great for getting a nice pic of them!

George did the 'stamp your feet shuffle' again at the end of the show and it made me giggle so hard. It's so silly and yet so cute: classic George!

What made me grumble - a lot

All the way at the back of Earls Court you're miles away from the stage, you might as well be outside. So maybe that's an explanation, although to my mind not an excuse, why some people took to drinking their way through the show. And of course by the time the last encore comes around quite a few of those people were seriously drunk, shouting incoherently and whistling all the time. George did his best to keep them in check, telling us all to think of You Remember Me as a lullaby and  asking us to please not shout out while he was singing and Michal was playing. But all those drunken louts were by now too drunk to hear George or to even care and so their drunken shouts ruined You Remember Me completely. I was so annoyed!

And finally - George is a Londoner

George may have been an international star for almost 30 years, but  he remains a North London boy at heart. You get the feeling nowhere else will ever be home to him. And that there's nothing he likes more than to perform for his home crowd, his own people. And this is why the fans fly in from all over to see him perform in London. George is happiest in London and that's all we want: for George to be happy onstage. And to hear great music of course. Well, there was plenty of that, so I was very pleased I flew over to London one last time.

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