Friday, 12 October 2012

Symphonica - Gig report Manchester (October 9)

The Amsterdam show was all kinds of wonderful, the Royal Albert Hall show was a magical night, and Cardiff was two days of glorious fun. But this, this was the show to be! It was just an amazing show from beginning to end. It took to 2 flights, 2 journeys by train in Holland and another 3 in England and 3 rides on Manchester's metro link to get me to the show and back home again, but it was so worth every second of travel and I would do it again in a heartbeat. It might just be that my excellent seat - front row right in front of George Michael - had something to do with that.

We knew even before George took to the stage that Manchester 2 would be fun, as he tweeted that he was looking forward to the show! And fun it definitely was! We got two new songs: a fabulous new arrangement of Star People and a cover of F.E.A.R., the Stone Roses song. It took the crowd a bit of time to get behind that last one, but when they did it was lots of fun! And we got to see backing vocalist Jay Henry in a star turn, singing a duet with George. As he tweeted later, it had been 'scary', but nervous or not Jay was very, very good! As was the whole Symphonica crew, it really was a magical night. Again!

George wouldn't be George without a bit of bling :)

One sentence review: Manchester the sequel - bigger and even better!

Sitting front row, before George, is an amazing experience.There's nothing between you and the stage apart from a bit of concrete and a flimsy rope.

Front Row - nothing between you and the stage (Russian Roulette)
You get to see everything from front row. You see his amazing concentration - it's almost like he goes into a trance when he sings. You see him pour his emotions into his voice when he sings the ballads that mean so much to him.

True Faith: time for emoting.
You see him smile a little smile of victory after a song went down particularly well. You see how hot he gets under those stage lights, his crew cut shining with perspiration. You see him give a little nod to Henry Hey after he's had a chat with the crowd to signal that he's OK to get on with things. You see how much energy he puts into getting the crowd involved.

Waiting For That Day - having fun with the crowd.
But most of all you get to see with your own eyes how much the adoration of the crowd means to him, how happy it makes him to feel to be so appreciated,  'loved' even. Take a close look at his face in the photo below and you will see his joy after another fantastic concert.

Sitting so near the stage is also a bit scary, you feel rather vulnerable, almost naked, though thank heavens not literally! You can't hide so to speak. I remember in Vienna I was wearing a top of a very smooth fabric and at an unfortunate moment after I'd jotted down a quick note my notebook slid off my lap and skidded across the floor in front of me. I was mortified and dove quickly to retrieve it. To this day I believe George noticed and smiled at my embarrassment. Yikes, not exactly the way you want to get noticed by your idol! But - if you manage to hold on to all your belongings and not make a fool of yourself, sitting front row is definitely a dream come true.

One person who would wholeheartedly agree with me was the lady sitting next to me. For her this must have been one of the best nights of her life. Not only did she finally fulfil her lifelong dream of seeing George Michael live, she really got the best seat in the house too! Not surprisingly she was as happy as can be. Just like me she'd only bought her ticket the day before the show, after debating for months if she could spare the money. She told me that ever since she'd received the confirmation email from Ticketmaster she'd been shaking inside, being so nervous about finally getting to see George Michael. It was true, her body almost hummed and crackled with excitement. This is what being a fan should be all about, and it made me happy to see her having the time of her life.

Jay is a star

And then there was the new song F.E.A.R.

Earlier on George had asked us if we had rhythm and we assured him with a roar that yes, we definitely had rhythm. Until the start of F.E.A.R., that is. George told us all to clap along and everyone did of course. Being in thrall to George we all followed his lead. And George was not staying on the beat  - not even close! Heh, he's still human. I giggled a bit when he scolded us: "In time please". Eh, you  first George!

Jay is a star! So are Lucy, Shirley and Lincoln.
This song was a duet, George standing at the front of the stage of course. At the other side of the stage stood a black man, a bit of a hunk. It took me a while to catch on but then I suddenly thought, but surely that must be Jay Henry? After so many shows I should be able to recognize his body language and his physique (still can't get over those nice biceps). I became more and more convinced, that yes, it definitely was Jay! And he did great! He really looked every inch the star he is! Which is why I would have loved to have seen more interaction between him and George. I even felt a bit sorry for Jay, who had to remain at the far end of the stage, almost hidden in darkness so that all we saw was his silhouettee. But George is the boss and what he says goes. And I have to admit, besides being known in the business for having a fantastic ear, George also has a fine eye. Because the way they set it up looked way cool! I've filmed the first few minutes of this song, so you can see it for yourself here.

The strange thing is I quite liked F.E.A.R during the concert, loving the way we all got to participate, but I wasn't blown away by it. But now .. I can't get it out of my head and at the strangest moments I find myself singing the chorus under my breath: F.E.A.R! Sometimes a George song or even a cover is like that, they might take their time to get under your skin but once they get there - watch out!
I really hope we get to hear a repeat performance of F.E.A.R. in Earls Court. But if not, I'll be just happy to have heard it all. And not to brag (well maybe just a little!) I got to hear all the songs George sang in Symphonica 2011 and 2012! Even Safe and It Really Doesn't Matter which were 'blink and you miss it 'appearances on the setlist. Really, all the songs? Well no, to my chagrin I've got to admit I missed one: Refuge! But apart from Refuge I got the full set! And I'm happy and so grateful for that as they were all wonderful in their own way.

Song of the Night

That's easy: Star People! I love that song, especially live and am still bummed it's not on the Live In London DVD. Now it's gotten that big orchestra treatment lets hope George keeps it on the setlist for London. We were all singing along in our row, prompting George to remark that all of us on the first row knew the words better than he did himself. Yup, I think that's a fair assessment, Star People used to be a big stumbling block for him in his 25Live days. I honestly have no idea how he fared in Manchester, I was so wrapped up in the pleasure of hearing it again that I didn't notice any botched lines.

And finally - George is starstruck!

There's a wonderful joke about soap opera's in the TV sitcom the Nanny. Someone who's been out of the country for 6 months asks to be updated on their favourite soap. Says the the lead character: "Well, they're still at the party ...."! Heh, one of my favourite sitcoms jokes of all time and very true! But however slow-moving soaps may be, there are loads of people who love them and George certainly is one of them! I knew about his love affair with East Enders of course (remember the gay plotline twitter rant from last year?), but had no idea that he watched Coronation Street faithfully as well. I've got a sneaking suspicion now that Emmerdale is also on his must-see list!
George confessed to us after True Faith that he used to watch Coronation Street while under the influence. "Not any more I'm afraid, I have to watch [it] sober these days". And even having to watch his soaps without the benefit of the forbidden stuff hasn't cooled his ardour for them! But as Sam so succinctly said on twitter: "He watches all sorts of crap". Heh!

Famous people can be fans too - and act like it!
Anyway, you could almost see him rubbing his hands in anticipation when he tweeted that up to 40 stars of Coronation Street would be coming to the Manchester show, and that he hoped they would be near the stage. Heh, I always love it when George shows his geeky side - and what's more geeky than a huge star being in awe of people much less famous than himself. The actors from Coronation street are of course pretty well known in the UK whereas George, well....Whenever something newsworthy happens to George I get a kick out of getting online and finding out how many news agencies from far away countries almost trip over themselves in their haste to bring their readers the latest George Michael news. So to hear this very famous man mentioning his excitement at the presence of actors on a national soap and even asking them to stand up so he could see them better was very funny to me.

Being a serious fan is a harmless but pretty strange condition. It makes you act a bit weird whenever the name of your star is mentioned. It can also make you do silly things. This can happen to all of us, and judging by George's behaviour being famous offers no protection for this whatsoever. Because either George hadn't been properly briefed on where his dear Corrie people were sitting or he had been but misunderstood and assumed, wrongly as it turned out, they were all in block 102- stage left. They weren't, they were all on the other side of the stage in block 115! So poor George was talking to the wrong people the whole time.
Ulla (@bluedressed, she of the beautiful pictures and videos) who was sitting stage left tweeted later that she'd been pointing George in the right direction, as were the actors themselves - yelling and doing all they could to get his attention. But George would have none of it and kept focussing on the wrong side of the stage. Love it!

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