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#201 George Michael @ Dublin O2 Arena (November 3rd 2011)

George Michael - Dublin O2 Arena November 3rd 2011

Support: N/A / With: Symphonica Orchestra

This was my first time seeing George Michael live since the Freddie Mercury Tribute concert back in 1992. On the day, he was the best by some distance. No one else got anywhere near Freddie’s vocal range and to hear George sing Somebody To Love is still one of my favourite gig moments. As a result of his performance that day I had always wanted to see one of his own shows.

So who does go to his gigs now? Who are the George Michael fans? Are they women who were ‘Wham’ fans back in the 80’s? Is there are high gay fan base? Is it middle aged couples reliving their youth? Or are they like me, someone who loves good music in whatever form it comes? We took our seats (which cost €131.00 and were advertised as flat seating, so I was a little disappointed that they were certainly nothing special) and I soon got the answer to my question. As the overpowering smell of perfume and high pitched screaming from the middle aged women sat around us intensified I realised that this was no heavy metal audience (certainly I have never smelt that much perfume at a metal gig before but I may be proved wrong).

I have said before that arenas are not my favourite places to see live music in but the O2 Arena in Dublin is a vast improvement of what was there before. It’s a modern arena run well but it can be a little soulless at times however it does host these types of concerts extremely well. The 'sit down and watch' type of gig. Not a place where the atmosphere is going to be electric but where the audience can sit back and admire what is in front of them. Some concerts can be a little disappointing here but tonight’s performance was ideally suited to the venue.

George is touring his ‘Symphonica. The Orchestral Tour’ performing tunes from his Songs From The Last Century and Patience albums, as well as some other covers and songs from his back catalogue. Tonight there was a real theatre vibe, from the huge red curtains surrounding the stage to the ice cream during the interval. The show was split into two sets with George starting the first at 8.30. All the songs sounded great and the orchestra was extremely impressive but I felt that there were too many downbeat songs during this part of the show. There were however some outstanding moments including one that was made for this setting, Cowboys and Angels, which with the orchestra was simply irresistible. Another highlight was New Order classic, True Faith. The first set ended with fabulous renditions of Wild Is The Wind and Brother Can You Spare A Dimewith the orchestra now in full flowUnfortunately apart from those highlights the others were a little ‘samey’. Not that there was anything wrong with them....just all a bit one paced. Admittedly I am not a George Michael über fan and I’m sure there are ardent supporters who will say that I just didn’t appreciate it. But I felt it needed a change of pace at times. It was noticeable that a lot of people went to the bar or toilets during this half. George even commenting that the men are all going to the bar to get drinks for the ladies. The curtains were closed again during the interval and there was a nice touch with a digital display counting down the twenty minute break.

The second half started with Patience. A cover of Roxanne with great visuals behind was good but it was A Different Corner andKissing A Foolwhere the show and audience started to go through the gears.A moving cover of Love Is A Losing Game (dedicated to its writer, Amy Winehouse)was nice but a fantastic cover ofRhianna’sRussian Roulette and a spine chilling Praying For Time were outstanding.

Encoring with a medley of AmazingI’m Your Man and, my favourite ever George Michael song, Freedom ’90 was a great way to finish and left the audience happy and wanting more. Not sure the venue security loved George telling everyone to get up from their seats and come down and stand at the front but it really made for a great atmosphere and was a joy to see. Coming back on for a second encore of Frank Ifield song I Remember You was a poignant way to end.

So did I enjoy it?

 - The first half was ok but could have been paced better

 - The second half and encore were outstanding

 - The orchestra sounded lush and the backing singers were superb

 - George’s personality and humour really came out in the second half

 - People constantly going out to the toilets and the bar is really annoying and is very noticeable at all seating events

Last week I told my mother that I was going to see George Michael and she replied, “George Michael! He’s Ancient! Why would you want to see him?”. It is funny how people have very strong opinions on him. My mother is a sprightly 68 and so a little harsh for her to call him ‘Ancient’. Maybe it’s something to do with him being so successful for so long or maybe it’s the newspaper’s fascination with him (yes you ‘Daily Mail’) as if they are waiting for his next mistake. Well on tonight’s performance they will be waiting a long time as he looks fantastic, as fit I have seen him in years and his singing still sounded pretty damn good to me.

It would be easy for him to become a karaoke version of himself but after 30 years he is still doing what he wants. He has never been one to do album, tour, album, tour. It’s great to see and quite refreshing and you know what George? As someone said last night ‘You should take it up professionally’.

This is the first of two gigs on consecutive nights at Dublin's O2 Arena for me. Red Hot Chilli Peppers are up next...a change of pace to say the least but that’s what makse concerts great. No two the same.

Ticket: November 3rd 2011

Ticket Price:€131.25

Set Lists:

http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/george-michael/2011/the-o2-dublin-ireland-23d1982b.html