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Friday, June 20, 2008

Last Night: George Michael at the HP Pavilion

Posted By on Fri, Jun 20, 2008 at 9:24 AM

George Michael at the HP Pavilion

Review by Tamara Palmer; Photos by T2P2

June 19, 2008

Better than: Watching George Michael make the news

Pop icon George Michael looks like he’s been sipping from the fountain of youth. Last night, he made his first local concert appearance in 17 years, offering a set of fan favorites spanning his maverick solo career and the best hits from his 80s group Wham!, dissolving time away with his bright smiles and powerful pipes.

Michael also raised the bar for expensive arena concerts—top tickets to the show were $175—with his production values. A large LED screen that cascaded onto the floor and continued to the edge of the stage projected beautiful still and moving images ranging from classic Hollywood celluloid to futuristic female droids, his band tucked into risers behind it.

“Thank you for sticking by me for the better part of 25 years,” he said after finishing his opening numbers, “Fastlove” and “I’m Your Man.” “Lord knows it’s not always easy to be a George Michael fan!”

It was little surprise that the nearly sold-out crowd appeared to be resolutely over 30-years-old, though it was odd not to see anything in the way of crazy or tributary outfits on the fans save two ladies in matching heart shirts holding signs that said, “Denmark loves you!” and “5,661 miles, only for U!”

The first half of the show also included smash songs like “Father Figure,” “Everything She Wants” and “Too Funky,” but a popular highlight was his return from intermission, jumping right into “Faith.”

As guitar, keys, upright bass and bongos were brought on stage, Michael offered two beautiful jazz-drenched covers back to back: Nina Simone’s “Feelin’ Good” and “Roxanne” by the Police, the latter slowing down the original into smoldering territory.

A few songs later, he ran off stage and re-emerged with what would be his only costume change for the performance, donning handcuffs, dark aviator shades and a top reminiscent of a police officer’s uniform. It was the perfect, cheeky ensemble to perform “Outside,” the single and video in which Michael made fun of his 1998 arrest for engaging in a lewd act with an undercover policeman in a Beverly Hills bathroom, and end the show.

He quickly appeared for his encore, sitting down for a tender rendition of “Praying For Time” and then leaping to his feet for “Careless Whisper.” Though Michael had kept the crowd at an enviable level of excitement and energy throughout, fans gave him just a little bit extra juice for these.

Back out for a second encore, Michael asked, “So, if you could hear one more song, what would it be?” He was greeted with cacophony, which soon dissolved into as much of a consensus as a 16,000-seat arena could muster, and the opening strains of “Freedom” rang.

And as he bowed off the stage for the final time, end credits rolled on the LED screen, a creative final touch to a rather compelling show.

Critic’s Notebook:

Personal bias: Knows all the vocal ad-libs on “Everything She Wants.”

Random detail: No “Choose Life” T-shirts were spotted inside, but there was one “Give Your Life To Jesus” sign outside.

By the way: Not to rub it in, but George Michael has said that he does not intend to tour again.

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Janine Kahn

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