Photos by Chris Gray. Note: they made me stand way, way back at the soundboard so all I could take were these freaky sci-fi shots. Some of them turned out pretty cool.
On his first U.S. tour in close to 20 years, George Michael’s 25 Live Tour stopped at the Toyota Center last night to a few seats shy of a sold-out crowd. Expectations were high, and before the show even began, it was clear that it would be done in style.
The sleek stage, comprised of a long, flowing screen of black tiles in the center and two smaller screens on either side, housed a full band and six back-up singers in three-tiered cages. As fans trickled in past the "prompt" 8 p.m. show time, Michael’s silky voice wafted through the room 45 (fashionable) minutes later with “Waiting.” The crowd erupted with unabashed joy when he finally appeared at center stage to sing “Fast Love,” ready to take control of the evening.
This guy, of course, was on the list.
Masterfully, Michael directed the tempo of the show, tantalizing the crowd like an experienced seducer. He moved effortlessly from hits like "Father Figure" and "Hard Day," Wham! classics "Everything She Wants" and "Careless Whisper," to his renditions of Roberta Flack’s "The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face" and Nina Simone’s "Feeling Good," accompanied by footage of the burlesque star Dita von Teese. Michael had the crowd in the palm of his hand and he knew it.
Where the magic happens. Note lucky audio gnome at left.
His confident swagger and hip-shaking delighted the diverse crowd, among which were former teen fanatics past their prime, hetero- and homosexuals, infants and surprisingly smarmy senior citizens. The crowd danced and sang along for most of the show, cheering as Wham! footage and videos from his solo career flashed across the screens and faded into Michael’s present image: clean-cut, sophisticated and undeniably sexy. Nostalgia had no place in this celebration of the artist and man Michael, who celebrated his 45th birthday last month, has become. (If only air-conditioning, which apparently would have dried out Michael's vocal cords too much, did.)
A 20-minute intermission, complete with countdown clock, ended with the booming sound of a church organ. Blood-curdling screams cascaded from the top of the mezzanine seats down to the floor as Michael began to sing the title track from his No. 1 album Faith.
Hey! Down in front!
It's difficult to choose highlights from such a stellar (and deep) catalogue, but the beautifully melancholy "Kissing a Fool" and very personal love song "Amazing" - which Michael dedicated to his partner of several years, Texan entrepreneur Kenny Goss - cannot be overlooked. And just when his performances of “Outside” (in police uniform with the short gloves, people, yes) and the relatively unknown dance track "Fantasy" seemed impossible to top, "Freedom 90" left no doubt that this modern legend transcends gender, age, and all else.
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Michael’s energetic show ran just under three hours, leaving every single person elated, exhausted and wanting more. It was definitely worth the 20-year wait. - Amanda Mahmoudi