The '80s pop star proves he's still got it during this "farewell" tour
[Photos courtesy of Barry Brecheisen]
It only took 17 years, but George Michael finally returned to the big stage last night in Chicago -- and what a stage it was. Looking like a massive cascading waterfall, the multi-story-high LED backdrop—replete with light shows and now-vintage videos—flowed down to serve as Michael's stage and dance floor. The iconic '80s pop singer who has had more notoriety in the last decade for his sex scandals and drug busts put on a two-set, two-plus-hour show to a nearly sold-out United Center. Word has it that the previous show in Minneapolis only saw a half-full arena Michael allegedly played a half-assed show. Not the case in Chicago. He honestly seemed thrilled to be here and the crowd made him feel right at home.
Opening the show with a recording of "Waiting (reprise)" Michael then sauntered on stage through doors that opened in the LED and launched into the upbeat and dancy "Fast Love," setting the vibe for the rest of the show. Throughout the first set, he plucked hits from throughout his career, including two from the Wham! era: "I'm Your Man" and the energetic and solid "Everything She Wants." The crowd got down with "Father Figure" and "Too Funky," which was accompanied by the video featuring a pre-talk show Tyra looking gorgeous and young. He closed the set with "Star People" and announced he'd be back in 20 minutes.
Despite what the tabloids may have said about Michael throughout the years, there's no denying he possesses one of the greatest voices of our generation. The man has sold more than 100 million albums worldwide, has earned a number of Grammy awards and has packed stadiums and arenas from London to Los Angeles. His voice may not be as pristine as it once was, but Michael can still hit the high notes, still deliver the soul and still dance like he's having the time of his life.
That energy continued into the second set, which kicked off with a crowd-singing "Faith." It was somewhat surprising that he didn't play guitar but who's to say he actually played it in the late'-80s video or just danced with it? The sexy burlesque star Dita Von Teese filmed a video to accompany Michael's sultry remake of Nina Simone's "Feeling Good," which he introduced by saying, the song "describes my present state of mind." His cover of the Police's "Roxanne" was a little flat -- it would've been better to hear "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," which he dueted with Elton John at Live Aid in 1985, but released as a single in 1991.
Before he could leave the stage, Michael kicked things up a notch—as if everything up to that point wasn't good enough. After commenting on how great it was to be living today where a man could marry a man or a woman could marry a woman, he dedicated "Amazing" to his partner, Kenny Goss. Then, to introduce "Flawless," he said, "This is probably the gayest album I ever made." And then he left the stage but quickly returned wearing a gayed-up police uniform for "Outside," the song he wrote in response to his bathroom "entrapment" in Los Angeles in 1998.
Michael treated the crowd to two encores: the first featured the beautiful but somewhat boring "Different Corner" and the rousing "Careless Whisper," but interestingly didn't include either "Cowboys and Angels" or "Praying for Time." The second, he came back and asked the crowd if we had enough energy for one more and asked what we wanted to hear. In unison, the crowd screamed "Freedom." And with that, he capped off an amazing concert, which was staged as a "thank you" to his fans for sticking by him for 25 years; he's said this is his last full-scale tour. Michael, with his trademark perma-scruff and sunglasses, gave fans what they came for and it would be a shock if anyone–the gays, the girls or the straight guys they brought–left disappointed.
For the full set list, click here.
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