"As the tempo rises so do the screams and oestrogen levels... George Michael is still Britain’s premier pop star"
On a night of many screams from the adoring mummies in attendance, George Michael’s invitation at the start of Father Figure gets one of the loudest. “Let’s go back to the ’80s,” he suggests.
Ah the ’80s… when the mummies probably weren’t mummies yet and – Club Tropicana video aside – there was still some pretence that George Michael was straight.
What remains is the devotion of his largely female fan base. It’s been a lengthy wait for the resumption of Michael’s Symphonica tour while he recuperated from a near fatal bout of pneumonia at the end of last year, and during the first song, Through, he extends the anticipation.
A massive curtain still envelops the stage, a giant silhouette of the singer projected against it as he writhes in response to the emotional lyrics of the song. “Suddenly the audience is so cruel,” he laments, to ecstatic cries of adoration. The tease.
Symphonica sees Michael accompanied by an orchestra, who revisit and revise hits from his back catalogue as well as cover versions of songs from other artists, including Rufus Wainwrights’s Going To A Town, about America’s archaic attitudes to gay rights, and Sting’s Roxanne.
With My Baby Just Cares For Me and Feeling Good, Michael emerges as an old style balladeer, his voice stronger and smoother than ever as he birls around on his crooner’s stool, reaching a crescendo as he wrings all the soul, pain and passion from Brother Can You Spare A Dime?, which closes the first half of the show.
It’s not until the encore that he unleashes a breathless megamix of hits: Amazing, I’m Your Man and Freedom, and as the tempo rises so do the screams and oestrogen levels, especially as he demonstrates his patented dance moves; legs splayed in a semi-squat, looking as if he’s trying to giddy up a slow-moving – but incredibly funky – invisible pony.
If he was ‘Through’ at the start of the show, by the end, he’s resurrected. “I’m alive” is the refrain in his new single White Light, (that second song he played during the Olympics closing ceremony). A quarter of a century on much has changed, and despite several bumps along the way, the 49-year-old proves he’s still Britain’s premier pop star.