WAKE ME Up Before You Go-Go? You’ll be waiting a while. Careless Whisper? Not to be heard. How about Faith ? Sorry, your faith will not be rewarded, but will an electronically enhanced version of New Order’s True Faith do?
On his current Symphonica tour, which arrived in Dublin’s O2 last night, George Michael is mostly steering clear of his greatest hits, both as a solo artist and from his time with Wham!.
But that’s not to say his orchestral show is devoid of classics. In a concert packed with carefully
selected covers, the singer unveiled classy versions of well-known tunes, including a swinging rendition of Nina Simone’s My Baby Just Cares for Me (he didn’t bother changing the gender, as Frank Sinatra would have done), Brother, Can You Spare A Dime? (he doesn’t need one, being worth an estimated €105 million), and The Police’s Roxanne .
Fans who flocked to his 25 Live greatest hits tour a few years ago might have been a tad disappointed at the volume of largely unfamiliar material on offer, but connoisseurs of George Michael’s honeyed croon and undoubted style were treated to a set of songs which brought the best out of the former 1980s love god’s larynx.
The 48-year-old may not be willing to writhe around in a kinky cop uniform (at least not in public), but he seemed supremely comfortable in a sober black suit and shades, fronting a 41-piece orchestra, and pushing his voice to ever more impressive heights of emotion and candour.
And if you felt short-changed by the lack of George Michael and Wham! hits, you couldn’t fault his choice of cover versions, some of which clearly resonated with the singer’s life.
An Elton John song, Idol , was a sober study of an ageing pop star, and Rufus Wainwright’s Going To A Town was a full-on broadside against opponents of gay marriage. It was also one of the highlights of the set.
Also impressive was Wild is the Wind , done by Johnny Mathis but better known by the David Bowie version, and a beautifully flowing version of Tim Buckley’s Song to the Siren.
The handful of Michael’s own songs were clearly cherry- picked to slot smoothly into the orchestral settings, including Cowboys and Angels, You Have Been Loved and Kissing a Fool .
The choice of songs, Michael admitted, reflected his own sadness at the end of a relationship, including Where I Hope You Are, You’ve Changed and Amy Winehouse’s Love is a Losing Game . “It might get a bit depressing for a bit,” he warned the crowd, “but don’t worry, I’ll cheer you up later”.
Those who patiently waited for a glimpse of Michael’s younger, more upbeat incarnation were rewarded with an encore medley that included I’m Your Man and Freedom ’90 , but this was definitely a show aimed at fans of the older, wiser and really rather distinguished version of the Gorgeous George.