Dublin, 01 November 2011 - by Marie Larmour

I’ve waited ooh how I’ve waited, quietly, serenely (I appear so if I keep my mouth shut), and then at long last etched frenziedly on the O2 Auditorium...MEME WUZ HERE!!! Only joking O2, artistic licence and all that. My first Symphonia concert as a real person and not a virtual internet eaves dropper! George Michael returned all better from his recent 'London sickie', raring to go and we had a hooley! Well a very posh hooley with a classically trained 41 piece symphony orchestra, jazz sextet and @GMSingers, his four backing singers. Definitely not your typical traditional Irish hooley with a few fiddles and a harp (if we’re lucky). Oh by the way your Royal HoliKnicks, oops I mean Holiness, Big daughter and Wee son send their love and deep, deep joy again. I’m hoarse and can’t shout at them after singing, whooping and screaming all night at you! I do believe you’re up there with Santa.

As well as squeaky vocal chords, (yes I am taking my own medicine tips that I annoyed you with on Twitter, when you were sick), my hands are still sore from all the clapping. I even burst a blood vessel in my hand clapping, such was the calibre of the show! Typing this review with damaged digits is a labour of love I can assure you. My last labour of love was a very long 72hrs and resulted in my wee son but we don’t need to go there!

As far as value for money is concerned consider it paid in full! He began sometime after 8pm and left us sometime around 11pm. It literally flew by at warp speed! The state of the art sound Digico SD7 boards were "specifically chosen to handle the demands of this phenomenal production...it, in audio terms has pushed the huge capacity of the SD7’s to the limit" according to Andy "Baggy" Robinson, Head of Sound for the tour. You didn’t think the appliance of that science was me did you? The 3D visuals are Windows operated onto a specially woven screen that fills its massive size, the full width of the stage. I have to say though that George could have saved himself a fortune on the visuals because his superb vocals and his magnificent orchestra in full flight detract from such entrancing visuals. However the crimson emblazoned Persian living crest that continuously grows behind George during the opening number Through, is spellbinding and its concept inspired. It morphs into 3D crystalline shapes eventually filling the complete width of the stage.

Smoking jazz, balsy blues, big band swing and soulful ballads from Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Bing Crosby and Frank Ifield have all been 'George’d' and given the unmistakened smooth, textured weave that he effortlessly applies. These he deftly orchestrates with subtlety, keeping the melody lines and his vocals simple. This understated and respectful treatment carries through to more contemporary artists like David Bowie, Amy Winehouse and Rihanna. Throughout his polyphonic voice soars, resonating like the finest crystal and performs vocal acrobatics at his ease. These vibrant vocals lift to another level memorable songs that have impacted upon his life, sung in an chronological, autobiographical order.

His orchestration is never over-powering and allows each delicate flavour and nuance to be savoured, imploding at will like a catalyst on your eardrum in a completely controlled fashion. The beautiful rotund strings and bass are complimented by the wonderfully distinct brass who power up to jazz and blues without blurring the delicate parameters of the strings. The percussion punches out the bass beats with an innate muted power. Together this symphonic orchestra pumped it up with attitude! I’ve never heard an orchestra mechanically captured at a live venue with such clarity, tonality and distinction without relying on phenomenal natural acoustics. His voice is a smooth as silk transcending tenor and effortless bass in heart rending ballads and adds a husky edge to the jazz & blues numbers. He and his backing singers blend and harmonize so well that they at times become one.

The capacity crowd in the O2 were more than ready for His Nibs, noisily & excitedly filling the auditorium very quickly which is unusual for the Irish. They were literally humming like busy bees waiting but this scaled up to a roar when they first heard George Michael from behind the big red (now black) Victorian styled velvet curtain. This 'velvet' suddenly became see through as the lights were brought up a smidgen, just enough to see the smokey, shadowy figure that had brought everyone here. The crowd were literally rocking the stadium as soon as they saw him as the increasing light revealed the famous George Michael, immaculately bearded, his dazzling grin, framed by his snazzy dark glasses. We literally had lift off!

Musically we had a quiet beginning with his own composition Through, a beautifully orchestrated ballad and vocals that dripped pure honey, a taste of what was to come. The crowd had quieted down to listen but George moved quickly and opened up the orchestra and sextet into Big band swing with Nina Simone’s My Baby Just Cares For Me. The crowd opened up again with him & swayed and clapped in time and in swing. George appeared businesslike and a little shy as if he wasn’t sure how the Irish crowd would react to his new non pop format. A quick hallo, how are you doing and a remark about his and Elton Johns ageing pop star status as he introduced Idol. Quickly on into Cowboys and Angels which was resplendent fully orchestrated. There was another minor crowd eruption as 'Big George' appeared on the massive screen during this number.

Wee George wasn’t as talkative as London and I felt that he could have slowed down the speed in between his songs, for a little one on one that he’s so good at. The Irish love a 'yarn'. When he did stop for a short chat, he told the crowd that he expected a lot from them tonight because they tied with Rotterdam for best crowd award on his last tour. He needn’t have worried. Irish crowds are very discerning audiences, they love good music & appreciate great talent and if they like you, you know it! Already he had cheers claps & wolf whistles.

His rendition of True Faith was even better than his recorded version which surprised me but then he is always meticulous in his performances both vocally and instrumentally. Rufus Wainwright’s Going To A Town was exquisite in its melodic soulful lament and heralded Georges vocal acrobatics and the GM singers first full bodied backing. He introduced it as Rufus’ take on America’s refusal to acknowledge gay marriage. Let Her Down easy by Terence Trent Darby had George regale the audience with his "fellow Sony sufferer’s" tale of unpublished genius and the story of a VERY understanding father’s chat with the lover of his daughter. You Have Been Loved, he dedicated to his Mother, Alselmo and for all those who have lost someone.

Up until now the audience had listened attentively, whooped, cheered and clapped excitedly, if a little nervously & at times, awkwardly reflecting the mood of George Michael. Just when you began to think things are starting to get melancholic he masterfully changed the pace with Wild Is The Wind. The GM swagger came on and with it the crowd responded dancing and screaming as he romped around the stage. Next he slowed a little with Safe with its funky groove. The crowd swayed in time to the melody and some had cheered at the beginning in recognition. Brother Can You Spare A Dime was the wonderful big band closer of the first half.

Effortlessly George and the orchestra transposed us musically and chronologically back to a balmy, bluesy, Alabama, high class jazz club, fit for the elite of the 'Hollywood Set'. Full and masterful use of the strings gave an added depth to this big band number that George sang from the back of the stage. George smirked as the final chords sounded. He knew the crowd were going to go ballistic when they realised that it was the end of the first half already. George looked pleased with himself as the curtain closed and the standing fans clapped noisily, shouting and screaming. He had his L’Oreal smirk on, the one when he’s pleased with the crowd’s positive reaction..."You know I’m worth it" one!

The clock ticked down the twenty minutes of the interval and amazingly the Irish fans came back from the bar in time because our George was back bang on time. We’re off again with Patience and the crowd love it as George said they would. He asked for a cheer for his best friend and co-writer David Austin who was in the Audience as he sang John And Elvis Are Dead. David’s parents are Irish and have retired back here according to what he himself said in a radio interview. George wasn’t best pleased with Sony who promised to release John And Elvis as a single, if he released Amazing first and wasn’t impressed that they stopped promoting the album before he could fully utilize the £600,000 video he had made and paid for!

At the end George bowed in front of an enormous visual of Elvis and moved on to Roxanne. The Wonderbra visuals (as I call them) are in fact all real prostitutes filmed in Amsterdam 12 years ago as explained by George. Beautiful girls hopefully rich enough now to retire. The crowd surprised George and started to sing along with him. They had sung a little with Patience but they were in full flight now swaying visibly to the music. Next we are treated to George’s version of Tim Buckley’s Song To A Siren. He bought this the very day he signed his first record deal he nonchalantly told us from his stool. The bright blue visuals and the echoing drone of the vocals produce a beautifully haunting, cavernous, stygian quality. I was at once in the vast subterranean sea caverns of the sirens of Odysseus. The hypnotic vocals with their ethereal echoing, Uilleann drone, captivated your aural senses and refused to allow you to be conscious of anything else just as the song of the sirens hypnotised ancient Greek mariners to their doom. A magnificent interpretation.

The pace & mood is subtly changed again with A Different Corner. This is audience’s favourite so far in the tour and Ireland is no exception. The crowd erupts again! I think we’ll rename the O2 to Vesuvius! The crowd sang along word for word, swaying and waving their light sticks, phones & cameras. George looked smug as if he was half expecting it. He was right to be smug, a full standing ovation followed the enormous cheers. He had another wee chat with the audience; well he tried to have a sensible chat but had to give up in the end. He started to talk about people coming into his room looking for...yes you’ve guessed, the Irish filled in their own blanks with 'go on ye boy ye', wolf whistles and various suggestions before George could say, "set list changes"! "OK OK! My DRESSING room!" That was worse as they had more ammunition for their 'Carry On' double entendre. "OK OK you lot, my OFFICE!" They roared laughing, George in an office, now what would he be getting up to in one of those?....He gave up shaking his head and told them they’d obviously had a few bevies in the interval, wise man! George You Have Been...Slagged Irish style! This is when you have the Michael (pardon the pun) taken out of you affectionately! It’s Official Your adopted!

Next he warned us about the impending lot of sad relationship songs or as Bev from George Michael Official calls it the 'Break up Set'! Poor Bev was not well but doing her best. If George was looking for sympathy he was definitely in the wrong place! The crowd started shouting various remedies for his depression over his recent break up. This included a blonde lady who had sat thus, far totally oblivious to everyone else and enthralled. She was transfixed on his every gesture and singing word for word with full emotive expression on her face and in her hand gestures at each of his own songs. She was on planet George and she just wanted to lift him out of his depression (ahem blushing 'cos I heard what she really said) and cheer him up. Another woman asked could she swap him for her husband? This crowd seemed delighted he was "open to suggestion" again!

George gave a wry smile and opened up his soul during Where I Hope You Are and it was obvious he was reliving his painful break up with his partner Kenny Goss. The crowd softened, they quietly listened and watched as he touched his heart emphatically with his left hand three times near the end. He took us back to lazy Sunday afternoons of the sixties when TVs were still a luxury and most listened to crooners, smoozin on the radio. It was You’ve Changed. His Tribute to the amazing talent that was Amy Winehouse followed, as he sang his version of Love Is A Losing Game with sad, beautiful larger than life visuals of her on the large screen and whoops from the crowd in the musical interludes. Next came a complete change of pace and the bass pumping, foot stomping, crowd clapping and arm waving, Russian Roulette of Rihanna. Needless to say the crowd were rocking.

The arm waving and body swaying continued for Praying for Time and George was sizzling as he bounced around the stage and then came the most leading question of the tour..."Dublin are you Feeling Good?" YES came the deafening scream back at him. The orchestra struck up, the band jazzed up, Dita von Tease puckered up in all her glory and our George was on fire. Big band swing rocked the O2 and the crowd loved it. The orchestra opened up on all cylinders and George took his baby, (Symphonica) home! Then he left amid the claps and yells and disbelief and foot stomps, exit stage right with a backward wave and little smile that said he didn’t really want to go yet but Symphonica was over. What to do, what to do...The crowd bayed for more, they cheered they clapped and screamed but oddly enough they didn’t Ole him as is the norm! Thankfully he didn’t stay away too long and bounced back!

George came back to say his thank you’s and brought out his band of guitars, drums, percussion, double bass and piano. He thanked the orchestra and his four backing singers. Next we had the Dublin 1st Evangelical choir doing it for George and Jesus as the crowd sang along and in tune with His Holiness and the GM singers, for the now customary Gospel bit and then...all hell let loose! "Dublin You ready to dance"? YES they roared "You ready to sing"? YEEESSS the screamed at the top of their voices! He gestured to the whole audience to get up and dance and sing. You don’t have to ask the Irish twice to let their hair down. They did!

George went to town boogying and the crowd quickly followed. He got down and dirty with Amazing, I’m Your Man and Freedom. Literally he got down with his bum nearly polishing the stage floor. Thought that man had a bad back!! His new nickname is MR SHEEN. Every other line of the song George shoved his mike out to the audience and they willingly obliged. Gone was the shy George of earlier, romping around the stage like a teenager high on red bull. Our George was in his favourite mad aunties, front living room with the curtains pulled so the nosey neighbours can’t see them, letting rip for all their worth, to their favourite dance albums! The Irish crowd being the crazy aunt and the O2, the living room, get the picture?

George whipped them up into a frenzy of arm waving, singing, dancing and swaying, then tease that he is, he bid them goodnight and left them high and dry!!! WHATA-MISTAKA-TOMAKA! Ballistic whilst I’ve used it before is a good description...They roared, they screamed, they yelled, they clapped, they whistled and stamped their feet in unison. The Irish foot stamping, rain dance worked (just as well or the wrestlers nearly had to find an alternative venue for Wednesday nite)! This heard of wild elephants literally nearly brought the house down, especially the foot stamping.

Back comes the tease and the noise gets even louder, cupping his ear with his hand he wants more and then mimics the crowds foot stomping rain dance! Cheeky 'Bissum' is what he’d get called in Dublin! In the midst of this wild and wonderful abandonment I feel like a prize eejit. I was exhausted screaming clapping and nearly took a cramp in my leg stamping, only then did I remember from my other reviews, of course he came back for I Remember You-DOH!!! Your good George! You lulled me into a false sense of security and I forgot what a master of crowd control and out and out tease you really are! He meanwhile calms things down for his final ballad and introduces the wonderful harpist and 12th Symphonica apostle Mr Michal Matejcik for his enchanting harp solo. His dulcet tones heralds the end of George Michael’s concert and the audience still enthralled wait until the final strains of the orchestral instrumental fades away before leaving. We Have Been...Georged!