Monday night Darren and I saw George Michael in concert at the Xcel Energy Center. All things considered, I'd have to say that the aging pop superstar put on a damn fine show.
As a live performer (or musician for that matter) he's certainly no Prince, but he had a much more compelling stage presence than I expected, and his his video and light show was without question the most dazzling I've seen at a concert.
Even the stage's floor was the continuation of a massive video screen. (I think I would have fallen down and had a seizure if I had tried to walk on a glowing surface that appeared to undulate beneath me.)
As the name suggests, George Michael 25 is essentially a greatest hits tour, and dusty though many of his pop gems are, George delivered them with style and infectious enthusiasm. He even deigned to dip into Wham!'s back catalog for such crowd-pleasers as I'm Your Man, Everything She Wants, and Careless Whisper.
Speaking of the crowd, it was solidly (or like George himself), stoutly middle-aged, and very, very white. There were quite a few queers on hand, too, but not nearly as many as one would find at a Pet Shop Boys concert or a sale at Room and Board.
Puffy, suspiciously alert-looking, and Botoxed though he is these days, George still has considerable sex appeal (sort of like a handsome Greek waiter serving up souvlaki and jaunty pop tunes), and he shook his money-maker appealingly--if somewhat monotonously--all night long. I'll admit that it worked on me just fine.
I wasn't alone in my admiration of his aging charms. A group of shrill trashy women sitting behind us kept moaning ruefully to each other about "what a waste it is that he's gay," and "I just know we could 'turn him' if we had a couple hours with him in a hotel room!"
Yeah, that's what he wants: big-haired, tattooed, spray-on-tanned NASCAR moms from Chaska pawing futiley at him in a fleabag Super 8.
Most of George's big hits got the full treatment, but I was particularly pleased to have him perform Hard Day and Fantasy, two of of my favorite songs that were never released as singles in the US. (Anyone hoping to hear I Want Your Sex, however, was left, well, still wanting it.)
The biggest disappointment of the night for me was George's voice. While he sounded great in his low and mid-registers, it was clear within minutes that he no longer can hit the high notes that used to soar above so many of his best songs.
Thankfully, he didn't try to hit the notes and and miss them--he just avoided highs all together by dropping down an octave or (as was most often the case) having the crowd sing those parts of the song for him en masse.
As that disheartening trend revealed itself, I exclaimed "He can't hit the highs anymore!" and "He's cheating!" But I don't think Darren noticed or particularly cared.
After all, he was just ten years old when Careless Whisper filled the airwaves for months and months and provided the sonic backdrop for my second and final heterosexual date (at Godfather's Pizza in Austin, MN, just prior to seeing the original Terminator movie).
The song's last high: "NOW that you're gone..." used to make my queer teenage heart ache, and on Monday I felt a bit robbed that I had paid $125 to have to sing that note myself. (I can hit it, but only in falsetto.)
All I'm sayin' is that Prince and Chris Isaak can still sing all their songs the right way. Too much weed, George, way too much weed. And fags. (You know, in the British usage of the word. Mostly.)
Griping aside, it was a really fun night, and I'm glad we forked out the dough to see Mr. Panayiotou do his thing. Hearing those songs brought back a lot of happy memories, and since I'm not about to haul my ass to Chicago to see that Kabbalah water-drinking floozy, Madonna, there won't be many more chances to see superstars of the '80s in my neck of the woods.
Except for one of course, and His Royal Badness will never abandon us for long.