GEORGE appears on stage to deafening screams but Symphonica gets off to a fairly limp start, writes Molly Lynch.
The set list – consisting of his own and other people’s hits – seems heavy, laden with emotion.
This is a very grown-up George Michael who has not fully bounced back from very serious illness.
“This was written during the Depression,” he tells us before launching into a rendition of Brother Can You Spare a Dime?. Suffice to say the feel-good factor is missing thus far.
The gospel-like backing vocals in Father Figure provided a welcome lift to a somewhat subdued audience, while the beautiful lyrics coupled tender vocals in You Have Been Loved, which George dedicates to his late mother, almost had me reaching for the Kleenex. His voice is pitch perfect and there is no evidence of after-effects of the nasty bout of pneumonia which almost killed him last year, but by the end of the first half I was crying out for a pop song.
The second half is much better. George’s take on one of my favourite songs of all time – New Order’s True Faith – replaced anthemic, pounding house beat with a slowed-down, orchestral sound. It shouldn’t work but somehow it does. Rihanna’s Russian Roulette showcases the Czech National Symphony Orchestra in all its glory.
An encore medley of Amazing and Wham hit I’m Your Man are George at his best and brings the audience to its feet. This is followed by a euphoric version of Freedom which has the crowd singing along in unison.
With such an extensive back catalogue of hits to choose from, I can’t understand how a man who is arguably one of the best songwriters of the past 30 years could put together such a hit-and-miss setlist.
His taste in music might be a bit dubious, but baby he’s still my man.