In the absence of security, I made my way into the night, with 40 000 others, to Edihad Stadium for the George Michael concert. Nostalgia lingered in the warm Melbourne night. My reasons for wanting to see George Michael went beyond his exceptional voice – it was also to reconnect with memories of dress ups and cat-walking around the living room with my cousins to George’s ‘Too funky’.
‘Here I am, Australia,’ he sang from stage wings as the lights in Edihad dimmed to cameras and mobiles sparkling like Christmas lights. His performance certainly resonated with that statement – here are my songs, songs drawn from my life, a life I’m proud of, a life I stand by. He seemed a little reluctant to hit the high notes to begin with – instantly I was sceptical. I don’t usually attend concerts in large stadiums; not only do they lack in intimacy, but the acoustics in the arena require an exceptionally powerful voice. It didn’t take George long to settle in and the performance quickly escalated to each song being on par, if not better, than his recorded voice.
Images of a youthful George playing guitar and singing ‘Faith’ towered behind the T-shaped stage and were contrasted against an almost fifty-year-old, pot-bellied George dancing live on stage. It was worrying to be confronted not only with George’s ageing but also, my own. George’s energy and timeless moves catapulted me back to the 80s and 90s and had me leaping from my chair, dancing and singing, contemplating ‘Fastlove’ and reminiscing over ‘Careless whispers’ – he had me reliving my life all over again.
George was amazing, but what was even more amazing was his ability to enthral and entertain such a large crowd to the point where I think I’d struggle to find an unsatisfied attendee. His voice was smooth, his emotional connection to each song adding layers of shading to his voice. He was teary during ‘You have been loved’, a song he wrote for his deceased partner. What was unexpected for me was the inspiration and empowerment I felt as an artist seeing George perform – his music is unapologetic, honest, and never shies away from truth, despite the consequence or public scrutiny. It affirmed my belief that the most powerful art is that which stems from ‘truth’. Then it is up to the audience to interpret that art, and make it relevant to their own lives.
Midway through the night George bitterly dedicated ‘An easy affair’ to media giant Rupert Murdoch. In 2006, George publicly called Mr Murdoch ‘The devil’ because he was unhappy with the way he was portrayed in the media, particularly over the 2006 scandal where George was found slumped over the wheel of his car in possession of cannabis. George has always been open about his drug use and has never seen it as a problem or an addiction. Before singing ‘An easy affair’, George proudly declared that he’s performed 114 shows over three years without one bad review. ‘I’m doing well for a drug addict,’ he said. ‘If I’m a functioning drug addict I’m the best functioning drug addict you’ll ever meet.’ The lyrics of the song say ‘don’t let them tell you who you are is not enough’. His statement resonated with the mood of the performance – this is who I am, and I’m not changing for nobody.
George closed his performance with the song ‘Freedom’. There’s no doubt he delivered a performance beyond expectation.