The name George Michael generally conjures up images of a guy in tight jeans and black jacket, stuck in the 80s, crooning lightweight pop fluff. It might also conjure the memory of the guy who got arrested for indecency. Or the guy who was busted for drugs after passing out in his car. But go back to when CFTR wasn’t all news, when acid wash was in, and when pop music (good pop music) was still cool to like. That’s the place Michael took 14,000 fans Thursday night at the Air Canada Centre on his 25 Live tour, named after a greatest hits collection that’s recently been released.
Clad in black, and still strikingly handsome at 45, Michael emerged from within a huge L-shaped screen that dominated the stage. He and his impressive band went from the contemplative “Waiting” to the dance pop of “Fast Love,” setting the tempo for the rest of the two and a half hour show, with up-tempo dance hits balanced with slower, more contemplative pieces. Michael fully acknowledged his Wham! past, with a kitschy, fun “I’m Your Man,” complete with background visuals culled from his Princess Di days. “Everything She Wants,” still a brilliant piece of synth pop twenty-four years after it was written, elicited huge whoops from the enthusiastic audience. The Stevie Wonder–esque “Hard Day,” the gospel tinged “One More Try,” and a cover of “Feeling Good” (complete with a Dita Von Teese background) were greeted with buoyant enthusiasm. Michael worked the crowd from all angles, smiled, chatted between numbers, and even gave a nod to his famous bathroom debacle, emerging in a policeman uniform for “Outside” before dedicating “Amazing” to his partner, Kenny Goss. “Freedom” closed the show, with rainbow graphics projected on the background screen, providing one of the evening’s many nods to Michael’s coming out.
The 25 Live tour is both a trip down memory lane and a celebration of the present, allowing fans to embrace pop history, not cringe at it. And that’s really what the tour is all about. Michael is old enough to know that his music was the soundtrack for many a childhood, and young enough to still have fun with being a pop star. You may freely, unabashedly embrace pop music again, says George. Now get off your ass and dance.
Photo by George Pimental.