Well, how's this for a surprise? I had no idea that George Michael was releasing his 2008 25 Tour on DVD until I was casually browsing the Music DVD section at HMV the other day. I had to have it.
The two-disc DVD set titled George Michael Live in London documents the pop legend's final London show at Earls Court in 22 tracks on the first disc and behind-the-scenes documentary and three bonus performances on disc two. Having attended his Air Canada Centre show in Toronto, I can say that this recording of the show is possibly even better than the actual performance I saw. The downside however, is that his 25 years of hits which was originally presented in a two act, 150 minute long show, has been pared down significantly for this release.
Michael makes no mistake about making a grand entrance, starting the show on a high note with Fastlove, followed by I'm Your Man from his Wham! days and then more recent hit Flawless from 2004's Patience album. He also updates the classic Everything She Wants in an age-appropriate manner, illustrating why his melodies have stood the test of time.
Although for me, Michael's dance material has always been his strength, his career is marked by many, many outstanding ballads. Father Figure, One More Try and A Different Corner have a very strong presence on this disc. He devotes a good portion of his show to some of his more jazzy material, which seems to have been more of a focus in recent years, including covers of Feeling Good (Nina Simone) and Roxanne (The Police) and his own Spinning The Wheel, which transforms into a big anthemic dance mix. Even though his voice has deteriorated slightly since his prime, having lost a bit of his upper range he once had, Michael's amazing talent cannot be denied still.
One of the details which made this show so memorable were its vignettes and the gorgeous 3000 LED screen lightshow that were projected as Michael performed. In his performance of Roxanne, it is explained that his camera crew invaded the lives of some prostitutes in the Red Light District of Amsterdam and this footage is shown to set the tone of song. This pretty much sums up the level of detail Michael puts into his show for his fans. In his performance of Too Funky, we take a trip back down memory lane with snippets of the original video starring now media mogul Tyra Banks and Linda Evangelista, among many other supermodels on the runway. We learn interestingly that Michael had an uncle who took his own life shortly before he was born on his chilling tribute, My Mother Had a Brother. That uncle aspired to be a star and never came to terms with his failure. He became what that uncle never could be.
Never one to avoid scandal, Michael arrives on stage in a police officer get-up on Outside, mocking that famous 1998 bathroom sex scandal which led to his arrest; it's party time, indeed. The show would not be complete without a delivery of the career-defining Careless Whisper, which has the audience singing along in unison, before capping it all off with the celebratory Freedom '90.
The documentary featured on the second disc titled I'd Know Him a Mile Off shows Michael in all his fire randomly firing profanities in good humour, at friends and crew. Clearly a perfectionist, we learn that he listens and critiques his live recordings right after his shows. And it is quite fun watching him interact with his superb backing vocalists on a sisterly level.
George Michael Live in London is an essential for fans like myself who have hungered far too long for something new. Michael will be releasing an EP for The December Song, his first Christmas track since perennial favourite Last Christmas, on December 15, 2009. Perhaps this is a sign of more to come? Grade: A
To view some photos of took from George Michael's 25 Tour, click here.
Below is a video I got of Freedom '90, for a taste of what his show felt like: