George Michael | Symphonica

Here George Michael talks about his Symphonica Tour this week in London, his new studio album as an ‘out gay man’ and why he’s not joining Take That… by Alan Greenhalgh

George Michael’s Symphonica: The Orchestral Tour is getting him out of  the house and  into the world’s great opera houses with large orchestras. He’ll be out a lot then, as this autumn and into December, George will perform over 60 concerts across Europe, singing songs from the past 30 years in a show full of album tracks, rarities, covers and the occasional hit. The idea of singing with a symphony orchestra was inspired by Tony Bennett and he admitted he’d thought about doing Songs From the Last Century at the Royal Albert Hall but thought he was too young then at 37 years-old and that this typically happened for crooners at the end of their career. Well he’s definitely not, and what’s more is that during the breaks in touring he is recording a new album which he says ‘is just about as far away from this symphonica idea as can be imagined.’ He wants to explore dance music and his own voice and wants to make each new piece of music authentic, honest and give more of himself and who he really is in terms of lyrical content and the music he listens to as an ‘out gay man’. Expect collaborations with  unknown young gay artists and gay-friendly stars.

Although the projects are distinct he wants them to progress together as he feels he has so much time to make up for. For this tour he says that he ‘doesn’t have to concentrate on keeping thousands of fans excited for two and a half hours. I’ve probably got one more of those tours in me, but right now I want to have something slightly different, and hoping to make new fans.’ He’s going to be singing some of his own songs live, some of which he’s never done before, especially from the album Songs From The Last Century and his interpretations of The Police classic Roxanne, Barbadian Rhianna’s Russian Roulette, Let Her Down Easy by Terence Trent D’arby, Going to A Town by Rufus Wainwright and Amy Winehouse’s Love is a Losing Game.

There is a 41-piece orchestra, a spectacular wall of LED lights and he’s dressed in Armani – a long way from his first gig in a scout hut in Bushey, which he says went incredibly well, and since then he’s never left the stage disappointed and hopes the new tour won’t change that.  But before the 25 Live tour which ended in  2008 he had not toured for 17 years and that three-month tour turned into three years because he felt a huge amount of affection and loyalty to his own fans. Plus George says touring keeps him on the ‘straight and narrow’ and drives him to take care of himself. His backstage riders are food for his friends while he’s out on stage and, he thinks, there’s flowers on the list but admits ‘it’s a very cheap rider’.

Talking about the limitations of fame he said he thought back in 1981 that Top of the Pops was as big as it gets. He says punk wasn’t selling internationally and you didn’t get bands doing well in America then Don’t you Want Me? by Human League and Tainted Love by Soft Cell opened up the market there. He is the only British solo artist to have six number one hits in America in the 1980s, three as Wham! and the rest as a solo artist.

There will be some duets on the tour too – he won’t say who – but recalls that Aretha Franklin had asked the 20 years-old George to work with her but he’d ‘chickened out’ so when he did I Knew You Were Waiting he said she was inspirational. When asked about performing at the 2012 Olympics he’d thought Take That would be asked and  that joining them for  even one number would ‘look a bit odd’.

There’s a bit of tech on stage and we’re impressed with the SymphoniCam in which a high def photo is taken of the audience and judging by the number of people who’ve tagged themselves has been a great success – you can then tweet or facebook and win a hardcover Symphonica Tour Programme. George is a fan of twitter and says that if you want to ask him anything personal you’ll have to tweet him @GeorgeMichael.

George Michael’s fans are loyal with an average eight years between albums or wait so long to see him live – after the concerts in London he moves on to Italy, Germany and Austria before coming back to the UK to play in Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow. He says he’s going to be knackered and is working up to 22 December at Earl’s Court, then takes a break until 29 April 2012 to appear at the Opera House in Paris before kicking off a second leg of the tour. You can catch him here and there’s a special performance on the 6th November 2011 at the Royal Opera House to benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

If you want a keepsake then there is this book –  words, which is a collection of all George’s lyrics  and is on sale at the concert.

We’ll be there on Saturday night and can’t wait – hope he’s well enough after cancelling the concert on 26 October. George tweeted that ‘The guilt is overwhelming, but this time I had absolutely no choice. Was feverish yesterday but feeling better today’ and asks fans to keep hold of their tickets as he will reschedule the show.

Here’s some footage from Rotterdam with George auto-tuning New Order’s True Faith


  1. […] Ball co-host Sir Elton John, who is in Australia standing in for his friend George Michael on the tour dates Michael had to cancel due to […]

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