No one in the nearly sold-out crowd seemed to mind that George Michael was 40 minutes late taking the stage Saturday night at MGM’s Grand Garden Arena, and that seemed appropriate. It’s taken him 17 years to return to our country; really, what’s another hour, give or take?
The good news is Michael, who had the biggest impact on the ’80s pop scene other than, well, the other guy with “Michael” in his name, picked up where he left off—with the audience eating out of his hand. For two-plus hours, Michael, whose voice sounds as strong as ever, barreled through more than 20 of his hits, with live music provided by a band on three tiers on either side of the stage. The “stage” was a ceiling-to-floor video screen that curved at the bottom and threatened to spill out into the audience. Visuals included old Michael videos and vintage photos of Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe. Footage of burlesque performer Dita Von Teese bathing in a large champagne glass played as Michael performed “Feeling Good,” a cover he did for the ABC series Eli Stone (in which Michael himself was prominently featured).
Michael’s brand of MOR dance-pop has apparently lost none of its charm, as Faith-based women who were no doubt hot in the ’80s were out of their seats for “FastLove,” “Too Funky” and “Amazing.” But nothing got quite so much applause as when Michael talked to the audience, referencing both his scandals and his long absence from the States: “I want to thank the people who have supported me for the last 25 years ... Imagine yourself with a lot more hair, and there we are.” And he seemed genuinely moved by the audience’s affection: “It really has been a revelation being back in America, and I thank you for that.” As Michael sang his first encore, “Praying for Time,” he appeared to be fighting back tears.
The appreciative crowd excitedly sang along to “Kissing a Fool,” “Father Figure,” “Everything She Wants,” “I’m Your Man” and, of course, the show’s capper, “Careless Whisper,” but Michael spent just a bit too much time pointing the microphone at the crowd. After about the 100th time, it felt like watching a Greek Geiger counter. But then, he was having fun, and you’d have been hard-pressed to find anyone in the crowd not doing the same.
The bottom line: ****