George Michael: a modest pop star wows Vancouver fans

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      I've never been a big fan of George Michael—and in the 1980s, I probably would have declared that I would never attend a George Michael concert.

      But I ended up at last night's show at G.M. Place because my significant other insists that he's a true artist.

      And you know what? She's right.

      I'll leave the concert review to our music-writing department.

      Here are the morning-after impressions from a long-time news reporter who has never paid a lot of attention to Michael's music:

      * Michael is remarkably honest, sincere, lacking in pretentiousness and ego—a true gentleman, which runs contrary to the tabloid rubbish that so many of us consume like imbeciles. I was surprised by this lack of pretentiousness.

      * The women at this show love Michael. It was a love that appeared to run deeper than what I've seen at other shows. Perhaps it's because Michael has an emotional depth, honesty, humility, and sense of joy that you rarely see in pop stars who've sold more than 100 million albums. Or maybe it's his looks—though I think there was more to this than how he looked.

      * The crowd was, for the most part, remarkably conventional. I was expecting this show to almost be like a festival for the city's gay community. But there seemed to be more soccer moms and younger women from the suburbs than regular patrons of Celebrities nightclub—though there was a healthy turnout of gay men. But it was an open-minded conventional crowd. This should give hope to those interested in equal rights for gays and lesbians. If the soccer moms from the suburbs are so accepting of Michael, it's going to be harder for the right-wing forces in our society to roll back the gains achieved by the LGBT community in recent years.

      * Michael gave his fans what they wanted. Even though he seemed more connected to his emotional songs, the crowd appeared to lap up the dance numbers with greater enthusiasm. And he delivered. I'm guessing that he's probably getting a bit bored of singing those old ditties from early in his career, but he gave no evidence of this during his show.

      * Michael sang "Roxanne" with far more depth and compassion than Sting ever mustered. I attribute this to Michael's humility. I've always felt that with Sting, "Roxanne" is about being Sting, and trying to show how he loves women. For Michael, it was really about the women working in the red light district in Amsterdam. That's how I felt watching him perform this song.

      * Michael's stage show was tasteful. The big screens were lit up with images of models, historical newsreel images of him performing, and pictures of other well-known people like Marilyn Monroe, John F. Kennedy, and Frank Sinatra. And the symbol of the LGBT community, the rainbow colours, appeared regularly on the big screens. He doesn't hide who he is. He ended with "Freedom", which seemed like an appropriate choice.

      As Michael moves into middle age, he's become a role model for young gay men. He seemed very comfortable with himself.

      It's quite remarkable when you think about how tortured he must have felt at other times in his life -- as an adolescent with a difficult father and who was often teased in school; as a young star coping with fame and homosexuality; as a major musician in a massive fight with his record label; as a gay man who was persecuted by the police; and as a man whose lover succumbed to AIDS.

      All of that is behind him now. Let's hope he has found peace in his life. Beneath it all, Michael came across as a kind-hearted, generous-spirited guy.

      Nice guys deserve to finish first once in a while.