George Michael Hailed for Orchestral Performance

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The singer's return to form, with a 41-piece classical orchestra, is described by critics as "stunning."

LONDON - In recent years he's been as well known for his drug-takiing antics and skirmishes with the law as for his musical career.

But George Michael was hailed by critics and fans alike after for the opening night of his Symphonica Tour in London Tuesday night.

Backed by a 41-piece classical orchestra with the splendour of the  Royal Albert Hall as his backdrop - and a giant LED lightwall for good measure - the former Wham! front man wowed audiences with a dazzling vocal performance.

He brought to life classic covers like "My Baby Just Cares For Me," "Roxanne," Rufus Wainwright's "Going To Town" as well as orchestral/jazz arrangements of his own work including "Praying For Time," "A Different Corner," "I'm Your Man" and "Freedom."

Writing in the London Evening Standard, Rick Pearson pronounced the combination of Michael's soul vocals and the London Symphonica Orchestra a success.

"The Symphonica tour…sees him [Michael] realise his long-standing ambition of performing with an orchestra and the effects are stunning."

Writing on, Bruce Dessau said: "George's offstage antics might keep the red tops [tabloid newspapers] occupied, but once he kicked the show off … his glittering musical pedigree was absolutely centre-stage."

Wearing a charcoal grey pinstripe suit with a black shirt, the 48-year old cut a sleek figure on the first night of the sold-out four-night show, which combined the sombre and the upbeat. Michael performed a moving tribute Amy Winehouse, singing "Love Is A Losing Game" and dedicated his brand new song "Where I Hope You Are" - which included the refrain "I'm sorry" to his former lover Kenny Goss.

But he ended the performance with Wham! classics "I'm Your Man" and "Freedom" to an ovation from the crowd, and he even made a joke at his own expense about his history of drugs misuse.

Announcing a cover version of New Order's "True Faith," he told the audience: "this is a song about the nature of addiction - which, of course, I know nothing about."

The singer was sentenced to 27 days in jail last year, after driving his Range Rover into a London shopfront while stoned on Cannabis. The Symphonica tour has played in Prague, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria, Denmark and France, and has added extra dates to a U.K. tour that now kicks off.




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