Monday, 19 September 2011

Symphonica - Dutch Review Verona (Sept. 14)

This is the Dutch review for the George Michael Symphonica concert of September 14. The English review is over here.

De Engelse review voor 14 september was al behoorlijk compleet, toch nog een paar observaties na mijn eerste 4 Symphonica bezoekjes.

Die Italiaanse fans maken heel veel geluid maar waren - althans in Verona - heel keurig. Schuin voor mij waren twee plaatsen leeg, en die bleven ook leeg! In Ahoy zouden die plekjes binnen 10 seconden opgevuld zijn. Maar nu zat ik dus effectief op rij 3, met zo goed als vrij zicht op George. Eindelijk goede filmpjes (link naar WIHYA)!

Groeien en bloeien van de show
Het leuke van een complexe show als deze (bijna) vanaf het allereerste begin volgen is dat je ziet hoe de show gaandeweg gestalte krijgt, er wordt nog steeds aan het concept gesleuteld. Een paar dingen die me opgevallen zijn.

Ik vermaak me kostelijk met het gluren naar het orkest, super interessant om te zien hoe dat zo'n beetje reilt en zeilt. Om te beginnen kun je merken dat ze de afgelopen weken hebben gezocht naar een manier om alle 'toppers' hun eigen moment te geven om te schitteren. Zo zit er nu, in ieder geval sinds Keulen, een shout-out voor het hele orkest (Ladies & Gentlemen: the Symphonica Orchestra!!) in het midden van Brother, Can You Spare A Dime. Onlangs hebben ze dat stuk nog zwaarder aangezet. Ik zat in Verona vlakbij de Arena in het zonnetje te luisteren naar de soundcheck en toen hoorde ik het orkest dit stuk oefenen. Zo gaaf!
Ook de harpist heeft zijn eigen spotlight en shout-out, tijdens I Remember You. En George's eigen band en zijn achtergrond zangers komen natuurlijk met zijn allen naar voren vlak vóór de medley om voorgesteld en bedankt te worden.

Ik wist overigens niet dat je ook 'rondreizende' klassieke musici had, een soort klassieke sessie-muzikanten dus. Voor diegenen die geen toegang hebben tot de All Aeccess blog op de officiële site: het Symphonica orkest bestaat uit een vaste kern van 11 musici, die allemaal individueel zijn ingehuurd voor deze tour. De vaste kern wordt aangevuld met 'losse' musici van wisselende nationaliteit, afhankelijk van waar het GM circus neergestreken is. Erg knap dat al die mensen met een ongetwijfeld minimale rehearsal tijd toch zo goed samen kunnen spelen. Ach het zijn natuurlijk ook de besten in hun vak, want voor minder doet George het niet.

Meer details na de jump.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Tough Job: All Aeccess blogger for

Here in the Netherlands we have this TV show called: Real Men. It's all about big, burly men doing tough jobs like logging in Oregon or driving trucks over frozen ice. Impressive stuff and you find yourself thinking: "Thank Goodness I don't have to do that for a living".

Tough jobs come in all shapes and sizes though. These last few weeks I read about, had email conversations with and eventually met in person (twice!) a lovely woman with a different kind of tough job.
Meet Lindsay: official All Aeccess blogger for She couldn't look more different than those big, tough guys; she's just a slip of a girl.

Lindsay at the Köln show, busy as always
(pic courtesy of @GeorgeMichaelNL)
I've written some stuff about the concept of fandom on this blog, because the subject endlessly fascinates me. Something tells me that Lindsay, in spite of working for the organisation that handles George's website, hadn't had much experience with superfans 'in the wild' so to speak, before she took a plane to Prague for her first stint of touring.

I won't lie, the start wasn't easy for her. The fans, some (heh) of them just a tad jealous about her presumed close proximity to George Michael, watched her like a hawk to see if this lucky girl would slip up, make mistakes. And of course she did, like we all do when starting a new job.

When you work with real fans, you'll soon discover that they are often more knowledgeable about their idol than you are. Fans dedicated enough to come to multiple shows or buy an Aeccess Membership all know about the video of Roxanne - they probably know the exact date the footage was shot in Amsterdam as well!
And though I have to admit to giggling about her suggestion of skipping the last song before the break to enjoy the luxury of a private trip to the bathroom, I'll never know how she sneaked that past her editors/bosses. Especially since Brother, Can You Spare Me A Dime is such a cracker of a song!

Lindsay was a trooper though, and took all the criticism of  George's 'lovelies' on the chin. And then she got into her stride. Her blogging got very good and funny, giving us her take on the shows and interesting background information about life on the tour(bus) and soundchecks. She even gave us a few rounds of the sound check game.
And she was nice to us! She emailed me a few times and I heard from several other people that she took the time to email them personally in the few hours between travels she could get herself and her laptop to a wi-fi point. Very good of her, especially if you saw how incredibly busy she was. Always having to blog against a deadline isn't easy!

While she admits that life on the tour is tough for her, I'm sure that once she's home again and reunited with puppy Dexter and her husband her time with Symphonica will seem a lot more glamorous and fun (time and distance will take care of that!).
And she'll have enough stories to dine out on for years to come. Even though she wasn't exactly travelling in the inner GM circles, I'm sure she saw some funny stuff she can't tell us about. (Pity!)

I'm not sure if George Michael is aware how much great work Lindsay did for him and his 'lovelies', but we sure are. Thanks Lindsay!

Thinking about Where I Hope You Are

Some more thoughts about the new George Michael song Where I Hope You Are. It's not the full review I want to write about this wonderful song, I'll hold off on that until the CD single comes out. These are just some thoughts about how this song affected me.
George's music is deeply personal, but can still lead all of us on our own emotional journey, that's the beauty of the way he writes. This is where Where I Hope You Are led me.

I'm a survivor. I survived being born amidst the horrors of a brutal  civil war in Nigeria. I survived the death of my mother of starvation when she was still nursing me. I almost died from hunger too after her death when there was no food left to give to me, but I survived even then.
I'm a survivor; it's what I do. Now if I only could forgive myself for surviving I'd be all set.

These last few weeks have been so much fun! Going to four (!) George Michael concerts in as many weeks in three different countries was incredible. Meeting up with old friends from the George Michael fan community and making new GM friends at the concerts and online (twitter, yay!) was great.
And in spite of all that, or maybe because of all that, today I'm sad beyond words. I miss my mum. I think she misses me too. And that thought makes me feel so sad. And so guilty.

It's not my fault she's dead, enemies of the Igbo tribe murdered her by starving her and hundreds of thousands of Igbo people to death. I'm sure that nursing me depleted what little resources she had left after fleeing, while heavily pregnant with me, across the country back to Igbo territory together with her husband and 3 small children. Still not my fault, I didn't kill her.

I know all that but I still want to beg her forgiveness and say: "I'm so sorry that I'm still alive and you're dead. I'm sorry that today I'm enjoying the sun on my face in the Netherlands while all that remains of you are dusty bones in the earth of a village in Nigeria. I'm just so sorry, mum".

Looking back on it, I guess that's why Where I Hope You Are hit me so hard when I first heard it in Herning. The way George Michael kept singing "I'm so sorry" broke my heart. With every "sorry" his head dropped a little lower and his voice got a little more emotional. He truly was sorry, even the most cynical person on earth could see that. That particular performance of Where I Hope You Are almost felt like a public penance to me, and it affected me deeply. I cried my eyes out.

And guilt? Well, I'll bet George Michael feels quite guilty too about the way things turned out. It's very hard to realise that the person you love the most is the person you've hurt the most. I've been there, I guess everyone in a long-time relationship has been there at one time or another.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Symphonica - Gig Report Verona (September 14)

Second night at Verona and you'd think George Michael couldn't possible be as good as he was yesterday. Well, he was even better. Way better. The reception he got yesterday must have done him a world of good because he was just walking on water today.

Tonight's concert was a big old love-in. Every person in the audience loved George and he loved us right back. He even told us he loved us and he doesn't do that often.  He came on stage with a huge grin on his face. And, some of the sad ballads aside, that grin never left his face again that nightI have to say: happy is a great colour for him.

One sentence review: Lightning strikes twice in Verona

Please read on for more details of the night. If you prefer to read the Dutch in-depth review, it's over here.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Symphonica - Dutch Review Verona (September 13)

This is the Dutch review for Verona, September 13. My review in English is over here.

Een stropdas, en dat met die hitte!

George zei het al in zijn eerste praatje: Let's hear it for Verona!! Absoluut, wat een onvergetelijke, bijzondere Arena en wat een bijzondere avond. Ik kan nog steeds niet helemaal geloven dat ik er bij geweest ben. Dit is echt zo'n avond die je nooit meer vergeet.

Na de jump meer details over deze bijzondere avond.

Symphonica - Gig Report Verona (September 13)

When you've been through hell, and I guess George Michael knows his way around over there, it's so great when life gives you an unexpected big gift to sort of make up for all the heartache. Singing to an ecstatic crowd in a historical arena on a beautiful, warm summer night might just be such a gift so I hope tonight was as magical and unforgettable for George as it was for us, his fans.

One sentence review: A perfect George in a perfect Arena

Please read on for more details of the night. If you prefer to read the Dutch review, that is over here.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

9/11 Ten years on

What is there left to say about September 11, 2001? Maybe all should be silence. RIP: all the people who died that day and in the wars that followed.

Where was I when I heard the news? Well, I was at work, because 9 AM in New York equals 3 PM in the Netherlands. I vividly remember a colleague coming into my office to tell me the news and me laughing in his face in disbelief. Planes flying into buildings? It just couldn't be true, could it? But it was. And the world changed.

Strangely enough my first thoughts of compassion were for those people on the planes, knowing they were being made into a living, dying bomb. No way out. Some of the people in the Towers had a small chance of getting out, they had none.
Then I thought of all the ordinary people working in or near the Twin Towers, going to work today that fateful day with no idea of how terrible a day it was going to be. Acts of terrorism and war destroy the lives of the innocents first and foremost. was down, internet news sites all over the world were down, everyone scrambling to get news updates. In a moment of  inspiration I turned to, their messageboards were still functioning. It was unreal, reading about death, destruction and terrorism on the site I had used so much over the years for the innocent pleasure of adding stuff to my various collections. In an seemingly endless thread, post after post told of grief, terror and pain.

Then, and I will never forget this, I saw these words in caps: SECOND TOWER DOWN. More powerful than any image these 3 words for me sum up the horror of  September 11, 2001.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Symphonica, Dutch Review Köln (September 7)

This is the Dutch review for the Köln Symphonica show. The English review is over here.

Er staan al heel veel details over de show van gisteravond in de Engelstalige review. Ik probeer dubbelingen zoveel mogelijk te voorkomen. Dit zijn dus zijn nog wat aanvullingen, voor de mensen op Planet George en andere geïnteresseerden.

Het was weer een bijzondere avond. Om te beginnen werd ik opgewacht door Lindsay van de Aeccess blog van voor een mini-interviewtje. Complete verrassing, en erg leuk. Eerlijk gezegd, gewoon super cool! Squee! Alleen was ik zo overdonderd dat ik er helemaal niet aan dacht om mijn kleren goed recht te trekken voor de foto. Ik houd mijn hart vast, lol.
Lindsay was heel aardig. Die meid werkt echt hartstikke hard, dat kan je zo zien. Ze zitten veel in de bus, en dan heeft ze dus geen beschikking over internet. Dat moet vreselijk lastig zijn, want dan loop je dus voortdurend achter de feiten aan. Zodra je weer verbinding hebt liggen er natuurlijk stapels emails op je te wachten. Nou ja, ze ziet - neem ik aan gratis - heel veel shows, dus verschrikkelijk sneu is ze ook weer niet.

Ik ook niet overigens, want mijn plekje op de 3e rij van het zijblok was stukken beter dan ik verwacht had. Bijna geheel vrij zicht op het gehele podium en schuin zicht op George. Achter mij zat een Engelse (of Ierse?) fan waarmee ik nog in de rij had gezeten bij The Point in Dublin. Ik blijf me er maar over verbazen hoe klein het fanwereldje goedbeschouwd is.

Enfin, na het gesprekje met Lindsay was er nog maar weinig tijd om alles in gereedheid te brengen:  pen omhangen, notitieblokje in de jaszak, de twittertelefoon voor het grijpen, fotocamera met polsbandje om de pols en GAAN.

De Lanxess Arena staat in de stijgers. De show niet, ondanks de verschuivingen in de setlist . Om in bouwtermen te blijven: Symphonica staat als een huis. George voelt zich duidelijk helemaal thuis bij zijn materiaal en lijkt haast nog meer plezier te beleven aan het zingen van de covers dan zijn eigen werk. Hij geniet van de show, zoveel is wel duidelijk.

Na de jump nog meer details.

Symphonica - Gig Report Köln (September 7)

When George Michael is happy on stage, he is very happy indeed. That wonderful 100 Watt smile of his can light up an place as big at the Lanxess Arena. It's very obvious George is overjoyed to be back doing what he does so well. It's equally obvious that his fans are over the moon to have him back.
There's a lot of love in the air during these concerts, flowing from the audience to George and - rather  more unusual for stars as big as he is - the other way round. It's a quite a special feeling to be part of it all.

There is this one line in Through, the opening song of the show.
They may chase me to the ends of the world, but I got you, babe.
On the first night in Herning he pointed to all of us in the audience, telling us with this one gesture that he's glad we're there for him now that he's hurting so. He didn't do that tonight but even so it's clear that singing for us night after night makes a difference. I'm just so glad that we can help him in some little way. After all, his music has helped so many of us through times of heartache and sorrow it's only right to give something back to him if we can.

One sentence review: George brings a magical night to Köln

Please read on for more details of the night. If you prefer to read the Dutch in-depth review, you can find that here.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Symphonica - Vids and Pics from Herning (August 29)

The concert in Herning on August 29 was my first of the Symphonica Tour and man, was I busy!
I was tweeting just before the start of the concert, in the break and just after the concert when we were stuck in traffic leaving the Arena parking lot.
I shot some very wobbly videos, and took a few pictures, most of which turned out blurry - that left hand of George is the bane of photographers everywhere. Between songs I jotted down some quick notes about the show, trying to juggle camera, pen and notebook.

But more importantly: I drank it all in, seeing George Michael up close again, falling instantly in love with Let Her Down Easy, Going To A Town and most of all Russian Roulette. I was completely taken by surprise by the emotional atmosphere, crying throughout True Faith, You've been loved and of course Where I Hope You are. Back in our hotel I worked through the night, writing reviews. It was an unforgettable experience; I loved every second of it and can't wait to do it all again. Next stop: Köln.

Learned some valuable lessons:
  • It's best to hold a camera steady
  • Gotta practice with that zooming thingy some more.
  • Also, unless your voice is pretty great (mine really isn't), you'd better not sing along when you're filming as the camera will pick that up. Ruined a rather good video of the medley that way!
  • Uploading HD videos takes forever, that's what's the nights are for.
  • Bring Kleenex, lots of it.
Despite some beginners faults I got some priceless George Michael memories out of the Herning trip. You can find some new photos and all the videos I uploaded after the jump.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Symphonica, video Where I Hope You Are (August 29)

This song is just so beautiful, and so sad. I can't even begin to imagine what it must cost him to sing it night after night.
I'll write some more about this song at a later date, for now I just want to share it with you. I haven't put it on my Youtube channel, I don't want just anyone to see it and maybe make fun of George. This is just for us fans.

Now to explain about the wobbly bit in the middle, sorry for that.
 As you can tell from the first half of the video, my new camera has a powerful (12 x) zoom. Because I was sitting so close to George (3rd row) it's as if  you can see even behind his eyes. As I saw him struggling to keep his emotions in check I started to feel very bad for being 'in his face' with my stupid little camera.
Wanting to give him the privacy he deserves I started to zoom out. And then changed my mind again. I loved the song, loved the performance, heartbreaking as it was. So I zoomed in again, but not as close as before, and because filming is not exactly my forte I promptly botched up the zooming action.

You can tell from the first few seconds of Praying For Time when he is turning away from the audience for a bit, that he was still somewhat emotional. We all were! Fortunately, during Praying For Time it got better.

Van Herning, August 29

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Symphonica, video True Faith (Herning, Aug. 29)

I'm back home from Herning, but the emotion from the George Michael concert is still with me. It was beautiful, heartbreaking, joyful, amazing. Almost too many emotions to handle. I'm spinning.

Here is a clip of one of high points of the concert, True Faith. At the start of the clip images are very shaky, sorry. It gets better after a while. I was just so excited that George was gonna sing this beautiful song for us.

The new camera - a Panasonic Lumix TZ 8 - is great, though, crystal clear images and sound is not too bad. Now if I could only learn to hold it still, even with George Michael standing a few feet away....

The song starts about 1 minute in; first it's time for a "proper Good Evening Herning". Heh.

True Faith
Van True Faith (Herning)