|George performed on
NBC television special celebrating the 50th anniversary
of Harlem's famed Apollo Theater. He sang with Stevie
Wonder and performed a duet of "Careless Whisper"
with Smokey Robinson, achknowledging the inspiration
he'd so long received from these legendary artistis.
New York Times wrote on May
''Motown Returns to the
Apollo,'' the NBC-TV special taped last Saturday before
a live audience at the newly redecorated and reopened
Apollo Theater, at 125th Street and Eighth Avenue in
Harlem, was the most exciting pop event this observer
has attended in New York City all year. Celebrating the
Apollo's 50th anniversary, the show brought together
some 60 stars representing three generations of black
entertainers, from Sammy Davis Jr. (dancing, not singing)
to Motown's hottest young crooner, El DeBarge. Al Green,
Little Richard, Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, Sarah
Vaughan and Stevie Wonder were on hand, as were Rod
Stewart, Joe Cocker, Boy George and George Michael -
four white English soul singers whose styles are rooted
in American black music. It is to be broadcast May 19.
Because it was being taped for
TV, the concert, with a droll, unflappable Bill Cosby as
host, jerked along unsteadily while each segment was set
up. But in almost every case, the payoff was worth the
wait. The first of several emotional climaxes came when
Al Green, Patti LaBelle, Mavis Staples and Little
Richard joined the New Jersey Mass Choir in a gospel
segment, culminating in ''You'll Never Walk Alone,''
that brought down the house. Later, Miss LaBelle
returned with Joe Cocker and Billy Preston for an
equally rousing ''You Are So Beautiful.''
There was general agreement
that Miss LaBelle, who has been a cult figure for many
years, stole the show with her whooping metallic
delivery that sustained an almost superhuman passion and
intensity. The 40-year-old singer, who has adopted Judy
Garland's signature song, ''Over the Rainbow,'' as her
own, seems on the brink of major stardom.
The evening's biggest surprise
was the powerful ''blue-eyed soul'' singing of George
Michael. On record, the dashingly handsome leader of the
British duo Wham sounds like a sobbing teen idol.
Performing two duets at the Apollo, Mr. Michael was
something else entirely. Reprising the recent Wham hit
''Careless Whisper,'' he outsang Smokey Robinson. And he
more than held his own with Stevie Wonder in a thrilling
call-and-response rendition of Mr. Wonder's ''Love's in
Need of Love Today.'' By contrast, that other pop-soul
Wunderkind Boy George courted disaster in his duets with
Mr. Wonder and Luther Vandross. His thin, brittle tenor
was consistently flat, and his attempts to answer Mr.
Vandross's soulful invocations were weak, befuddled ''yeah,