Michael kicks off his first tour for 15 years in Barcelona on
Saturday - and the first performing his own material for 18 years.
John Hand, who is going to the show, explains why fans have always
kept Patience with the star.
people, I will always remember my first time.
It was a
summery day at the start of my teens and there were 70,000 other
people there - mainly screaming girls but also "boys in
leather kissing girls in pearls", to quote the Wham Rap.
Yes, I was a
teenage Wham! fan and the first concert I ever attended was the
Wembley Stadium show in June 1986 that officially marked the
chart-topping duo's split.
- the introspective one who sang and wrote the songs - went on to
sell millions more records on both sides of the Atlantic and keep
himself in the headlines for a variety of reasons.
Ridgeley, whose role in the band seemed to be to look cool and
goof around on guitar, recorded one poorly-received solo album,
married a Bananarama singer and has since enjoyed racing cars and
surfing in Cornwall, with barely a thought for his former music
It's hard to
explain why George fell out of love with the live music experience.
His extensive Faith tour in 1988, in support of his multi-million
selling debut solo album and its six hit singles, established him
as an accomplished, energetic yet mature live performer.
later, he followed that up with a classy show made up of his
reinterpretations of other people's songs - the Cover to Cover
tour - but since then has never ventured out on the road.
His success as
a recording artist continued - seven number ones among his 42 hits
- but there have been slim pickings for fans who want to see him
I have managed
to see every show that George has done in Britain as a solo artist
but, other than those two tours, it amounts to a handful of short
performances at charity events.
I was there
when George bounded on stage towards the end of a long day at Live
8 and scarpered off again after a blink-and-you'd-miss-it
performance that seemed to add weight to the rumours that it was
stage fright that had been keeping him away from the live arena.
came as a surprise when he announced earlier this year that he
would hit the road for the Live 25 tour to mark a quarter of a
century in the business.
Whether it has
been stage fright or inertia that has kept him away from the stage
for so long, George could have been forgiven for just dipping his
toe in the water. But after the dates sold out within hours, more
were announced - leaving him with a daunting schedule of 44
concerts in 12 weeks.
And I'm not
the only British fan who is making the trip to the opening night
show at Barcelona's Palau Saint Jordi venue.
Vithlani, a 29-year-old IT consultant from Windsor, has been a
devoted fan since she went to see the Faith tour at the age of 11.
"I just knew I had to be in Barcelona for the opening night.
I'll be at the London shows as well but - after all these years -
I didn't want to wait any longer to see him again.
had given up hope that he would tour again, given what he has said
about it in the past.
clear that he's not doing this tour for the money and I don't
think he expects to get any pleasure from it. I truly believe he's
doing it to please his fans and say 'thank you'. I think that, in
recent years, he has become much more aware of the number of
supportive people he has out there."
The length of
George's absence from the stage is underlined by the fact that the
administrator of the Planet George fansite, London-based Bianca
Cavalini, has never seen one of his concerts.
37, is making up for it by going to 13 shows on this tour.
"Up to now, I've only seen his performances at charity shows.
I even travelled to Italy for the Pavarotti and Friends concert
when George appeared. He was only on stage for one-and-a-half
songs but it was worth the trip.
amazing to see him sing more than a couple of songs. That's a new
experience for many of us."
She and Neelam
both said they have "absolutely no doubts" that George
will live up to their expectations.
"I think he's going to be surprised at the reaction he'll get
when he walks out on stage. Every fan is going to go mad. I just
hope that it leads to him doing a little more live stuff in the