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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 November 2006, 12:34 GMT
George Michael kicks off UK tour
George Michael in Manchester
Michael said he wished he had returned "years ago"
George Michael has opened his first UK tour in 15 years with a concert at the MEN Arena in Manchester.

The singer, who has rarely been out of the tabloids, had said as recently as last year that his career was over.

But soon after he announced a Europe-wide greatest hits tour which began in Barcelona in September to broadly positive reviews.

The 42-year-old singer said he was enjoying touring but felt his recording career was "all finished for now".

Free concert

The ex-Wham star has been the centre of intense media scrutiny over his private life and often outspoken opinions on drug taking.

But his popularity with the public seems as strong as ever with his concerts selling out within hours.

He said of the tour: "To be perfectly honest, I've enjoyed it so much I wish I started again years ago."

Asked how long he would keep on singing, he said: "There's no restriction to how long I can do the live thing, now that I have decided I can do it.

"But in terms of releasing CDs and trying to get on the radio, I think that is all finished for now."

Michael will play two more dates in Manchester before further concerts in Glasgow, London and Birmingham.

He is also performing a free concert for nurses in London to thank them for caring for his mother.

The star is also marking his 25 years in showbusiness with an hour-long interview with BBC Radio 2, which will be broadcast on Saturday evening at 2000BST.

George Michael on stage in Manchester

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