Page last updated at 02:30 GMT, Monday, 25 August 2008 03:30 UK

George Michael plays 'last' shows

By Ian Youngs
Music reporter, BBC News

George Michael at Earls Court
George Michael played 20 songs over more than two hours at Earls Court

George Michael has played the first of his "final" major concerts - but suggested he is not ready to retire from singing.

The pop star announced that he had written a Christmas song, which would be released as a festive single.

Michael revealed the plans at the first of a pair of shows billed as the "Final Two" at Earls Court in London.

The second is on Monday. But he will also play another gig billed as the "Final One" in Copenhagen on Saturday.

Michael has said he will leave the "bells and whistles" of large-scale tours behind after that because he wants a "quieter life".

He has been on the road for almost two years with his 25 Live world tour - which was his first outing for 15 years.

The pop icon played a mixture of hits and rarities for the loyal crowd at the first night at Earls Court.

Fans had travelled from as far afield as the US, Australia and Mexico for the concerts.

Michael started the night with Fastlove, telling the audience: "It's good to be home."

He seemed to enjoy the reaction from the party crowd, and if he is fed up with performing, he hid it well.

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George Michael performs his 1996 hit Fastlove at Earls Court

Graphics flowed behind and beneath him on a curved, cascading screen, but there was otherwise little to distract from the star.

Alone in the spotlight, he was continually criss-crossing the stage to work the crowd, pointing, waving, clapping and indulging in some funky dancing to the delight of his delirious fans.

The first half of the show included favourites such as Father Figure and Too Funky as well as lesser heard tracks such as First Time I Ever Saw Your Face, from the album Songs From the Last Century, and Hard Day, from Faith.

There were rumours that Michael's old Wham! bandmate Andrew Ridgeley could join him for one of the final shows, but his only appearance here was in old videos on screen during I'm Your Man.

George Michael fans at Earls Court
Many fans may not get another chance to see George Michael live

The second half of the night was packed with solo hits, including Faith, Flawless and Careless Whisper.

Michael donned a camp US police uniform for Outside, the track he wrote about being outed and arrested after propositioning an undercover officer in a public toilet in Los Angeles officer in 1998.

He also sang a cover of Feeling Good, made famous by Nina Simone, which Michael has recorded for the US TV show Eli Stone.

He said the song had not yet been released, but that fans would be able to download it free from Christmas Day.

It would be released "along with a new Christmas song that I wrote", he added, without revealing any details.

He then played a sombre version of The Police's Roxanne, in front of footage of prostitutes filmed in Amsterdam's red light district.

Michael returned for two encores, ending with Freedom '90, which became an arms-in-the-air celebration among the crowd.

I've every faith in him that he's going to carry on performing and writing songs
Fan Andrew Burton

"How fab was George? Absolutely amazing. I'm coming again tomorrow, I love him that much," said Sarah Lovejoy, 37, from London.

"We're sad it's over," said another fan, Raenne ven Everdyngen, who travelled from Rotterdam in the Netherlands for the show.

"His music means so much to us - when we're sad or when we're happy. Maybe we will go next week to Denmark."

Saturday's show in Copenhagen will be the last of the 25 Live Tour, which started in Barcelona in September 2006.

"He's not retiring," insisted Andrew Burton from Cornwall, who has seen Michael at 31 of the 103 shows on the latest tour.

"He's said in many interviews that he plans not to do the major tours any more, which take a lot of production and a lot of energy.

"So I've every faith in him that he's going to carry on performing and writing songs but do more tasteful shows, maybe acoustic sets."

At the end of Sunday's show, Michael thanked the fans for "25 amazing years".

Leaving the stage, he added: "See you next time."


Set list

• Fast Love

• I'm Your Man

• Father Figure

• Hard Day

• Everything She Wants

• One More Try

• First Time I Ever Saw Your Face

• An Easier Affair

• Too Funky

• Star People

• Faith

• Spinning the Wheel

• Feeling Good

• Roxanne

• Amazing

• Flawless

• Outside

• A Different Corner

• Careless Whisper

• Freedom '90


SEE ALSO
Michael seeking 'a quieter life'
12 Jun 08 |  Entertainment
Michael 'to retire from touring'
11 Jun 08 |  Entertainment
George Michael's highs and lows
12 Jun 08 |  Entertainment
Singer Michael to write memoirs
16 Jan 08 |  Entertainment
Michael makes history at Wembley
09 Jun 07 |  Entertainment
Keeping the faith in George Michael
22 Sep 06 |  Entertainment

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