Posted by Patrick Moore
Reviewed: 21 September 2014
Since 1982 singer George Michael has been on everyone’s radar. Beginning his career as one half of pop duo Wham! through to his solo ventures, his body of work has been impressive. He has never been one to stick to one genre with his versatility ensuring career longevity. Despite his many personal and very public controversies, his talent still keeps being admired by millions of fans. One of them is Anthony Callea who has had his own media-infused baptism of fire. Aged 31, he has literally grown up with Michael’s tunes hovering in his musical background. It shouldn’t be any surprise he has decided to perform a show dedicated to him with Michael’s many ballads and smooth tracks a perfect match for Callea’s unique vocals.
Performing at the recently refurbished Her Majesty’s Theatre, Callea bounded through an incense-fuelled haze with enthusiasm. Backed by a 5 piece band and 2 singers, the 2 hour-plus show delivered on its promise. Amidst a myriad of costume changes, Callea highlighted the strength of Michael’s song-writing and sense of fun. Via his powerfully expressive voice, Callea swam through a catalogue of hits and lesser-known works. He also showed Michael’s gift in re-interpreting other songs such as Elton John’s ‘Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me’ and Queen’s ‘Somebody to Love’. These effectively showed the depth of range permeating his long career.
Responding with unbridled cheer, the audience lapped up songs such as ‘I Knew You Were Waiting’, ‘Too Funky’, and the almost obligatory inclusion of ‘Wake Me Up before You Go Go’. It wasn’t all a pop-fest though as Callea reminded us how good Michael is with ballads. From ‘Jesus to A Child’ to ‘Careless Whisper’, he successfully replicated the passion and emotion placed within their lyrics. Generally focussing on ballads in its first half, the production’s second concentrated mostly on the more up-tempo numbers. Through all of them Callea was the consummate performer giving his all. Interacting extremely well with his audience, he wanted to share the joy and fun he received from one of his musical heroes. That’s what set his show apart from others as it wasn’t a glorified karaoke contest – it was a strong event placing Michael’s role in modern music into context.
Callea never once took himself too seriously which added to the entertaining evening. Assisting this was an appearance by the ever glamorous local identity Hans, who, replete with his usual accordion, performed a suitably quirky version of ‘Faith’. Even then it revealed Michael’s wicked side in expressing his feelings. Songs like ‘Outside’ further under-scored this with the cheeky lyrics superbly re-interpreted by Callea. His fellow singers and band were great support ensuring the lyrics could be heard whilst giving their own small twists. Their contribution aided in crafting an overall enjoyable package with the staging and lighting also simple but pleasing.
Heroes, whether musical or otherwise, never fade with George Michael’s music sure to endure. He has a song collection to be proud of with Callea providing an exuberant and energetic tribute to a very talented and exciting musical craftsman.
Reviewed by: Patrick Moore
Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre
Season: 20 September 2014