George Michael Tribute Concert

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Written for GigSoupMusic

Iceland’s Home Grown Tribute Industry

On Friday, March 2, Iceland’s RIGG Promotions company presented a Tribute to the recently departed George Michael at Harpa, Reykjavik’s beautiful waterfront concert hall. The sold out event was of a level of professionalism rarely seen anywhere else. Production quality, the elaborate stage set, and the performances from at least a dozen well-known Icelandic pop stars were unbelievably strong. So strong in fact, that one wonders “how does an island nation of 300,000 generate such talent?”

Iceland’s Pop Royalty Pay Homage to George Michael

Shining most brightly among the Icelandic pop royalty was Fridrik Omar. He is well-known to Eurovision fans outside the country, having represented Iceland once himself, and providing backing vocals and guidance to other Icelandic Eurovision acts on at least four other occasions. The opening number “Father Figure” left many in the 1,800 auditorium breathless. This was not because Omar sounded like George Michael (he did a little). No, his force, clarity and emotional delivery, supported by a world-class sound system and the tightest eight-piece band, stunned the audience. Many looked at each other in awe.

The Viking incarnation of George Michael – Fridrik Omar

Quickly followed by equally amazing renditions of “Fast Love” and “Outside”, Omar received the first of many standing ovations.  He had stamped enough of his persona and style on these songs, while giving full deference to Michael who looked down on the show from the 10 meter high backdrop.

Omar kept the emotional quotient high with the first duet of the night, “I Can’t Make You Love Me” – the Bonnie Raitt song Michael made his own many years ago on MTV. No one could top George Michael’s version, but Omar with Erna Hronn came close. They have worked together for many years and the bond they appear to have, made the emotion in the song very believable.

Margret Eir, perhaps the performer least known outside Iceland, gave a chilling performance of “Praying For Time”, before Omar returned with two early Wham songs “Everything She Wants” and “I’m Your Man”. These two brought the emotional temperature down a little, while still matching the originals for buoyancy and sheer danceability. Jogvan Hansen, who has collaborated with Omar on a number of original Icelandic productions then took the stage for “Waiting For The Day”, another fabulous rendition with enough of Hansen’s own personal style injected into it. “A Different Corner” by Svala, who represented Iceland at Eurovision this year, was perhaps the biggest departure from the original George Michael version, but there was definitely room for one unique interpretation when everything else was loyal the original.

Reykjavik’s Gospel Choir Builds the Emotion

Many in the audience were not emotionally prepared for the close of the first half of the show. Stevie Wonder’s “As” sung by Omar and his long time musical partner Regina Osk, with a world-class gospel choir from Reykjavik, yes you did read that correctly – WORLD CLASS GOSPEL CHOIR FROM REYKJAVIK, was shattering, while Omar, alone with the choir for “One More Try” had many in the audience in tears for the end of the first half.

Fridrik Omar and the Reykjavik Gospel Choir

The second half, of course, opened with Omar singing “Faith” to the original video backdrop, deftly segueing into “I Want Your Sex”.  “Kissing a Fool” with Kristjane Stefans and Omar duetting was a joy.  Regina Osk returning with the choir for “Jesus To A Child” was the last opportunity to shed a quiet tear at the loss of such a musical giant like George Michael. Regina has never sounded so awesome. Omar and his team took it all full throttle from here on with “Club Tropicana”, “Edge of Heaven”, and “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go”. The Hall was on its feet, enjoying the psychedelic and tropical backdrops.

Even Aretha Would Have Been Impressed

The first encore “Careless Whisper”, while normally a melancholic song, just forced home again how well suited Fridrik Omar is to showcasing George Michael’s song writing talents. Another standing ovation before the unmistakable open chords of “I Knew You Were Waiting”. The beautiful Johanna Gudrun Jonsdottir took the Aretha Franklin part with Omar taking George’s. It’s a brave soul that dares to take Aretha’s role, but Johanna has an equally amazing range and pulled it off impeccably.

Fridrik and Johanna Gudrun Jonsdottir – “I Knew You Were Waiting”

The show ended with “Freedom ’90” followed by Wham’s Freedom. The audience was on its feet throughout the last few songs, ready to provide a hugely deserved prolonged standing ovation.

Fridrik and cast bid farewell with a standing ovation

This show was not professionally videoed. Given that in this writer’s opinion it was perhaps the best tribute show ever put together, this is a criminal oversight, which can only be atoned for by Fridrik Omar and his exceptional friends taking the show to London first, and then around the world.

 

Set List

Father Figure
Fast Love
Outside
I Can’t Make You Love Me, with Erna Hronn
Praying for time (Margret Eir)
Everything She Wants
I’m Your Man
Waiting for the day (Jogvan Hansen)
Different Corner (Svala)
Always (with chorus and Regina Osk)
One More Try
Second Half

Faith
I Want Your Sex
Kissing A Fool (Kristjane Stefans)
Jesus to a Child (Regina with chorus)
Club Tropicana
Edge of Heaven
Wake Me Up (Before You Go Go)
Careless Whisper
I Knew You Were Waiting (Yohanna Gudrun Jonsdottir)
Freedom ’90
Freedom

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