Written By: Lauren Bell
Format: Music Show
Date: May 11 2018
Location: Epstein Theatre, Liverpool
Wham! were a pop sensation during the mid-80s and then into the early 90s, proving popular with all ages. With a string of catchy tunes such as Freedom, I’m Your Man and Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, they easily became one of the most recognised bands around the world.
George Michael, as the lead singer, was responsible for writing most of their hits, and joined by guitarist Andrew Ridgeley and their two singers Pepsi and Shirlie, the group were a perfect collaboration of big hair and tight trousers, and became icons of pop for teenagers everywhere.
Michael and Ridgeley met at school, where they started performing as part of the band Executive. When this band split up, they then signed with Innervision Records, and began their careers as Wham!, starting with the release of their first song Wham Rap. After moving over to Sony Records, and releasing their hit Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, they were instantly thrown into stardom.
By the end of 1983, the band were competing with the likes of Culture Club and Duran Duran for the top spots, and fighting to be Britain’s top pop act. They also became style icons for teens everywhere, with many copying the hairstyles and wearing their iconic CHOOSE LIFE t-shirts.
Over the years, many more successful songs followed, and George Michael’s solo career also begun, with Careless Whisper selling over 1.3 million records. Last Christmas became the highest-selling single ever to peak at No. 2 in the UK charts. It stayed at No. 2 for five weeks and, to date, is the 24th best-selling single of all-time in the United Kingdom, selling over 1.4 million copies in the UK.
At London’s Wembley Stadium on Saturday June 28 1986, Wham! bade goodbye to their fans and to each other, with an emotional embrace at the end of its final concert. Around 72,000 people attended the eight-hour event, which included support artists, on a scorching hot day in London. The band had been together for five years, selling over 28 million records and 15 million singles. Even now, long after George Michael’s sad passing in 2016, the songs he wrote are still played many times each year, and their popularity is definitely still shown these days.
This was apparent in the almost-full house at the Epstein theatre, for the tribute show The Best Of Wham! by Sweeney Entertainment. The audience was predominately women, with a few sporting CHOOSE LIFE T-shirts and glow bands, and the few men that were there looked as though they were just accompanying the other half, and seemed resigned to their seats. However, as soon as the first song (Wham Rap) came on, they were up and dancing, waving their arms in the air without any hesitation.
This talented group of performers seemed to have the special skill of keeping an audience on their feet throughout, and for the majority of the show, every single audience member was up and dancing. With many popular hits such as Bad Boys, Edge Of Heaven and Club Tropicana, the band kept the audience happy, even performing their seasonal classic Last Christmas, which was actually the loudest vocal performance by the audience members!
The four members of the act had strong vocals throughout, and the choreography, mostly from the two girls, was slick and well-rehearsed. Stand-out vocals definitely came from the lead singer (Craig Webb), who portrayed George Michael almost perfectly. He had the performance down to a tee; even things like his mannerisms during the songs were almost identical.
The staging of the show was brilliant, and it was great to see the live band playing the music on stage. The use of four TV screens onstage was very effective throughout, and they used actual footage of Wham! themselves, which helped to bridge the gaps between songs and aided costume changes.
The stand-out moment of the show had to be towards the end, when the four members, as themselves now, sang a tribute to George Michael, and used real footage of George singing to duet with. It was a poignant moment at the end, when the TV screens read ‘We love you George’, and the crowd erupted in tribute to him.
Overall, the show is a brilliant tribute, and I would recommend it to any Wham! or George Michael fans out there. It is a brilliant way to reminisce and remember all the old songs, and it feels more like you are watching a West End production, and not a tribute act. It was certainly a success in Liverpool, and as the group have tour dates booked until November 2019, I’m sure it will carry on its success around the UK.
Overall Rating: 8/10 – Very Good