SSO, Brendam Maclean and keeping the faith with George Michael's legacy
Originally planned as a celebration of George Michael’s landmark album, Faith, the upcomingSydney Symphony Orchestra concert Praying for Time will now serve as a tribute to the late singer’s legacy.
It’s thirty years since George Michael released his debut solo album Faith, revealing to the world a unique musical talent far beyond the bubblegum pop of his early career as one half of the boy band duo Wham!. In the ensuing years Faith has been described as a seminal album and launched the singer out of the doldrums of 80’s hasbeen to full blown pop icon.
A concept album of sorts, Faith allowed Michael to stretch his considerable vocal talents whilst waxing lyrical on subjects dear to his heart. From the grinding beat of ‘I Want Your Sex’ to the soulful wanderings of ‘One More Try’, it was an album packed with surprises. Three decades later it still bears a listen, and whilst some tracks may suffer from an overproduction of synclavier (I’m talking to you , ‘Monkey’) the album stands as a testament to the last singer’s prodigious talent.
This July the Sydney Symphony Orchestra (SSO) will pay tribute to Michael with a special concert originally timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary of Faith’s release. With the singer’s untimely death at Christmas, the project has morphed to become a tribute of sorts and attracted a cast of music industry luminaries eager to pay their respects to the singer who touched so many hearts with his songs.
Offering up a 30-song production of Michael’s best-loved hits (and a few rarities) the concert promises to be a spectacular event as singers such as Diesel, David Campbell, Sam Sparro, Brendan Maclean, Jade MacRae, Gary Pinto, Carmen Smith and Natasha Stuart move through Michael’s musical canon.
For singer Brendan Maclean the gig has come as an unexpected honour.
The performer who recently made waves with his provocative single ‘House of Air’ tells SX he came to Michael quite late. “When I grew up Wham! was what George Michael was – this goofy thing you play at the end of a party. So I didn’t pay much attention to him when I was growing up in Cronulla – that would have been a death sentence,” he laughs.
“But I remember when ‘Freeek’ came out, I really took notice. I was 15 or 16 and here was this gorgeous man – who held himself in a different way to what I was exposed to as a young twink. So seeing George Michael’s ‘Freeek’ made me feel like I had a little secret and I had a friend I could share that secret with.”
The singer confesses there were more than a few friends who discovered his sexuality via his love for Michael. “Here was this gorgeous daddy-man…I think he was the first to awaken that in me…”
Maclean says it was upon seeing ‘Let’s Go Outside’ he also realised how political George Michael was as an artist.
“He fought back with music. And that’s what I’m looking at doing more and more. To see him make a project like ‘Let’s Go Outside’ or ‘Shoot the Dog’ – they’re hugely political. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to do this project.
“My love of George is one thing, but my love of artists being political is another.”
Although just 29, Maclean has been making music for almost a decade, but he tells SX when he first stated out there were very few role models for a young queer artist.
“When I was 18 or 19 there were so few singers to look up to so the more hopeful stories that come out of people being open with their sexuality and gender the better it is. Being queer can still be dangerous in the music industry but you can battle against stigma and discrimination and succeed.”
George Michael Praying for Time plays at the Sydney Opera House July 6 & 7. Tickets on sale now. Go to sydneysymphony.com
Photos: Cec Busby