POP REVIEW : WHAM!--SPECKS IN A SPECTACLE
Where are those ABC Sports “Up Close and Personal” people when you really need them? Actually, the distances weren’t so great between Wham! and most of the 50,000-plus fans at the English duo’s flashy, frothy concert Friday at Hollywood Park.
Heck, with a good pair of binoculars to view the four giant video screens, it was almost like being there in person. But that’s the price you pay for fame.
When Wham!'s teen heartthrobs George Michael and Andrew Ridgely made their local concert debut six months ago, they played the 5,000-capacity Hollywood Palladium. Thanks to a few more hit singles, Wham! has made good on the title of its “Make It Big” album. So, when Michael and Ridgely ran to opposite ends of the runway that fronted the race track’s stage, there was enough room between them to fit the Palladium and a small nightclub to boot.
The scale of the show, however, didn’t diminish the effect Michael and Ridgely had on the multitude of screaming teen-age girls who gasped and sighed at their every move.
Although the pair is physically the stuff of which Tiger Beat special issues are made, Wham!'s music rises a couple of notches above the standard bubble-gum fodder. Michael and Ridgely have crafted some infectious singles that derive equally from the driving four-beat feel of ‘60s Motown and the silky soul of ‘70s acts like the Spinners and the O’Jays.
Supported by eight instrumentalists, three backup singers and four dancers, Michael and Ridgely duplicated for the most part the catchy production qualities of their records.
The two-hour show (which followed sets by Chaka Khan and Katrina & the Waves) was also visually alluring, thanks to an elaborate stage built around a staircase set that could have come out of a ‘30s Hollywood musical.
The big problem, however, was the big problem. To succeed in such an immense setting, a performer needs the larger-than-life persona of a Bowie or a Jagger. As the center attraction, Michael displayed plenty of energy, a colorful, distinctive voice and some bumps and grinds that could have been stolen from Tom Jones.
But for all his aerobic activity, his contact with the crowd consisted of little more than such generic comments as, “Good evening, Los Angelees!” and, “We want to give you our best all evening.”
On the other hand, it must be difficult for teen dream boats to separate the trite from the true when even the most innocuous behavior is greeted with rapturous crowd response.