Wham! The Final Wembley Stadium 28th June 1986
Support from Gary Glitter and Nick Heyward.
Im May 1986 Wham! announced that they were to split and that they would play one final concert at Wembley Stadium. My mate Dave and I decided to go and see Wham! for one last time. I remember the journey to London well, as we decided that, instead of using the train as we often did when going to concerts in the capital, this time we would try out the North East’s new(ish) Non-stop Clipper bus service. The service was advertised quite heavily on TV at the time with a cheesy tune: “From Newcastle to London, from London back home….Non-stop Clipper, here it comes!” The Non-stop Clipper was a double decker bus, converted for longer journeys with a toilet and somewhere to sell stotties 🙂 but it was basically still a standard double decker bus. We decided to sit right up front on the top deck, to get the most out of our Non-stop Clipper experience. Now, I can tell you, it’s quite a strange, disconcerting experience, sitting up there on the top deck, overlooking the motorway, cruising for a few hours. Nonetheless it got us to London safe and on time and also at a fraction of the price of the train. I think we took a bus very early in the morning, which got us down to London early afternoon. Then we made our way across London to join 72,000 eager Wham! fans.
The show was a big celebration of Wham! and featured a career-spanning set of hits, and special guest appearances from Elton John who sang Candle in the Wind with George, and Simon le Bon who joined the duo for the encore. There was also a screening of the new Wham! film, Foreign Skies, which was shot during their tour of China. Support came from now disgraced star Gary Glitter and ex Haircut 100 front man Nick Heyward. There were big video screens and two giant walkways for George and Andrew to get close to the adoring crowd who screamed and screamed. There were also many tears, particularly during the last songs, as the reality hit home that this was the last time we would all see Wham! And then it was over. And this was one final that really was final. No reunion tour (not yet anyway). We made our way out of the packed stadium, wandered down Wembley Way with the crowds, and across to Victoria where we boarded our trusty midnight Non-stop Clipper which took us back up North and home. We arrived back early Sunday morning.
Setlist: Everything She Wants; Club Tropicana; Heartbeat; Battlestations; Bad Boys; If You Were There; The Edge of Heaven; Candle in the Wind (with Elton John); Credit Card Baby; Like a Baby; Love Machine; Where Did Your Heart Go?; Why (Carly Simon cover); Last Christmas; Wham! Rap; A Different Corner; Freedom; Careless Whisper; Young Guns (Go for It!); Wake Me Up Before You Go Go
Encore: I’m Your Man (with Simon Le Bon)
That concludes my coverage of Wham! Back to some rock tomorrow 🙂
Archive for the ‘Wham!’ Category
Wham! The Final Wembley Stadium 28th June 1986
Wham! Whitley Bay Ice Rink 11th Dec 1984 The Big Tour
Support act: Pepsi and Shirley; DJ Gary Crowley.
A year later and Wham! were back. This time, for their visit to the North East, they played three sold out shows at the massive cold, and cavernous, Whitley Bay Ice Rink. I attended the second show. The tour was entitled “The Big Tour” in support of their second album “Make it Big”. By now Wham! weren’t just big; they were a massively successful chart act and a hot concert attraction. They had reached the No. 1 spot in the UK singles charts on three occasions (three No. 1s in a row, in fact) with “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”, “Careless Whisper” (George Michael solo) and “Freedom”, and they had just released the Christmas single “Last Christmas” which reached No. 2.
Whitley Bay Ice Rink is situated near Newcastle and is the home of the Whitley Warriors ice hockey team. In the 1980s it was the North East’s main rock concert venue, and remained so until Newcastle Arena opened in 1995. By the 1980s each city wanted its own arena, so venues which were not ideal were used for large concerts as acts outgrew theatres and civic halls. Whitley Bay Ice Rink started hosting concerts with a show by the Jam in 1982 followed by AC/DC, The Cure, Kylie Minogue, Oasis, Take That and others. Standing on top of an ice rink covered in wooden boards was not the best setting for a gig, and it was always very cold, and the sound wasn’t great.
However the kids who poured into the Ice Rink to see Wham! didn’t care how cold it was; they were getting to see their heroes. The gig was a wild affair with lots of screaming girls, and George and Andrew performing all their hits. By now it was very much about George, and the loudest screams were reserved for him, particularly when he sang “Careless Whisper”. The concert was an all standing affair; and I spent the evening wandering around the hall, surrounded by 8,000 screaming girls. The show was great fun, and it was an experience to witness Wham! at the peak of their sucess.
The next time I saw the duo was at Live Aid at Wembley Stadium on 13th July 1985. George Michael sang “Dont let the sun go down on me” with Elton John while Andrew Ridgeley joined Kiki Dee in the row of backing singers. I saw them one further time, at their Final concert, again at Wembley, a year later in 1986. I’ll write about that concert tomorrow to conclude my Wham! series.
Wham! Newcastle City Hall 15th Oct 1983
Real guilty pleasure time; this is. I have to admit to secretly liking Wham! in the ’80s, and going to see them not once, not twice, but three times. So, for my sins, over the next three days I am going to reflect on those three experiences, at least two of which were actually pretty great fun. I’ll start today with my Wham! live initiation, which was the “Club Fantastic Tour” when it called at Newcastle City Hall in 1983.
I’d seen George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley on Top of the Pops performing “Young Guns (Go for It!)” and thought they were good fun. They seemed to burst onto the scene as a pure pop alternative to some of the more serious bands of the time. By the end of 1983, Wham! were competing against the Durannies and Boy George and Culture Club as Britain’s biggest new pop act, and their début LP “Fantastic” spent two weeks at No. 1 in the UK album charts in 1983. I’d been to see most of the other top pop acts of the period, so when Wham! announced a tour I decided to go along to the City Hall concert, which quickly sold out. The tour was sponsored by Fila Sportswear, and George and Andrew modelled Fila clothes on stage. They were both dressed all in white, their t-shirts emblazoned with “Wham!” and wearing white shorts, down which they famously placed shuttlecocks (or at least the press claimed so).
They were augmented by a full band (with a rhythm and brass section), and backing vocalists including the two legendary dancers/singers Pepsi and Shirlie (one of their earlier backing singers, Dee (D C Lee) had defected to the Style Council by the time of the tour, and later married Paul Weller). The keyboard player in the band was Tommy Eyre from Joe Cocker’s Grease Band who provided the swirling Hammond sound on the UK chart-topper “With A Little Help From My Friends”.
The concert started with an hour or so of dance records played by the tour resident DJ and compere, Gary Crowley. Wham! played two sets (featuring several costume changes), and between the two spots they showed us home videos of our two heroes. George had a solo spot to sing “Careless Whisper” over a taped backing track, and the show featured all the hits. It was actually great fun (honest 🙂 ) and there was lots of dancing going on, while I stood quietly observing, and yet secretly enjoying the whole thing. Don’t they both look so young on the cover of the programme. And remember at this time, Wham! were truly a duo, with George and Andrew sharing equal billing. The programme presents the band as fun, but serious, white soul / dance act; which to give them credit, I guess they were. I found a flyer in the programme for a concert by K C and the Sunshine band which took place at the City Hall the following week. Now I bet that was a fun night too.
Setlist: Young Guns (Go for It!); Club Tropicana; Blue; Wham! Rap; A Ray of Sunshine; Careless Whisper; Bad Boys; Love Machine; Nothing Looks the Same in the Light; Come On!; Wham! Rap; Good Times.
More guilty pleasures tomorrow, I’m afraid.