29th November 2001
Michael smoked. Period. It was apparent from the opening notes of "Into the Arena", that he meant business. Crisp, fluid, and melodic. Classic Michael. Eyes would often be closed, head rolled back skyward, seemingly in a trance-like state. The animation in his eyes came and went - he switched from meditation to deep concentration to spontaneous bursts of joy and appreciation for his partners, and the crowd.
To those of us who have seen Michael myriad times over the years, his external appearance was simply a new variation, which should almost be expected at this point. Of all of the previous review descriptions, the "Unabomber" one (no disrespect intended) was the one that I immediately thought of when he first appeared, but don't judge a book by it's cover. This was a raw, stripped down Michael, "take me as I am". Apparently, no one told Michael it was winter in the Midwest either, as he looked like he was back home in Arizona. He wore a plain navy tank top, ankle length hiking pants, and plain black Keds sneakers, sans socks.
The backing players were more than substantial, though seemingly new to the task, but they gelled, and appeared to be having a blast while in the presence and support of such greatness. Chris Logan was the weakest link, imo (sorry, dood). To use a neighboring 40-something fan's analogy, it often felt like Michael Jordan playing with the Wizards. But, I agree about their approachability and being a great bunch of guys. Chatted with most of them myself, before and after the gig.
I actually enjoyed Pete Way's exhuberance and fervor. Wasted or not, he seemed to be having a bloody good time, and the crowd really appreciated his addition for The Plot's miniset. At one point, when he and Michael were singing closely into the same mic, he did a Kiss-like tongue wagging, which Michael promptly backed away from, with an obvious frown. It was interesting to hear his cockney singing throughout entire songs. Of course, with Pete there, everyone would have hoped for more UFO than the token offering of Doctor Doctor, but that would have been the case, even if he wasn't...
Show was two hours long, setlist remained unchanged. Highlight of the night, were the closing half dozen or so tracks...
St. Louis and Left Coast... if you see a show similar to last night's, you're in for a treat!