George Michael: Edinburgh-bound X Factor winner Joe McElderry pays tribute to iconic Wham singer

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The 31-year-old will bring Freedom, his tribute to the late Wham frontman to Edinburgh on Monday October 17 and believes it’s a show that brings back memories of his time on series six of ITV’s The X Factor in 2009. , after dueting with George on Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me with George Michael – a moment that has now been viewed over seven million times on YouTube,

“To this day, I still have to pinch myself to sing with George,” McElderry says. “It was an absolute honor and privilege and a memory that will stay with me forever. To now take the brand new Freedom Tour on the road where I will have the chance to perform and celebrate the music of this absolute legend is just fantastic. can’t wait.

It’s clear the collaboration made a big impression on McElderry, as he recalls, “I sang Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me around week eight of The X Factor, and it became my performance. from the Serie. It was a watershed moment, and I overvoted every week after. Looking back, that’s when I won the show.

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Joe McElderry in Freedom Pic: Michael-Wharley

“When it came to the final, unbeknownst to me, there were a lot of negotiations going on to bring George in – and he finally agreed. He was such a huge artist, he was so respected as a singer, writer and producer, that the show was just as amazed as I was that this was happening. So, I sang with George for The X Factor finale and it was amazing.

“Even now, looking back, it’s breathtaking. I’ve been doing the gig material ever since, always being asked to sing Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me – it’s always been a real fan favourite.

Celebrating George Michael’s back catalog of Grammy-winning hits, Freedom will find McElderry performing hits such as Careless Whisper, Club Tropicana, Faith, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me, FastLove and many more, all supported by a full live band.

“It’s really going to be me on stage, me in concert, so if you’ve enjoyed it before, please come along, it’ll be very ‘normal’ in that sense. It’ll always be my personality, having a conversation between songs , but with a different emphasis on the music, and it will almost make it feel like a show within a show,” he says.

George Michael performs in Paris, France Photo: Francois Mori/AP/Shutterstock

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Freedom was born after theater producer Jamie Lambert saw McElderry in concert in London.

The singer explains: “I did a gig in London in March 2020, the day before theaters closed for Covid-19, and Jamie was there. We talked afterwards and he said, ‘Why not do a tour to celebrate George’s music?’ But you know what those conversations are like, you leave, keep going, and they often come to nothing, let alone throw a global pandemic into the mix.

“We never talked about it again until early last year when Jamie got in touch and said he thought it might be something very special, so we started taking the idea seriously. George Michael was one of the greatest vocal artists of all time in the world. . So when someone says you want to sing those songs and go on tour, of course I’m going to say ‘Yes’ …with the bells on.

With a catalog as extensive as George Michael’s, deciding which songs to include on the show was McElderry’s next challenge.

“You have conversations, write the obvious ones and you have a show, but you don’t necessarily want to make the obvious so it’s the tricky job of pulling them out for the more obscure ones, and there are definitely sneaky favorites fans that we also want to include.

“My mum and my best friend’s uncle were big fans of George Michael and have seen him live a lot, so I asked them from his fans’ perspective as well. It’s going to be fantastic. These songs remind people people where they were at certain times and places in their lives, so you want to have them sing and dance and take them back to those times – there’s a lot of powerful and moving songs, some really heartbreaking lyrics, but there’s also those that make you want to get up and dance.

“It’s a blessing to have this music available to us and to put it all together for a tour.”

For McElderry, this music keeps George Michael alive.

He says: ‘It might sound a bit strange but I forget he’s not with us anymore because the music is living so loud, how can he be gone? His death was such a loss to the music industry. It’s so, so sad that we’re able to celebrate George’s music without him here anymore. There’s no doubt in my mind, if George were still alive today, he’d still be a major force in the music industry, still writing and producing, even though he wasn’t recording and was not releasing music itself.

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