Since George passed away, it’s been like dealing with a bereavement
TRIBUTE PERFORMER ROBERT LAMBERTI TELLS MARION McMULLEN ABOUT HIS FORTHCOMING TOUR WITH MEMBERS OF GEORGE MICHAEL’S ORIGINAL BAND
You are known as one of the top George Michael tribute acts. How hard was it dealing with his sudden death on Christmas Day two years ago?
SINCE George, bless him, passed away, it’s been like dealing with a bereavement. I have been doing the tribute act for 25 years and I had to work it out.
I turned down a lot of the shows because I wasn’t ready. I had not physically or mentally absorbed what had happened. It has taken time.
I’m now doing this tour next year called simply George and it has come along at the right time and I’m in the right frame of mind.
How did you first hear the sad news?
WE’D had a lovely Christmas Day and I had gone out with the dog for a walk and a friend texted me saying ‘Shame to hear about George’. I asked ‘What are you on about?’ and then I got home and switched on the telly.
I was just numb. It was a real shock. It was not until the next day that it sank in. It was a real shame and I still think that now. It was a difficult time and I did think at one point ‘I can’t do this any more’.
Is the timing now right for a tour with some of George Michael’s own musicians?
IT is. It’s not all of the band, which is shame, but it’s going to be fantastic. We’ve done a couple of rehearsals and it’s just amazing.
I have worked with other bands over the years, but working with the guys who created that original sound just makes me better as well. It’s so enjoyable.
How did performing begin for you?
I’M 45 now and I have been George Michael longer than I have been Robert Lamberti. It was meant to be.
I remember when I was 14, sitting in my Mum’s terraced house in Scunthorpe watching Top Of The Pops and George came on singing on one of his pop videos. He was running around in white jeans and white vest and I thought ‘I’m going to do that one day,’ but never in a month of Sundays did I believe I’d ever be doing this for a living.
I left school and became a labourer, working for a local building company and I loved it. I was working with 40 and 50 strong teams on big contracts and we’d go out for a drink later and we started going to a pub that had karaoke... and that’s how it all began.
Was it your mum who sent an audition tape to ITV’s Stars In Their Eyes?
SHE did and when the show called me I thought it was a silly wind-up, but they said I was exactly what the show was about. I didn’t know whether to go as George Michael or Marti Pellow from Wet Wet Wet, but I won my heat singing Faith and got to the final, but was then beaten by the contestant singing as Marti Pellow.
I happily went back to work afterwards, but offers started to come in and I eventually turned professional. (Laughs) I still have the jacket I wore on Stars In Their Eyes.
Have you worked on getting the right look?
I WENT out to a pub once and started chatting up a girl and didn’t realise she had a boyfriend. He came back and beat me up and knocked all my teeth out and broke my nose. But the new teeth I got looked identical to George Michael’s. My teeth did not look like that beforehand.
George Michael once said “People are always mistaking me for Rob Lamberti.” Did you ever meet?
I WAS on the M25 when I heard that George had said that. I thought it was lovely. He was aware of me and came to see me in Harrow once in 1990. I’ve also sung at the wedding of a friend of his in Austria when I travelled in a buggy to a snow-covered lodge. I met him back stage at Wembley once and used to turn up at record stores as George to promote albums because he was interested in the songwriting side, but not the promotion.
But I never pushed it. (Chuckles) It’s not like I was around his house stalking him or anything like that.
What has it been like singing as George Michael?
IT has been an amazing experience. Not many people have performed before both royalty and Simon Cowell. Steve Coogan even flew me out to Mykonos recently for two days filming new satire film Greed. It’s been a brilliant career.
George – Celebrating The Songs And Music Of George Michael tours from April 24. Go to roblamberti.com for further information.
I remember when I was 14, sitting in my Mum’s terraced house... watching Top Of The Pops and George came on ... I thought ‘I’m going to do that one day...’
Robert Lamberti, pictured, met George several times over the years
George, pictured with his Wham! bandmate Andrew Ridgely