SIDNEY — George Michael tribute artist Robert Bartko will visit the Historic Sidney Theatre on Friday, Oct. 14, appearing for a special performance at 8 p.m. after the downtown Sidney Chocolate Walk.
“I’m excited,” Bartko said. “It’s going to be great. Expect all the hits, and a fun time singing along; if they saw George back in the eighties, they’ll probably say ‘that’s a lot like I remember.”
Originally from Youngstown, Ohio, Bartko has been performing as George Michael since 2018. He now lives in Utah, but spends most of his time traveling with his band and appearing as George Michael. “I lived in Dayton for a few years,” Bartko said. “I was born in Youngstown; I have quite a few connections to Ohio.”
“I was kind of an odd kid, in that I played football, but I also sang in the drama club, which were kind of polar opposite worlds in high school,” he said.
The first time that Bartko heard George Michael was at a friend’s house. “I remember the first time I heard a WHAM! record, I was over at a friend’s house,” Bartko said. “He said ‘my gosh, you look just like this singer, I’ve got to play you this record.”
“I fell in love with George Michael’s voice instantly,” Bartko said. “It was like I had met my long-lost musical brother. Throughout high school, when I would do talent shows and stuff I would do George Michael songs; I would get up there with my guitar and do “Faith.”
Bartko formed a band in 2018, and started touring as George Michael Reborn. “I always say that tributing George Michael chose me, I didn’t choose it,” he said. “Our first show was a sold-out show at the Anaheim House of Blues.”
The show grew in popularity after that, and Bartko was eventually approached by one of WHAM!’s founding members, bassist Deon Estus. The two became friends, and played a series of successful shows together in Los Angeles, CA. “We instantly hit it off,” Bartko said. “It was absolutely magical.”
“The show has taken me on quite a few journeys,” Bartko said.
Performing as George Michael is also difficult sometimes, Bartko said, due to the range of his unique vocals. “Portraying George, it’s challenging because he had an amazing range,” he said. “His vocals were incredibly soulful.”
“His songwriting was absolutely amazing,” Bartko said. “George Michael knew how to write a very catchy song.”
“Those early songs of George Michael are a lot of fun,” he said. “Sometimes the later songs, I find very hard and sad to listen to, to kind of know the backstory of a lot of those songs.”
“George had experienced a lot of heartache and heartbreak as time went on, from losing his mom to losing his first love, to losing one of his best friends, his sister,” he said. “It can be heartbreaking as you progress later through the catalog. But the early stuff is just about having a lot of fun and having a good time.”
Bartko’s appearance at the Sidney Theatre will begin directly after the Chocolate Walk.
“We planned it to be kind of like the cap to the Chocolate Walk,” Executive Director of Raise the Roof for the Arts Ian Hinz said. “The concert will start at 8 o’clock, right at the end of the Chocolate Walk.
“A lot of people seem pretty excited about it,” Hinz said. “Unless it sells out, tickets will still be available at the door. When people are done with their Chocolate Walk, hopefully they’ll just come over to the theatre and watch the concert.”
The show will include songs from every era of George Michael’s musical career, with special emphasis on his 1988 Faith tour. “Obviously, people want to hear the hits, such as “Careless Whisper” and “Wake Me Up Before you Go-Go,” Bartko said. “When you do songs like his controversial hit “I Want Your Sex,” you can just feel this like wild kind of mood swing through the room.”
“They’re all hits,” he said. “They’re all fun to perform.”
The doors and concession stand will open at 7:30 p.m., with the concert starting at 8 p.m. Tickets are $33 for reserved seating and $23 for standing room. All tickets purchased the day of the concert will be $2 more. To purchase tickets or for more information visit www.sidneytheatre.org.