Robert Bartko says his George Michael Reborn act is not a gimmick. The tribute did not choose him. In fact, it was the opposite.
“From the time I was in high school, I looked like George Michael when he began to emerge on the scene,” Bartko says. “I could grow a full beard at 17. I was a football jock and sang in the drama club. Usually, those are very polarized worlds in high school.”
But friends and family saw something special — his uncanny vocal resemblance to Michael. Bartko says he felt he found his musical home.
“In 1988, I went to his big show at the Orange Bowl in Miami. I thought I was going to lose my life that night,” Bartko says about the reaction to his look.
He spent the 1990s producing songs for rock acts like Korn (“A.D.I.D.A.S. Level X Mix,” “Wicked” and “All in the Family,” which featured Fred Durst) and dance artist Stevie B.
In 2018, he saw a resurgence of his dance career. When a booking agent called him to perform, however, he said, “Man, you look and sound just like George Michael. If you could put together a George Michael act, we could book it a lot more than we could book you on your own.”
Thus George Michael Reborn was off and running.
Now, he says, fans “lose their minds” at his shows, which includes a Saturday, October 9, gig at Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino. Bartko’s act is a retrospective of Wham and Michael’s careers. He says he “nails” the whole “Faith” era and, at age 51, he “does not look a day over 32.”
“I’ve been really fortunate to be able to pull off a 22-year-old George doing ‘Faith,’” he says. “I touch upon all the hits from the ‘Fantastic’ album, ‘Edge of Heaven,’ ‘Faith’ and beyond that. I concentrate most on the ‘Faith’ era.”
“They love George Michael,” he says. “They put their claws in and don’t let go for 90 minutes. Their minds go back to high school.”
George Michael Reborn
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, October 9
Where: Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino, 5040 Wild Horse Pass Boulevard, Chandler