Promoters were correct to put their faith in George Michael's first European tour in 15 years. Since going on sale in April, Michael's 47-date 25 Live tour, which begins Sept. 23 in Barcelona, has mov

Promoters were correct to put their faith in George Michael's first European tour in 15 years. Since going on sale in April, Michael's 47-date 25 Live tour, which begins Sept. 23 in Barcelona, has moved close to 600,000 tickets, catching even Michael's handlers somewhat by surprise.

Michael's manager Michael Lippman calls the demand "over the top. It was beyond our expectations in terms of speed, but I never doubted we'd sell the tickets." The tour celebrates Michael's 25-year career.

Michael has never been known for extensive concert treks, having last toured in 1991 in support of his "Cover to Cover" album. "He did tour with Wham!, and he did tour on the 'Faith' album," Lippman says. "But there were only about 40 dates in America."

But 15 years is a long absence from the live market for any artist. Lippman says a series of personal and professional setbacks -- many of them well documented in the press, including suing Sony in 1993 -- kept Michael off the road.

"He just became a bit reclusive, not really wanting to go out and engage the public," Lippman says. "Now he's fit and ready to go and he wants to go out and play his music for people and interact with people."

Apparently, there was considerable pent-up demand to see Michael live. "I never take anything for granted -- it is dangerous to do so in this business," says tour producer Barrie Marshall of Marshall Arts. "However, people have been asking me every year for at least the last 10 years, 'When is George going to play dates?'"

Lippman says the set list will be a career retrospective, including hits from Wham! and Michael's solo career. "We've got a band, we've got a crew, we've got a set being built and designed, we're way ahead of the game," Lippman says. "We're all ready to go and can't wait for these dates to begin."

With overwhelming success of Europe, is there any chance Michael will test the waters in the United States? "I am very optimistic that we will," Lippman says. "Let's get up and running. We're all going to wear T-shirts saying, 'Let's make sure George has a good time.' I can't imagine it won't come to America."