Culture Club kicked off their world tour in Adelaide last night and, if you hesitated to buy tickets because you thought the iconic UK eighties superstars might not have aged well, you might want to kick yourself (go ahead, I’ll wait) because you missed an outstanding night.
One of my pet hates in review writing, aside from the writer talking about their pet hates, is a reviewer who makes their piece all about themselves. Well, brace yourselves, because I’m about to do just that.
I lived in Papua New Guinea in the early eighties and, aside from the local radio station airing the American Top 40 once a week, we didn’t have much exposure to music, nor much opportunity to buy any. Whenever we had a chance to rummage through bargain boxes of tapes at department stores when we holidayed back in Australia, we would grab as many cassettes as would fit in our tiny hands.
I listened to, and adored, the Holy Trinity: Cyndi Lauper, Madonna and Boy George. I wanted to be all of them (still do). As the years went on, only Madonna really stayed in the spotlight for me, and I just kind of forgot about the others.
Then it was announced Culture Club would be touring. Although I thought it would be fun to see George and the band perform again, I didn’t really have any expectations because how could they be as good as I remembered from my past? They couldn’t, right?
Wrong. I was so, so wrong.
The Adelaide Entertainment Centre show opened with Kids in the Kitchen. Scott Carne looked very much at home on the stage and enjoyed playing to a large room. They sounded great and there were some pretty die-hard fans loving every minute, which was a very cool way to start the evening. That sort of joy is just contagious.
When it came time for the main event, the original line-up of Culture Club and a few new faces appeared gradually on the stage taking to their instruments to begin ‘Church of the Poison Mind’, with Boy George appearing last, looking absolutely stunning in a long, black and white patterned coat with matching pants, shoes and hat.
The band were tight, George’s voice was exquisite, and it was then that I started to remember how good their music was, and still is. When everyone was doing pop, glam rock and disco, Culture Club were making sophisticated world music. It’s reggae, funk, soul, gospel pop and it was damn good then, and it’s even better now.
Boy George chatted easily with the crowd, often addressing individual audience members, and it was more like he was a friend or family member who’s just popped over for a visit, rather than a pop icon who hasn’t been here for 32 years. He spotted a few outfits he liked and complimented them, as well as dishing out a bit of shade to other celebs (cough, Adele, cough) and a couple of fans, which was all in good fun. He was high camp, high class and it’s high time we had a new album from them.
Among the setlist were old favourites, ‘It’s a Miracle’, ‘I’ll Tumble 4 Ya’, ‘Everything I Own’, ‘Black Money, ‘Miss Me Blind’ and some new ones. Then there were the popular classics (or the ball and chains, as George joked), ‘Do You Really Want to Hurt Me’ and, for the encore, ‘Karma Chameleon’. There were a few great covers, like ‘The Crying Game’ and ‘Bang a Gong’; then at the end, George decided he wasn’t quite finished, stating that he didn’t know if there was a curfew or not and he wanted to play one more song: ‘completely unrehearsed,’ he said. And much to the delight of everyone, it was ‘Starman’ by David Bowie.
Back in their heyday, Culture Club did what no one else was doing, and Boy George paved the way for so many performers to be who they are and dress how they please. It’s very satisfying to see that, despite some difficult times, Boy George is back, looking superb and sounding exceptional. It is their heyday, once again.
The band filled the Entertainment Centre with the sort of energy you find in rooms where there is a lot of love and joy. Even in a stadium-sized room, the show was wonderfully intimate, because the whole band made it so. Drummer, John Moss even came out from behind the kit to thank us all for coming and say how happy he was to be there. Culture Club love music. They love what they do and they do it very, very well.
If you are reading this from another state in Australia, and you are wondering whether you should buy a ticket to a Culture Club show, get out your credit card, click this link and buy a ticket. You won’t regret it.
Thank you, Culture Club, for everything you have done for music, and for one of the best gigs I have ever seen.
Check out the photos by John Goodridge. You might have been snapped!
Reviewed by Libby Parker
Photos by John Goodridge