by Paul Cashmere, Noise11
Culture Club fans came to reminisce but as Boy George told them “this isn’t a retirement tour”. The juggle was weighing fan expectations with George’s desire to prove 21st century relevance.
That was the challenge. For the 10,000 people in a room hanging out for Karma Chameleon and a band with their first album in 17 years all set to go, it became a balancing act. Culture Club managed to achieve both.
The show opened with a video montage that capsulized the highs and lows of Boy George’s life in a few minutes from spectacular achievement to the embarrassing arrests. George articulated the good with the bad saying later “If you grew up with a Culture Club poster on your wall you’re probably a bit more open-minded”.
Then for the first eight songs of the show he won over the crowd starting with three massive hits in Church of the Poison Mind, It’s A Miracle and I’ll Tumble 4 Ya and keeping familiarity with more from the 80s including the breathtaking Victims, the Culture Club masterpiece.
The show did feature four new songs from the still unreleased crowd-funded Tribes album. George pretty much apologized for playing the music live by blaming radio for not playing new music. (Note to George: It’s a bit hard for radio to play your new music when you don’t release it.)
The first two new songs Different Man and Like I Used To failed to excite the audience. Both were greeted with a more curious than interested reaction but the one that did work was the countrified ode to Johnny Cash Runaway Train. (Note2 to George: Just release the damn thing and let the fans decide).
It is a shame there is hesitation to release Tribes because A: Runaway Train proves the album will have substance and B: that catalog of hits from the 80s will forever be this bands calling card so really who cares what people think.
The nod to the band’s musical influences with the Bowie and T.Rex covers proves that this isn’t a disposable band put together by a team of judges from a TV show. As George pointed out, he has done many of these songs solo over the years but magic happens when the four Culture Club members perform together. The songs need the ingredients of Roy Hay, Jon Moss, Mikey Craig and George O’Dowd. Something is missing when the parts aren’t all there.
Culture Club songs like Do You Really Want To Hurt Me and Karma Chameleon will outlive us all. They are textbook examples of great 80s pop.
Culture Club’s legacy was that they made “different the new norm”. Now that they have reconnected with the fans, if they can survive this tour, they can keep this going for decades.
Culture Club set list, Melbourne, June 10 2016
- Church of the Poison Mind (from Colour By Numbers, 1983)
- It’s A Miracle (from Colour By Numbers, 1983)
- I’ll Tumble 4 Ya (from Kissing To Be Clever, 1982)
- Move Away (from From Luxury To Heartache, 1986)
- Everything I Own (Bread cover)(from Boy George’s Sold, 1987)
- Black Money (from Colour By Numbers, 1983)
- Victims (from Colour By Numbers, 1983)
- Time (Clock of the Heart) (single, 1982)
- Different Man (unreleased)
- Like I Used To (unreleased)
- Miss Me Blind (from Colour By Numbers, 1983)
- The Crying Game (from The Cry Game OST, 1992)
- Do You Really Want To Hurt Me? (from Kissing To Be Clever, 1982)
- More Than Silence (from Tribes, 2016)
- Runaway Train (unreleased)
- Karma Chameleon (from Colour By Numbers, 1983)
- Bang A Gong (Get It On) (T. Rex cover)
- Starman (David Bowie cover) (from Don’t Mind If I Do, 1999)