A cooler blend of culture

Culture Club deliver a hat-trick: hits, humour and humility

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The montage of Culture Club’s hits and misses on TV was not necessary preceding the band’s live concert in Perth. The video quality (or lack thereof) was like watching grainy VHS footage blown up ten-fold for the big screen. If fans wanted to see all that, they’d only need to YouTube it. And besides, Boy George oozes such star appeal, he could have done a simple twirl on stage, then disappeared, and the crowd would have been in rapture.

While there wasn’t much in the way of fancy choreography, innovative video, smoke or mirrors in this particular production, there actually didn’t need to be.

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Seeing George O’Dowd and company perform their greatest hits and a swag of excellent covers was enough to tick that box off in my extensive music bucket-list. And while there was not too much razzle-dazzle, I still sensed that same feeling of awe as I did when I saw Madonna perform live in Melbourne earlier in the year – such is the powerful presence of this gender-bending icon who once cluttered the scrapbooks of my teenage years.

The funny thing is, I’d interviewed Boy George 20 years ago, and even being ten inches away from that familiar blue-eyeshadowed, red-lipped face didn’t wow me then as much as seeing him sing live on stage now did.

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Practically every song – even the unfamiliar tunes – were instantly likeable, and all three key instrumentalists in the band – Mikey Craig on bass, Roy Hay on guitar and keys, and Jon Moss on drums – worked to deliver an exceptionally tight set; a brilliant feat given that the primary genre of the night was pop.

That said, Culture Club’s fresh presentation of some of their bigger hits – turning what used to be three-minute chart-targeting pop tunes into stretched-out variations of reggae, rock and soul provided a nice surprise to what was expected.

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Even when it came time to perform fan favourites, George would joke along the lines of, “I suppose we should play Karma Chameleon now.”

Aesthetically, for a man whose wardrobe we’re used to seeing as very chameleon-like, the costumes this time ’round were fairly pared back. Not too much in the way of drag; more subdued, with George wearing simple monochrome red, blue, and black’n’white suits – save for his huge hats with patterns playing on optical illusion.

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The show ended with an encore that included two cover songs – one of David Bowie’s Starman, the other of Marc Bolan’s Get It On. Choosing to end the performance with songs by artists who have inspired him, rather than leave the auditorium echoing with his tunes, is proof positive that Boy George has lost what was once a fairly large ego. He was happy to tilt his hat to the icons that inspired him, rather than force something obscure from a latest album onto his fans.

That kind of tribute reveals a sense of humility and vulnerability. But, boy, would Bowie and Bolan have been impressed with the delivery.

 

Photography and review by Antonino Tati

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Culture Club have three more concerts left of their Australian tour:

Sat., 11 June Hordern Pavilion, Sydney

Sun., 12 June Hordern Pavilion, Sydney

Tue., 14 June Riverstage, Brisbane

Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.

 

 

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