Boy, oh boy. Adelaidians – a term now endorsed by Mr George himself – had to wait 32 years for Boy George and Culture Club to return to our fair city. But return they did, and with gusto. Kicking off the band’s world tour here in Adelaide on Monday night, the enigmatic frontman expressed love for the Adelaide crowd.
“You’re the reason we’re here,” he commented, going on to acknowledge the drought that South Australian Culture Club fans have endured. “You were probably saying, ‘Those bastards’,” he quipped as he effortlessly filled time between tunes.
One time 80’s new wave heroes Kids In The Kitchen opened proceedings. What they lacked in polish, they made up for in raw enthusiasm. Luckily, they weren’t taking themselves too seriously. Sure, it was a little sloppy in places, but that seemed to matter little to the middle aged masses who were clearly just there for some nostalgic escapism.
For the most part, the Culture Club set list everything about 80’s music that polarized a generation. From “Church Of The Poison Mind” through “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya” all the way to George’s US solo hit “The Crying Game” and beyond. George was at his emotive best during “Black Money” and background clips of Sly Stone set off a track from the band’s new material, “Different Man” – a tribute to Sly.
“Do You Really Want To Hurt Me” and “Karma Chameleon” were shoe-ins for the encore. Growing up, George was a big fan of T-Rex and it’s become custom for Culture Club to play “Bang A Gong” in their live shows since their reformation. What we didn’t expect, and were amply delighted by, was their choice of parting song – a rousing rendition of Bowie‘s “Starman”.
Ron Hay, Mikey Craig and Jon Moss have lost nothing. Hay’s multi-instrumentalism, Moss’ ruthlessly unwavering beat keeping and Craig’s undeniable groove still, 30 years later, provide the perfect backdrop for George’s voice. For this tour the on-stage band included a keyboardist, a three piece brass section, an extra lead guitar, percussion and three uber powerful back-up vocalists. This support crew are to be thanked for the way they kept the crowd on their feet for the whole show.
Certain things about an artist are only revealed under the lights of the stage. Boy George has a reputation as a pop music hit-making legend, among other things. But on Monday night, he showed why he is the ultimate power pop figurehead. To begin with, the voice, whilst now possessing a certain depth and edge, has lost none of its strength. Boy George can still really belt it out. Then, there’s the on-stage aura that he carries about him. He never flails about the stage with convulsive energy, yet you can’t take your eyes off him. He moves with intent and grace. Also, he’s a funny guy. Not above taking the piss out of himself, he possesses that quintessential British sense of humour. And of course, there’s the fashion.
I was by no means in the front row, but even from a distance, whenever he looked my way I felt as if he was looking directly at me. And I’ve no doubt everyone around me felt the same way. That’s the true measure of a special performer. To make a room full of thousands of people all feel like you’re singing directly to them is not a talent many possess.
Sure, if he could no longer sing no-one would have rocked up. But that’s not what they came for. They came because an artist like Boy George always does one thing if nothing else – he makes you feel. He polarised music fans in the 80s and more recently has had his fair share of featuring in the headlines for the wrong reasons. But last night, the minute he took the stage, none of that mattered. It was just us and him.
A true giant of music there within our grasp. Boy George is someone people want to be around because there is just something special about him. I for one, am glad I got the opportunity to do so.
Images: Kerrie Geier.