Culture Club never played in Adelaide when they came to Australia back in 1984. At the time they were one of the biggest bands in the world and pre-Entertainment Centre Adelaide simply did not have a big enough venue to house their show and their fans . They did multiple shows in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney and thousands travelled to see Boy George, Roy Hay, Mikey Craig and Jon Moss, including myself. The shows were electrifying and exciting and packed full of hits. I think I went to four or maybe five. While I was in Melbourne, they flew into Adelaide with Molly Meldrum to say thank you to their Adelaide fans and made an appearance in Rundle Mall an a footbridge that is no longer there. 25,000 people turned up for that appearance, a crowd for a pop group unseen since The Beatles.
Then they didn’t return to Australia for many, many years. There were breakups, scandals, reconciliations, revivals and nostalgia. They had even appeared in Australia a couple of times and still not made it to our fair city. So as if to make up for lost time, Culture Club have now played Adelaide three times in about 18 months and they seem more welcome than ever. There are many mini-Georges of all shapes, ages, sizes and persuasions out tonight. Along with three generations of CC fans, there also seems to be a bunch of new fans here, perhaps having discovered Boy George through his role as a mentor on The Voice. Isaiah opened the show tonight before I made it into the arena, but reports were good.
Eurogliders present a brief set of solid gold hits from their stellar run as chart topping Countdown regulars in the 1980’s. They are having as much fun as we are and kick things off nicely with hits like No Action, We Will Together and Heaven Must Be There. They have a new CD out called Don’t Eat The Daisies, which I must investigate.
Next up is Tom Bailey of The Thompson Twins. Boy did they have a massive run of hit singles back in the day. Named after the detectives in the Tin Tin books, they were massively popular in this country and there one and only Aussie tour in 1986 was huge. Back then the Thompson Twins was three main members, Tom Bailey, Alannah Currie and Joe Leeway and extra musicians for live shows. These days Alannah is an artist (and married to Jimmy Cauty from The KLF) and Joe is a hypnotherapist. Bailey has continued to make music (electronica under the name International Observer and music for soundtracks) and he started playing Thompson Twins songs again in 2014 after two and a half decades. So his inclusion on the Culture Club tour was very exciting for fans of music from the era. He certainly packed in the crowd favourites like King For A Day, Hold Me Now, You Take Me Up, Lies Lies Lies, Love on Your Side and Lay Your Hands On Me. With a tight three piece all female band, Bailey dressed in all white looked a bit like Dr Strangelove and while it was terrific to hear these songs live, his vocals tonight were somewhat lacking. Perhaps he has one of the many colds and flu’s that are going round at present, whatever the reason, there were many notes missed and keys tampered with. I still really enjoy his set, and I hope we get another chance to see him again in the future. He finished up with Doctor Doctor and terrific sing-a-long on the mammoth hit Hold Me Now.
You just can’t overstate what a massive phenomenon Culture Club were in the 1980s. The story about the crowd that turned out in Adelaide all those years ago gives a clue. They were armed with fantastic songs, a singer with a remarkable voice, killer rythm section and talented guitar player. This was all wrapped in a striking image, that was fresh, challenging and exciting. There have been a number of reports about their initial success mentioning Boy George being openly gay, but back then he never made any statements about his sexuality. It was nobodies business but people would have their own assumptions. In a world were teenagers were still struggling with being able to accept their own sexualities, seeing Boy George present the way he did and not give a single fuck about what anybody had to say about it, was incredibly positive and empowering. He gave a generation of teenagers a strength to be themselves, whatever that might have been. He looked amazing and sang with a voice of true beauty. He could be a bitch, but he was smart and devastatingly funny. One of my favourite quotes from him was “They ask me if I’m a homosexual and I say yes, I have sex at home. They ask me if I am bi-sexual and I say yes I have to pay for it. It’s none of their business.”. And his appeal was incredibly broad. Little kids, grandmas and everybody in between embraced that music and his flamboyant persona. So some of that fervour continues for a lot of people even after thirty five years. People LOVE Boy George, they LOVE Culture Club and they LOVE this music.
The lights go down and Jon Moss makes his way to the drums and huge cheer goes up. The rest of the back musicians take their positions and they start a new song Bitchface. Roy Hay and Mikey Craig bounce of stage and then looking amazing out comes Boy George. They still know how to make an entrance. The ‘new song’ is universally dreaded at all concerts where people have mainly come to see a bands classic material. However Resting Bitchface is fantastic, energetic and fun. There is no word on when it might be released (we are still waiting for the crowd funded Tribes album) but I do hope it is soon. But Mr O’Dowd knows why people are here and Culture Club are ready to deliver. The Church of The Poisoned Mind, It’s a Miracle, I’ll Tumble 4 Ya, Time Clock of the Heart and Miss You Blind all come in quick succession. Each of these songs is greeted with euphoric and near hysterical response from the dancing audience.
Different Man is from Tribes and although unreleased, people know it from the previous two tours and the many shaky versions of it on YouTube. They do a great version of The Stones You Can’t Always Get What You Want, mashed up with Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wildside. Another Tribes track More Than Silence is a strong song too, but people are impatient for more hits and the band are well aware of the pacing of the set list. Do you Really Want To Hurt Me? sends the audience to the next level of bliss. The set is not wildly different than the past two tours, but nobody is complaining as far as I can tell.
“We’ve had a few funny moments during this next song over the past few nights. You know people come out, they’ve had a drink, they can’t keep quite for three minutes…they are talking about their hair, what they are wearing next week to the disco. It’s not helpful. I will have to turn into a rather strict British school teacher, I want you to listen very carefully.” Victims was amazing when it was released in 1983, with it’s stunning vocal, lush orchestral arrangement and outstanding video. Tonight it starts sparsely just Roy on piano and George singing beautifully, but when the band kicks in, the dramatic bombast is almost operatic. The main set concludes with The War Song. It was brutally mocked when it was released, but mockers be damned I love it and clearly so does everybody else here tonight. They have reworked the front end of the song into a soulful ballad, and when they get to the calypso inspired chorus the whole building is dancing about how stupid war and people are.
After some thunderous applause they return to play “that song” and it’s time for Karma Chameleon. The original video plays on the screen behind them and we all dance and we sing and we remember being substantially younger than we are now. We remember what a fun song it was and what great group they were and what a fantastic pop star Boy George was. In fact you can change all of those, because this is still a fun song, they are still a great group and George is still a fantastic pop star.
The set finishes with two covers Prince’s Purple Rain and T Rex’s Bang a Gong (Get It On), they do a swell job of both, but tonight was really about the Culture Club songs and everything it ties together when you go to see a band that has always meant so much to you, and they deliver everything you could have hoped for.
Review by Ian Bell