Frances Winston reviews:
Boy George & Culture Club
3Arena Dublin, 25th November 2018
Boy George bounces onto the stage of the 3Arena, and within seconds announces that the band are like “a live soap opera”. If you don’t know their tumultuous history, that might seem an odd statement, but very little about their ups-and-downs hasn’t been documented. Indeed, a reunion tour in 2014 was scrapped, and the whole build-up and implosion recorded for a BBC Four documentary, that contains more drama than an episode of EastEnders!
This time around, the band have managed to make it through a US tour, and they landed in Dublin on the European leg. They have lost drummer, Jon Moss, along the way – officially he opted out of the European dates to spend more time with his family – but other than that, they seemed to be getting along fine. Well, musically at least.
The tour is to promote their new album, Life, but remaining members, Mikey Craig, Roy Hay, and George know the crowd want to hear the classics, and that is exactly what they give them.
Other than a couple of songs from the new offering, we were treated to hit after hit. It’s a Miracle, Victims, and Time all drew cheers. But when the opening strains of their breakthrough hit, Do you Really Want to Hurt Me? emanated across the arena, the crowd went wild.
I have seen Culture Club several times over the years, and George’s voice (and attitude) could be hit-and-miss. However, on this occasion, he was in fine voice – as good if not better than his heyday. He also seemed to really enjoy the gig, and engaged warmly with the crowd throughout, giving a shout-out to his Irish family members who were in attendance, and his mother, Dinah, who was also there (Dinah is a truly remarkable woman, and if you haven’t read her book, Cry Salty Tears, get on that!)
The background graphics were extremely impressive, and contained many clips of their classic videos and appearances, just to fuel the nostalgia trip further. Also the backing singers were amazing, with each one perfectly capable of being a lead-vocalist themselves, should they wish. Musically and vocally, this was a pretty flawless show.
When they departed the stage at around 10.10pm, after a mash-up of Church of the Poison Mind, and Wham’s I’m Your Man (which worked surprisingly well) I felt a bit cheated.
They had been on stage just over an hour, and even with an encore, this was shaping up to be a very short gig. However, I hadn’t reckoned on the fact that after singing Life, George would use the encore to pay tribute to two of his heroes – David Bowie and Marc Bolan – with covers of Let’s Dance and an epic version of Get It On, which saw him introduce the band.
They saved the best for last, closing with their mega-hit (and the song they are probably most associated with) Karma Chameleon. They were joined on stage by their support act from earlier, Tom Bailey of the Thompson Twins along with his backing band, who threw themselves into the track. (His set was also brilliant, and had the crowd singing along with gusto).
At this stage, anyone who wasn’t dancing prior to this was on their feet, and the atmosphere was one of a great big party. All in all, they were nearly two hours on stage, and left a very happy and enthused crowd behind them.
The band may have had their conflicts over the years, but when they put all that aside, they really do put on a great show. Many of these 80s reunions can be cheesefests, but this was a well-thought-out and grown-up production, that showcased George’s cheekiness, and the band’s musicianship, perfectly.
Out of all the times I’ve seen them, I have to say this is the best they ever were!
1. God & Love 2. It’s a Miracle 3. Let Somebody Love You 4. Time 5. Everything I Own 6. Runaway Train 7. Do You Really Want to Hurt Me? 8. Victims 9. Different Man 10. Miss Me Blind 11. Church of the Poison Mind / I’m Your Man
12. Life 13. Let’s Dance 14. Get It On 15. Karma Chameleon