Culture Club Open Their World Tour

(Words - Ian Bell, Photos - Rodney Magazinovic)

In 1984 Culture Club were one of the biggest pop groups in the world. Along with Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and Wham! they had exploded onto the charts with a basket full of terrific pop singles, a remarkable soundtrack for a generation of kids. Of course they also had Boy George, the top royalty of Gender Benders. He was a strapping lad, with outrageous costumes, a full face full of make-up, a quick wit, a bitchy streak, some strong messages of acceptances and the voice of an angel.

The quality and universal appeal of the music of Culture Club, meant a lot of dads and macho football players had to do some complicated and confronting thinking about what it meant to like music from a popstar was far from the hetero norm. Like Bowie before him, his confidence, talent and boldness gave courage to a generation of disenfranchised kids, tell them it was okay to be different, become who you want to be, create your own world. Everybody had an opinion about Boy George and he had loved it. When hey first toured Australia in 1984, there was no concert for Adelaide mainly because we had no venue for a gig that big in those pre-Entertainment Centre days. However after adding more and more extra shows in Melbourne and Sydney, Molly Meldrum convinced Boy George, Jon Moss, Roy Hay and Mikey Craig to make a flying visit to South Australia and make an appearance in Rundle Mall to say thank you to their Adelaide fans. Reports vary but there was somewhere between 10,000 and 25,000 crammed into the mall to catch a glimpse of Culture Club do some waving and George croon a bit of Karma Chameleon. They promised when the returned to Australia they would play a concert in Adelaide. They have returned a few times since then and never played Adelaide, until tonight. Initially not included on the tour schedule an avalanche of protests and pleas on Facebook and Twitter, saw Adelaide finally get that promised show a mere thirty two years later. And Boy was it worth the wait!

Proceedings kicked off with a tight and super-fun set by the reformed Australian synth-pop legends Kids In The Kitchen. They crashed into the charts in 1983 and like a bunch of other Australian acts (Icehouse, Real Life, INXS, Pseudo Echo) proved that this country could produce contemporary and modern sounding pop music the equal of anything happening in the rest of the world. With vocalist Scott Carne an A-Grade popstar if ever there was one. Tonight for the first time in a very long time we have four out of the original five members Carne, guitarist Claude Carranza, Craig Harnath on Bass and Bruce Curnow on drums. Missing is keyboard player Alistair Coia. They haven't replaced him, but the keyboard parts are being triggered by Curnow and it works really well. Their 45 minute set of crowd pleasing hits like Bitter Desire, Shine, Current Stand and Something That You Said, has some pockets of enthusiastic dancing with people clearly loving having the Kids on stage again. The set closer Change in Mood, is in my opinion, one of the great songs of the 1980's. Starts slow and moody, kicks into double time and Carne's vocals and the ascending chord progressions are euphoric. They were bloody great!

After a short break it was time for what Adelaide had waited three decades to see. A short video montage of clips and TV appearances reminded us of all those glories and then with the impressive backing band vamping on Church of the Poison Mind, each member arrived on stage getting a huge cheer as they took position. Enter Boy George in a white outfit with black circles and crosses all over it (with matching hat and shoes) and it's clear he has not lost any of the charisma that set him apart all those years ago. His voice is strong and he looks like he is having fun.

Next up is It's a Miracle and I'll Tumble For Ya and people are on their feet, dancing and singing along for all they are worth. He pays some special attention to some of Adelaide's snappier dressers and seems genuinely pleased to finally be here. Long term fans are amused by the introduction of Like I Used To which he describes as being "From the new album...that isn't out yet!". That's because this 'new album' Tribes has been 'coming' for a very long time. It's a great song by the way, as are all the new unreleased song played tonight. Let Somebody Love You, Human Zoo, the funky Different Man (written about legend Sly Stone) I wonder if we will ever get to see released! Happy to hear new songs but five or six might have been a few too many unfamiliar/unavailable songs, given the amount of well loved gems in their treasure box.

They play a couple of covers that were Boy George solo singles Everything I Own (Bread/Ken Boothe) and The Crying Game (Dave Berry) and a couple of the bombastic mega ballads (Black Money and the epic Victims) that added the texture and majesty to those early albums. Move Away from their fourth LP From Luxury To Heartache (1986) was their last proper hit before the initial break up and is a bit of an unknown gem in this country. Tonight that particular gem sparkles and shines and is a personal highlight and was that a cheeky bit of Tears For Fears Head Over Heels in the outro? The end of the set is festooned with classic pop hits. Time (Clock of the Heart), Miss Me Blind, another Tribes cut Runaway Train which was inspired by Johnny Cash and is a country gallop.

Throughout the show, George mentions that Rundle Mall appearance many times, talks about Twitter and Instagram, and is generally utterly charming and funny. Their are several costume changes, but mostly different jackets and hats. Dang can that man wear a hat! The closer is the reggae tinged Do You Really Want To Hurt Me? And everybody is on their feet, everybody is dancing, to a song that is every bit as exciting and fresh as it was when it came out in 1982.

After a short break they give us one last Tribes song, More Than Silence, it's possibly my favourite of the new songs. It's got a bit of the contemporary pop feel that a good Robbie Williams song might have. You can find it on Youtube, see what you think.

"Shall we play that song?" George teases. "YES!" we reply and play it they do. Karma Chameleon was such a massive in this country and if tonight's response is anything to go by it remains of the defining chart hits of the era. People are going nuts, as well they should be. 70's glam rock had quite the influence of George and Culture Club and they smash through a rockin' version of the T-Rex stomper Get It On (Bang-a-Gong) which merges into Bowie's Starman. It's a big party finish for a great night.

Thirty two years. Well worth the wait. Let's hear it for the Boy.

Set list:

Church of the Poisoned Mind
It's a Miracle
I'll Tumble For Ya
Like I Used To
Everything I Own
Let Somebody Love You
Black Money
Move Away
Human Zoo
Time (Clock of the Heart)
The Crying Game
Different Man
Miss Me Blind
Runaway Train
Do You Really Want to Hurt Me
More Than Silence

Karma Chameleon
Bang a Gong (Get It On)

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