– Words and Photos by Steven Anthony –
July 29th, 2016 / Hard Rock (The Joint) – Tulsa, OK
For the first time in Culture Club’s long and storied journey, Boy George and the rest of the band finally found themselves in Tulsa last night for a sold out show at the Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Starting the show shortly after 8, the original four members of Culture Club (Roy Hay, Boy George, Mikey Craig and Jon Moss) ran through just about every major song in their catalog in a nearly two hour set.
The years, at least the last few, have been kind to Boy George and the gang. With his wild party days well behind him, George has gained full control of his voice – deeper and perhaps rougher around the edges than it was back in 1982, George’s delivery was remained spot on, with the added benefit of giving the old material a little more bite than before.
George was quite talkative throughout the show, mentioning everything from time travel (and how odd it would be if we actually went back to 1982) to how he used to be a crazy bitch (but he promised he’s okay now). He’s incredibly affable and genuine in his emotion, and while all four band members seemed to love being up on stage together again, George appears to live for it and even thanked the crowd several times for allowing him to have the best job possible.
George’s outrageous costumes only helped draw more attention to his buoyant stage energy. His first outfit of the night — a hat, jacket, pants and shoes all covered in neon green and an XO pattern – reminded me a bit of the Riddler from the Batman series. It made me desperately want to see a Batman-themed Culture Club video, at least. A second outfit found him with a new black jacket, fluorescent pink (or maybe red? sneakers) and a tie-dye/rainbow shirt and pants. It was a lot to take in visually, but also a lot different from the Boy George of yesteryear. More growth and change!
The last few years have seen promises of a new Culture Club album, but it has yet to see the light of day. Regardless, the band has played several new tracks live, and these songs really showcase just how powerful George’s vocal performances can be. The incredibly soulful “Different Man” found George trading off vocal runs with his backing vocalists, while the full-on country, Johnny Cash-tribute “Runaway Train” proved that his vocal work is capable of filling pretty much any genre of music.
The band was in fine form as well, delivering hit after hit for the audience. The guys opened up with “Church of the Poison Mind” before segueing into “It’s a Miracle” and “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya”. They touched several covers throughout the night, notably a reggae-heavy take on Bread’s “Everything I Own” (which Boy George originally covered on his 1987 solo album) and a truly phenomenal version of Dave Berry’s “The Crying Game,” which Boy George has also previously recorded.
All of the big hits were present, and with Boy George’s joyful delivery and the band’s near-perfection, the audience loved every second. Obviously the big hits (think “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” and “Karma Chameleon”) received the largest reaction of the night, but the crowd seemed more engaged with the show and the artists on stage than most casino concerts I’ve been to. It was a nice change.
Not enough can be said for the rest of the band members who helped flesh out the original recordings in a live setting. A three piece brass section sat at the back of the stage, punching up the tracks and of course providing that sweet, sweet 80s saxophone work when needed. George’s three female backing vocalists did a good job of filling in the missing monstrous voice of original collaborator Helen Terry, particularly delivering during “Church of the Poison Mind,” “Victims” and a rousing “Black Money”.
Like many in the audience, I had waited a long time to see this show. It was well worth the wait, and I hope the band does manage to deliver on their promised new album sometime soon. The little peeks into the new material at this show were very promising, and hearing an album written specifically to highlight the changes time and age have had on the band and Boy George’s voice would be excellent. While the band definitely doesn’t try to shy away from the nostalgia label like some of their peers, it would still be nice to get a finished album and hear even more new tracks played in a live setting. Besides, with the band sounding as good as they do bringing the classics to life, even the most stubborn nostalgia hounds (you know, the ones who scream “Karma Chameleon” all night) seemed more willing to listen to and appreciate the new material – something that can be very hard to pull off for classic bands on the road.
I’m beyond glad Culture Club added Tulsa to their itinerary this time around, and based on the audience reaction alone I can’t imagine they avoid the area for another 30 years now. Here’s hoping they come back around, with or without a new album to promote. At the very least, you can be sure George will have a collection of new outrageous outfits in tow.
Church of the Poison Mind
It’s a Miracle
I’ll Tumble 4 Ya
Everything I Own (Bread cover)
Time (Clock of the Heart)
Like I Used To
Miss Me Blind
The Crying Game (Dave Berry cover)
Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?
More Than Silence
The War Song
Get It On (Bang a Gong)