August 26, 2015 Culture Club Enchant The Grand Theater at Foxwoods Ledyard, CT 7-31-15
Perhaps one of the most defining bands of the 1980s era was England’s Culture Club. Established in 1981, the band’s multicultural lineup of Lead Vocalist Boy George, Guitarist/Keyboardist Roy Hay, Bassist Mikey Craig, and Drummer Jon Moss’ diverse backgrounds was only the beginning of what made them stand out among their peers. Pronounced by a sound that would lead New Wave and Pop with a mix of Rock, Soul, Country, Reggae, and everything in between, Culture Club immediately made an impact with their 1982 debut album Kissing to Be Clever, only to shatter that success with the mega hit Colour By Numbers in 1983. Decorated with eleven international hit singles and four chart-topping records through 1990, for the most part, Culture Club has been absent from music world over the past two decades.
Personal differences aside, the original lineup reformed in 2014 with an announced North American tour and plans for a new record. Exciting their fanbase and immediately selling tickets, the tour was unfortunately cancelled due to Boy George’s health, leaving many wondering if they would ever see Culture Club live again. Fortunately, the stars were aligned, and the false start would not hamper the band’s return to the USA for the first time in fifteen years. They quickly re-arranged the tour to launch in July of 2015, traveling across the continent, hitting cities coast to coast. Following two historic performances at New York City’s Beacon Theatre, Culture Club came to The Grand Theater at Foxwoods in Ledyard, Connecticut on Friday July 31st where fans were eager to recapture some of their favorite music.
With an energy in the air, fans took their seats and noticed a statement on two large screens inside the theater stating the show would be delayed an hour do to transportation problems. Having many anxious and wondering if their chance to see Culture Club would once again be foiled, their worries were settled once the clock struck 9 PM and the lights went down. A sigh of relief was heard, and many rushed to the front of the stage. As a montage of video clips played on the screens flanked on each side of the stage, everyone’s eyes were fixed on music videos, interviews, and honest news reports of some of Culture Club’s less than happy times. Then catching the audience by surprise, Moss took his place behind the drumkit and kicked into the opening beat of 1982’s “Church Of The Poison Mind” as the rest of the band walked out to feverish applause. As Craig, Hay, and Moss began the music, there was just one member missing, and like that, the man himself, Boy George, walked out, bringing the noise to a deafening level. Complemented by a backing band of a three-piece horn section, three female backing vocalist, keyboardist, percussionist, and additional guitarist, Culture Club sounded crisp, clean, and every instrument could be heard distinctly. Dressed in a way only Boy George can, he danced across the stage with his trademark moves and, most of all, sang strongly.
Already having fans swarming with the opening, they immediately went into another hit with “It’s A Miracle” as Boy George apologized for the band’s delayed start due to the extensive traffic they experienced on the way to MGM Grand Theater. All was forgiven by the crowd as everyone sang and danced along as they followed with “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya,” as the heavy percussion and horns filled the air. Taking a moment for a wardrobe change, Boy George returned dressed in a black coat and matching black hat with two red feathers in it, and he asked everyone, “Do you like Reggae?” Quickly receiving a cheer of approval, the band launched into a brand new song entitled “Let Somebody Love You” from their forthcoming 2016 album, Tribes. With rich texture and a warm sound, the track went over extremely well and was only a prelude to more new pieces to be featured later on in the set.
Keeping the mood light and loose, Boy George jokingly stated, “We’re going to do a song by the American band Bread, because I like carbohydrates,” before going into their own Reggae version of “Everything I Own.” Continuing to sound full of color, they followed with another newbie as Boy George engaged the crowd, asking if they were ready for some Funk, going into “Like I Used To.” Featuring a powerful horn section dancing in a slightly dysfunctional choreographed step, yet another new track stimulated the ears of everyone in attendance. Bringing on 1986’s “Move Away,” Hay took a set behind the keyboards as the band rocked another hit before slowing things down with 1983’s “Black Money” where Boy George and one of his background singers aired out their pipes in exceptional fashion.
Remaining behind the keys, Hay’s fingers danced around the piano with a beautiful intro to the moving ballad “ Victims” before another new song entitled “Human Zoo,” which sounded unbelievable. Covering so much ground already, the adored smooth hit “Time (Clock of the Heart)” had the crowd back on their feet dancing, clapping to the beat, and singing along. Sprinkling in another new composition, Boy George introduced it by talking about Sly Stone on Soul Train and asked to see everyone’s hands and hips moving as they went into “Different Man.”
Sounding extremely tight as a band, Culture Club kept the hits coming with “Miss Me Blind” where the vocal harmonies were dead on key as the whole room could be heard singing along. Introducing each member of the band, Boy George and the rest of Culture Club looked extremely enthusiastic to be performing in the USA again, judging by the emotion on their face. Inspired and soaking in the moment, the band brought back the Reggae vibes with “I Just Wanna Be Loved” before going into the haunting Boy George hit single “The Crying Game.” Originally released by Dave Berry back in 1964, Boy George’s 1992 rendition continues to stand the test of time as he sang the words with very moody and ominous lighting setting the mood.
Already fifteen songs in and so much joy shared between Culture Club and their fans, the loudest cheers were yet to come when they went into “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” as every voice unified to sing along. A touching moment in an evening full of them, the band had two more new songs to offer up with “Runaway Train” as everyone stomped their feet to the beat before another minor wardrobe change for Boy George as they went into the delightful “More Than Silence.” With new songs that show the band still have plenty of quality music inside of them, the release of Tribes could not come soon enough for fans and the music world. Surprising all with a cover of David Bowie’s “Starman,” Boy George confessed Bowie is one of his main influences for performing, besides teasing he is also a little bit out there. With Culture Club completing a near perfect version of the classic tune, it appeared they were saying good night as they left the stage. As dim lighting illuminated the stage, from the wings of the side, Boy George’s voice came through a cappella, singing, “There’s a lovin’ in your eyes all the way. If I listen to your lies, Would you say,” and then it ceased. Having everyone focused , once again the words, “There’s a lovin’ in your eyes all the way. If I listen to your lies, Would you say,” broke the silence, and this time, the crowd joining in to the chorus when the band took the stage with Boy George saying, “You might know this one!” Indeed they did as everyone was out of their seat, singing and dancing along to the immortal “Karma Chameleon,” closing out the show with a bang.
Fifteen years is a long time. A lot can happen in that time, including marriage, children being born, divorce, and a slew of worldly events occurring. Time has been kind to Culture Club though, and their absence, while lengthy, proves they are more endearing than ever to their fans. Their performance was not just a trip of nostalgia, it was the return of an icon band that was long over due. While the US tour is now complete, hopes are Culture Club will be back again very soon after the release of Tribes, unquestionably one of 2016’s most anticipated records.