September 9, 2016 Culture Club Light Up NYCB Theatre at Westbury, NY 8-30-16
When reflecting on the 1980s, chances are one of the first bands to come to the forefront of the mind is England’s Culture Club. While other acts blossoming in the New Wave Rock scene sustained more longevity through the years, in Culture Club’s initial five year run, between 1981 and 1986, they were the biggest act in the world. Quite a bold statement, the truth lies in the band’s history with their 1983 sophomore album, Colour by Numbers, alone selling more than sixteen million copies worldwide. Their sound was unique, a style impossible to define, and leading it all was the intriguing Boy George. With a voice of gold and an image difficult to ignore, Boy George and Culture Club were atop the world.
Sadly, Culture Club was all but dissolved during their peak, and many wonder, what may have been? That said, Culture Club are officially back with their all-star lineup of Boy George, Roy Hay (guitar/keyboard), Mikey Craig (bass), and Jon Moss (drums). A reunion that was solidified in 2014, the band has been picking up steam since touring the world, and teasing with a forthcoming new album, entitled Tribes. Extremely successful in their previous visit to the USA back in 2015, Culture Club return to the shores in the summer of 2016. The lengthiest tour the band has partook in years, it kicked off back in June, running into the fall season. Capturing the imagination of each city they visit, the band graced the stage of NYCB Theatre at Westbury, New York on Tuesday, August 30th. A rare area appearance, Culture Club holds a place in many Long Islanders’ hearts, and it was evident by the massive crowd that nearly filled out the full round to capacity.
Initially scheduled to have the California band Groves opening the show, unknown circumstances left the evening spotlight all to Culture Club. Meeting and greeting select ticket holders prior to their performance, spirits were high as everyone took their seats waiting for the show to begin. Then, as the lights went down, everyone rose to their feet, cheering loudly as Hay, Craig, Moss, horn section, and back-up singers took to the stage. Overwhelming the room, last, but certainly not least, Boy George emerged and they lifted off into 1983 hit single “Church of the Poison Mind.” Dressed in a green suit with a long coat and top hat, Boy George immediately took over, working his way around the revolving stage to engage the audience. In full rotation, the band quickly grabbed their bearings as they rocked into “It’s a Miracle,” “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya,” and “Move Away.” All favorites, and top ten hits, it became evident that the bulk of the audience would seldom be seen sitting down for the remainder of the show.
Complementing the enthusiasm flowing through the venue, Boy George was pleasant and looking tremendously healthy. Often referred to as a conversational figure, Boy George does not let the critics get him down and his sense of humor was not lost on the crowd as he joked about not knowing where he was or what year it was. Being quite the personality, he connected with everyone in the room and even was observant enough to spot children in the audience, hence curtailing fowl language. Fun and loose, they then offered up new song “Human Zoo,” from the yet to be released Tribes record. Quite potent and full of color, the new track was quite a hit, and if anything, makes the long awaited Tribes more intriguing. From there, they went into their distinctive take on Bread’s “Everything I Own” before the moody “Black Money.” Setting a dream-like atmosphere with lush instrumentation provided by the horn section and powerful backing vocalists, they segued seamlessly into the calming classic “Time (Clock of the Heart).”
The mix of older pieces allowed Culture Club more opportunity to entice their fans with other new songs such as the catchy, funky “Like I Used To” and “Different Man.” These tidbits fit flawlessly with other adored Culture Club signatures such as “Miss Me Blind” and the Boy George solo single, Dave Berry’s “The Crying Game,” and of course, the heartbreaking, yet jazzy “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” More than just the music, Boy George continued to rev up the mood in between each song, speaking about the band’s past and joking how for some time in the beginning, no one in America really knew what Culture Club looked like. Perhaps a shock to fans at the time, if anything, their image set trends, and was quite reflective of the eclectic times.
Having covered so much ground thus far, and after deciding which way to face as the stage turned, the mood turned much more serious for the beautiful “Victims.” Primarily just Boy George, without out much backing sound, he showed his voice is in tip-top shape and as soothing as ever. To many, this was a defining moment in the performance. Yet there was still more was to come with the thought-provoking “More Than Silence and “The War Song” closing out the set. Eager for more, everyone remained standing, screaming for it, and quickly returning to the stage, Culture Club lit up the room with “Karma Chameleon.” Turning the theater into a Dance hall, everyone moved and grooved to the feel good song that the band themselves still do not even know what the hell it is really about. Soaring high and all smiles, Boy George and company offered up one last gift, rocking out T. Rex’s “Get It On” with everyone chanting along with the chorus for a grand send off.
All around entertaining, Culture Club’s return is not simply nostalgic, the band is picking up right where they left off all those years ago. Right along side other ’80s icons such as The Cure, Depeche Mode, and Duran Duran, Culture Club are prime for more major success in the years to come. Stimulating the senses of concert goers with a colorful and playful live show, their music is still second to none and Boy George’s pipes are as strong as ever. Sometimes second life is not possible and other times the opportunity is squandered, but Culture Club are making the most of it, and fans need to see it.