Sunday, 6 September 2015

Culture Club at Hammersmith Apollo

This evening we went back in time to visit the '80s with the Culture Club reunion tour at Hammersmith.   I was never a big fan of Culture Club back then - I liked a few of the singles and that was it, I didn't explore them any further. It was only after I was taken to see Boy George's musical 'Taboo' and loved most of the songs that I started exploring his work and found much to enjoy. I still prefer his solo work to the Club songs but this was an opportunity to see the original four back together again - Mickey, Jon, Roy and George - so who was I to say 'no thanks'?

As soon as we got there it was obvious that the old tribes were gathering and the place was flooded by middle aged couples (heteronormative and others more interesting) and groups of friends on a Saturday night out in their best casuals. There was a sprinkling of old copy-cat fans in the hats and clothes of a younger George, some of the (chubby, let's be honest) men still remembering their skills with make-up. There was even a couple wearing matching silver-white suits and big blue wigs that they thankfully took off when they sat down otherwise the people behind wouldn't have seen much. I heartily approve of the dressing up!

The lights went down and the video wall at the back of the stage started showing short snippets of people introducing Culture Club over the years (including Bruce Forsyth) and clips of their career and then that stopped and on they walked with George joining them last and launched into 'Church of the Poison Mind', one of my favourites. The band was augmented by keyboards, brass, extra guitar,  percussion and three backing singers in colourful hats. It was nice to see John Themis and Kevan Frost in the larger band since they're regular songwriting partners and performers in George's band.

It was great fun to see and hear Culture Club live - who would've thought that I'd ever say that? - but they were really good, a tight band putting on a great show. All using the stage to best effect, parading around, soaking up the applause and latter-day adulation except for Jon stuck behind his drum kit. There was a great light show and the video wall switched from showing old Culture Club videos and other bits of film to then change to show pretty patterns while the overhead lights bathed the stage in one colour after another. George had four costumes, starting with bright red, moving through two variations of black and ending up in white. At least he's finally despatched the black scarab suits to the dustbin.

They all seemed to have good fun, especially Mickey who was born in Hammersmith and still lives in the area so he's the local boy made good. George was, of course, in his element and in very good voice too, dancing round the stage like he was 30 years younger and teasing the people in the front of the crowd.

The setlist was a mix of Culture Club classics and old favourites, a selection of songs from the new album and a couple of Boy George solo songs. My favourites were 'Church of the Poison Mind', 'I'll Tumble 4 Ya', 'Victims', 'Time (Clock of the Heart)' and the inevitable 'Do You Really Want To Hurt Me' and 'Karma Chameleon'. I also liked a song I hadn't heard before, 'Move Away'. George's songs were 'Everything I Own' and 'The Crying Game'. I liked the new songs from the latest album - they sounded great! I've got no idea when it'll be released but I'll get it.

After singing 'Poison Mind' at the start George quipped about David Bowie singing there back in 1973 - I'd predicted he'd mention the Ziggy gig since he's a fan. But imagine my surprise in the encore when he says it's always good to 'keep a little Marc in your heart' and launched into a great version of 'Get It On' by T.Rex. That got the crowd singing! Especially when followed by 'Starman' as an extra gift! My only slight disappointment was no 'Bow Down Mister' since I hoped to do the Hindu chanting for Poly Styrene.

So there you have it, my time warp back to the '80s and then forward to this year for the latest album. I've seen Boy George quite a few times on stage but I never thought I'd see Culture Club and now I have. They were great fun and very professional. I hope the album comes out soon.

No comments: