Boy George strode onto stage in an elaborate helmet and a black cloak.
The sparkling gold headpiece looked as if he might have nicked it from an expensive Hollywood production of the story of Cleopatra. He grinned mischievously at the audience at Wolf Trap.
“I had to wrestle Lady Gaga for this,” he said of the headpiece. “She lost. She’s backstage, crying, right now.”
With that, the cheeky singer set off into a performance of “Victims,” a show-stopping tune from his band Culture Club.
And it was absolutely thrilling. When the beat dropped in the song, as it famously does shortly after the 2-minute mark, the audience was completely enraptured by the ode to being a thrall to love. You could feel goosebumps.
A remarkably revitalized Culture Club took to the stage at Wolf Trap on Monday evening and delivered hit after hit like clockwork. You might say they kept perfect “Time (Clock of the Heart).”
Watch Culture Club perform “Karma Chameleon” at Edinburgh Castle on BBC One on March 17, 2015:
It’s a miracle — that we were able to witness the reformation of these remarkable musicians, and I say that because Culture Club doesn’t work when it’s just the Boy George show. Surely, the flamboyant vocalist is a key ingredient of the act, but he needs his compatriots to pull it off — guitarist Roy Hay, bassist Mikey Craig, and drummer Jon Moss. For their part, the other three were in remarkably good spirits, waving, shaking hands, smiling along with the audience. Their high spirits buoyed a strong performance and fed into making the band seem like a band.
Roy was particularly in the spotlight as a most valuable player. The affable guitarist swept his side of the stage with grandiose gestures and a damn good performance. He also occasionally switched over to keyboards, such as with the stark opening of “Victims,” where he and George kick off the song along together, and provided strong backing vocals in several numbers. The man was a class act.
Culture Club began their set with “Church of the Poison Mind” and kept the hit machine running with follow-ups “It’s a Miracle” and “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya.” Lest we forget, they have a new album on the horizon, however, and the band added new songs from the upcoming Tribes, scheduled for release in 2016. Culture Club introduced the audience to songs such as “Like I Used To,” an upbeat R&B song that could rest alongside the band’s earlier catalog, and “Runaway Train,” a country-flavored song inspired by the works of Johnny Cash, smacking a bit of “Ring of Fire.”
The band performed “The Crying Game,” during which the audience practically held its breath as Boy George crooned through a song known as a solo hit from 1992. They also played crowd-pleasers “Miss Me Blind” and “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” — the latter song closing out the set.
Watch Culture Club perform “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” on the Today Show on July 2, 2015:
An encore began with new song “More Than Silence,” peaked with the ever-popular “Karma Chameleon,” and closed with a cover of T. Rex’s “Bang a Gong (Get It On),” a popular glam tribute to the late Marc Bolan among U.K. New Romantics like Culture Club.
Overall, the ebullient Boy George led a merry crew through 19 songs while at the top of his game. As band leader, he provided excellent guidance to his regular bandmates and to a horn section of three men and backup singers of three women (cleverly wearing hats of red, gold, and green — red, gold, and greeeeeen). He was witty, debonair, pleasing, and totally irrepressible.
After roughly 15 years apart, Culture Club clearly has rallied with an extremely worthwhile show and finely honed talents. It is definitely worth your while to see them. For the time being, they are in the United States for three more shows — all in Florida — visiting Miami on Friday, St. Petersburg on Saturday, and Orlando on Sunday.
Perhaps they will be back once again after the actual release of the new album? One things for certain — they definitely have the groove back, much “like they used to.”