Boy George was dashing, clad as a New Romantic god, in Culture Club’s recent concert performance in the DC metro area. The pop music icon’s dedication to smart fashion persisted despite the soaring temperatures, which sparked a summer squall and lightning storm that delayed the band’s concert.
“Heat is the enemy of fashion,” George declared at the start of his set, although he made it look easy.
“I would like to know his skincare routine!” marveled several onlookers from the soundboard of Jiffy Lube Live, where photographers were nestled on July 28. It was true that despite the heat, George took every care to appear very colorful and stylish, and he was positively glowing.
Just as importantly, Boy George sounded great as he lead Culture Club through a brisk 75-minute show. He put his husky, bluesy voice to work on a cover of “Sympathy for the Devil” by The Rolling Stones to open the show. The threat of lightning condensed the concert, and Culture Club wasted no time getting down to business. Sadly, however, the shorter set length called for some hard choices, and Culture Club jettisoned the excellent new songs they have been presenting on this tour.
The packed Jiffy Lube Live pavilion however was game for whatever Culture Club had to deliver, and deliver they did. Boy George, guitarist Roy Hay, and bassist Mikey Craig kept the hits rolling from an early rendition of “It’s a Miracle” (1984) through a tender “Do You Want to Hurt Me” (1982) to a rousing “Church of the Poison Mind” (1983) made into a medley with “I’m Your Man” by Wham!
Watch the official music video for “Church of the Poison Mind” by Culture Club on YouTube:
Backing singer Roxy Yarnold was again a revelation, infusing “Church of the Poison Mind” and other songs with a thrilling musical roar. The wonderful Vangelis Polydorou also sounded great, stealing the spotlight for a moment during “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya” with his powerful voice.
Culture Club’s twin drums and Mikey’s bass really elevated the island flavor of “Karma Chameleon” in the show’s encore and gave a unique character to a killer cover of “Get It On” by T. Rex, an artist that George acknowledged as an early and beloved influence. In addition to covers of the T. Rex and The Rolling Stones, Culture Club covered “Everything I Own” by Bread in the midst of the set, granting the song new life with George’s deeply romantic rendering of the song.
Culture Club were great, and the band made the best use of their reduced time. Watching the dynamic Roy Hay rock through the Culture Club hits, the audience could see the band was firing on all thrusters and exceeding expectations with a captivating show.
The reduction in overall stage time due to the lightning storm meant that openers Howard Jones and Berlin also reduced their sets. Howard, performing second on the program at Jiffy Lube Live, thundered through an all-to-brief set of five songs. But Howard and his band were in high spirits. Guitarist Robin Boult smiled widely from stage left as he and Howard rallied with “Like to Get to Know You Well” (1984).
Synthesist Robbie Bronnimann kept the electronic beats pulsing through “Everlasting Love” (1989), as Howard sat at a keyboard for a song of yearning and desire. Bassist Nick Beggs thrashed his head through “What Is Love?” (1983) while hugging his Chapman stick.
Watch the official music video for “What Is Love?” by Howard Jones on YouTube:
Speaking of Beggs, Howard has been performing a cover of “Too Shy” by Kajagoogoo, Nick’s former ’80s band, in honor of his presence on the tour. But the lightning storm demanded some numbers including this one be cut, which was too bad! Still, Howard and his band knocked it out of the park with talent and grace.
Berlin, the first band of the evening, saw their set reduced to only four songs! But Berlin burst out of the gate, ready to roll. Frontwoman Terri Nunn was a stunner in an elegant black dress (she’s really showcasing some eye-catching ensembles on this tour!), and she thrilled the audience by opening with “No More Words” (1984). Terri swept across the stage with timestopping beauty and charm, and she sounded great as she sang with gusto.
There are several songs you always hope Berlin will perform, and one of those is new wave anthem “The Metro” (1981), a breakup song that makes you want to dance. Thankfully, Terri and company surfaced the song second in their set before they took up the enduring hit “Take My Breath Away” (1986). For “Take My Breath Away,” Terri descended into the audience, electrifying concertgoers on the floor with her personal warmth and magnetism.
Watch the official music video for “Take My Breath Away” by Berlin on YouTube:
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love that classic Berlin band members John Crawford and David Diamond are back in the fold. The two veteran musicians seemed to have a lot of fun as they cut loose on guitar solos and mugging for the crowd. John, who founded the band in 1978, played loose and carefree with a growling contribution to the iconic “Sex (I’m A…)” (1982), while he and Terri closed the show with a playful and expressive exchange.
(I’m still tickled recalling telling Terri that Baltimore radio stations wouldn’t play the risque “Sex” until after 9pm or 10pm at night back in 1982 and she was surprised to hear it.)
This bill is catnip for old school new wavers like myself, and I urge you to catch Culture Club, Howard Jones, and Berlin when they visit a city near you. They continue to perform throughout August as they cross the country to California. You’ll leave the show elated and singing the bands’ songs for days.
Here are some photos of Berlin performing at Jiffy Lube Live on July 28, 2023. All pictures by Mickey McCarter.
Here are some photos of Howard Jones performing at Jiffy Lube Live on July 28, 2023. All pictures by Mickey McCarter.
And here are some photos of Culture Club headlining Jiffy Lube Live on July 28, 2023. All pictures by Mickey McCarter.