Culture Club is back with its original winning lineup: Ray Hay (guitar and keyboards), Mikey Craig (bass guitar) and Jon Moss (drums, percussion) ––fronted by Boy George, the ever-plucky showman with an outré look and outfits to match.
Culture Club was backed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, led by Bramwell Tovey’s skill and wit. The decidedly British evening began with the orchestra’s rendition of Pomp and Circumstance March No.1 by Sir Edward Elgar, Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on “Greensleeves,” and Dam Buster March by Eric Coates.
“Who wants to tumble?”
Culture Club’s set began with “Church of the Poison Mind” from the band’s second album, Colour by Numbers (UK No.1, U.S. No. 2). Boy George ––wearing a long white frock and bowler hat emblazoned with XOs –– sang capably throughout the night. The singer’s voice, once imbued with a quicksilver lining, is instead now silvery around the edges. There’s a new heft to his sound, which worked quite well during this show.
The set moved on to “It’s a Miracle,” and the crowd-pleasing “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya,” introduced by the shout: “Who wants to tumble?”
Boy George, 55, interspersed easy banter between the songs, talking about his past, and times when albums (“anyone remember those?”) were considered as “sacred objects.” His music is often termed as blue-eyed soul with its reggae and rhythm and blues undertones.
Since their launch in 1981, Culture Club has sold more than 50 million records. Their current three month-plus tour began in Australia in early June, 2016 and will conclude in mid September.
Post show, Naomi Campbell congratulated Theresa Bailey backstage
Subsequent songs got the sold out Bowl moving, with many standing and dancing in place –– or in the aisles. The mass move was prompted as Boy George singled out some front box patrons: “Oh, I know you’re too rich to stand up,” he goaded, garnering the biggest laugh of the night.
Back-up singer Theresa Bailey sent her soaring vocals clear through the song “Black Money,” lifting it to new heights. Bailey also backs for Queen Latifah.Traci Brown-Bailey leant her considerable talent to “Different Man,” among other songs.
Naomi Campbell congratulated Bailey backstage after the show, stated Bailey on her Twitter feed. DeeDee Foster and Tracy Black also sang back up. You can follow the trio on Twitter: @theresabrenelle @deedeefoster @trayblack.
Culture Club polished off the night with its ever-popular “Karma Chameleon,” from the 1983 album, Colour by Numbers. It was the group’s biggest hit, and the single song to hit number one in the U.S. among the band’s other top 10 hits.
The melodic, joy-driven tune harbors slightly darker undertones, matching Boy George’s effortless yet sideways charm. In the book by Fred Bronson, “The Billboard Book of #1 Hits,” Boy George explained:
“The song is about the terrible fear of alienation that people have, the fear of standing up for one thing. It’s about trying to suck up to everybody. Basically, if you aren’t true, if you don’t act like you feel, then you get Karma-justice, that’s nature’s way of paying you back.”
Follow R. Daniel Foster on Twitter and Instagram: @rdanielfoster