Culture Club @ Arena Birmingham, 16 November 2018

Culture Club @ Arena Birmingham, 16 November 2018

New wave pop superstars Culture Club are no strangers to the limelight; the band has created groundbreaking records since the 1980s. Launching into stardom with 1982’s ‘Do You Really Want to Hurt Me’ their genre defying mixture of pop, reggae and rock produced a new sound that when mixed with their onstage personalities and shenanigans excited the masses. Their flame has not diminished and while the boyish punky popularity has morphed into a more mainstream appeal the excitement and adoration for the band continues to burn strongly. At Birmingham Arena Culture Club transformed the night, their awe inducing stage show collided with their pop meets reggae, meets gospel choir sound, producing an unforgettable evening. 

The dark stage brightens, a single shot of light filling the oppressive blackness. The light grows, morphing slowly into a galaxy scene complete with floating heads and an all seeing eye. As the universe expands a single note rings, like the scene behind it the note cascades. As the drums crash through and a guitar begins to wine the atmospheric ambiance evolves. Slowly rising from the stage a figure, backlit and faceless,  strums a chord on the guitar. In a final crash the stage comes to life and a mere few minutes later Boy George rises from the stage. His cape fluttering behind him, the night has officially begun!

‘God & Love’ reverberates through, the screen switching to religiously oriented imagery. Boy George’s vocals are clear and crisp; while the boyish naivety of his early start has morphed into a husky mature voice, his vocals remain powerful but not obtrusive. It is remarkable that after all these years the band still bounds with energy, their shows one explosion at a time. 

Uptempo funky pop ‘Its A Miracle’ was followed by reggae rooted ‘Let Some Body Love You.’ A lull in the music found Boy George recanting of his summers in Birmingham. With family members living in the area George often found himself in Birmingham in the summer, even working in the Bull Ring! Classic soul ‘Time (Clock of the Heart)’ delivered an explosion of energy with funky guitar riffs and punchy vocals. ‘Everything I Own’ brought about a little boogie, the light and joyous frivolity wrapped in song. 

2015’s ‘The Truth is a Runaway Train’ with its massive pop funk sound, bathed the audience in yellow and red lights. Going back in their catalogue obvious fan favourite ‘Do You Really Want To Hurt Me.’ The record, a part of which Boy George says is in the bands DNA, elicited a clear excitement from longstanding fans. Anchored by the piano ‘Victims’ and glam disco rock ‘Different Man’ swirls an ensemble of singers with the genre splicing instrumentals. ‘Miss Me Blind’ and ‘Church of the Poison Mind/I’m Your Man’ round out the night. 

The encore found a costume change and a splash of lights. ‘Life,’ a song dedicated to George’s family, with its steady kick drum and careening lights brought a whoosh of excitement which brought the crowd to life again. An explosion of 80s pop brought about ‘Let’s Chance’ and anthemic ‘Chain of Fools.’ ‘Karma Chameleon’ rounded out the evening. 

Culture Club rolled into Birmingham Arena and delivered a punchy pop explosion. The decades of writing and performing have not tired the group, rather the time on the road seems to fuel their creativity and enthusiasm, transforming an otherwise ordinary evening into a whirlwind experience.  

Reviewer: Kylie McCormick

Photograph: Christie Goodwin provided by PR

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