Concord Pavilion, Concord
August 20, 2023
Photos by Raven Divito
Culture Club are a band that needs no introduction. Led by the flamboyant frontman Boy George and still featuring fellow founding members Roy Hay on guitar and Mikey Craig on bass, the band treated a nearly sold out crowd at the Concord Pavilion to songs both old and new, both original and covers. Opening the show with a rousing cover of “Sympathy For The Devil” by The Rolling Stones, Boy George descended a set of stairs between drummer Meryl-Anne Evanson and the various percussion instruments that would be used throughout the set before joining the rest of the band at the front of the stage.
What followed was a 90-minute set that had the crowd on their feet dancing for nearly the entirety of it. Culture Club was always a band that leaned into reggae just as much as new romanticism, and throughout the set songs would be extended or arrangements altered to fit both genres that the band always so carefully wove together. Two things also haven’t changed about the band. One is Boy George’s fashion sense. Garbed in an exaggerated bowler hat and a kimono shirt, he put the other thing that hasn’t changed, his incredibly powerful voice, on full display throughout the night. “I was at a friend’s house and his daughter was putting on magnificent eyeliner. And she gave me a look like I had never worn eyeliner in my life. And for me… that was just devastating.” He said as he introduced the song “Eyeliner Voodoo.”
There were highlights to be sure: the slowed down intro of “Do You Want To Hurt Me,” the vocal duets between Boy George and the band’s stellar backup singers, and the sheer joy that the entire band exuded while onstage. But for me the true highlight came towards the end of the show, when Terri Nunn and Howard Jones joined the band onstage during Culture Club’s cover of “Get It On” by T. Rex. “Do you want to sing ‘Karma Chameleon’ with us?,” Boy George asked them. “Everyone know the words, you don’t have to rehearse it.” And so the night ended with three of the biggest names in new wave sharing a stage together and singing a song that to this day defines the decade of the 1980s. I couldn’t have asked for a better way for the night to end.
Opening the show was Berlin, a band most famous for their song “Take My Breath Away.” However, that song never felt truly representative of the band, and during their set it felt like they knew it too: besides the more recent song “Transcendance,” a song about the loss of singer Terri Nunn’s mother, the rest of the band’s set was mostly devoted to playing beefed-up versions of other past hits. Guitarist Carlton Bost (Deadsy, Stabbing Westward, The Dreaming) seems to have brought his industrial and goth influences to the band and it paid off perfectly. Songs like “The Metro,” “Animal,” and even a cover of “She Sells Sanctuary” by The Cult sounded perfect with the band’s mixture of classic new wave and intense guitar-work. It should also be noted that Terri Nunn’s voice hasn’t aged at all, and I wish I knew what she was doing to keep it that way.
Playing second in the evening was Howard Jones, whose live band includes Nick Beggs from fellow new wave icons Kajagoogoo on bass. I will say that of all of the sets in the evening, Jones was the one who looked less to the future and more to the past. Besides “Celebrate It Together” from last year’s album Dialogue, the rest of the set was comprised of nothing but his largest hits, as well as a touching cover of “Too Shy” by the aforementioned Kajagoogoo. Having seen Howard a couple of times in a headlining capacity, his set did leave me wanting to see more, but if this was your first time seeing him then he definitely played all of the most popular songs of his that you would want to see. If Howard Jones definitively proved one thing during his set, it was that he is still the only person who can pull off playing a keytar and make it look cool.