As someone who had never been to a Culture Club concert before, I really wasn’t too sure what to expect from the band’s show at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena on Friday night so I went along with no expectations and no preconceived ideas.
With the show due to commence at 6:30pm and an anticipated finish of 11:00pm, we were settling in for a long night but those hours pass pretty swiftly when you have a great line-up Culture Club had two support acts on Friday night; local 80s band, Kids in the Kitchen, who reformed with original members Scott Carne on vocals, Claude Carranza on guitar, Bruce Curnow on drums, and Craig Harnath for this tour as well as a recent performance as part of the Pure Gold concert at Melbourne’s Palais Theatre last month. While their Pure Gold set was limited to three songs, the Kids had more of an opportunity to shine on Friday night and shine they did, playing ten songs in their set that included more than just the radio friendly hits like ‘Bitter Desire’ and ‘Current Stand’. A small hiccup early in the set was quickly remedied and, like the true professionals they are, the band didn’t miss a beat for the remainder of the performance, warming up the crowd at Rod Laver Arena on a very chilly Melbourne winter’s night. Their closing song ‘Change in Mood’ seemed to do just that for the fans that continued to file in through the venue’s doors to fill the arena.
Songstress Dannii Minogue, also a Melbourne native, kept up the vibe with her set of high energy dance tunes, to pave the way for headliners Culture Club. It is eighteen years since the singer last performed in her hometown although she did manage to sneak in a ‘secret’ show on Thursday night at the GH Hotel.
Rod Laver Arena was pumped by the time Culture Club took to the stage. With an on stage presence of thirteen musicians including Boy George himself and original band members Roy Hay on guitar, Jon Moss on drums and percussion and Mikey Craig on bass and accentuated by three Gospel backing vocalists, and a three member brass section, it made for a richly textured and near perfect sound. Rod Laver Arena was a sea of Boy George look-alikes and some, not so much, in flamboyant outfits, carefully applied mascara, dreadlocks and, as the singer would point out at numerous times throughout the night, hats… lots and lots of hats. And, of course, the ‘look’ was always going to be a big part of Culture Club and, in particular, their lead singer but George and the band were here to remind us that it wasn’t all about the clothes, the hair, the make-up and… um… the hats. Without the music that literally danced its way into the hearts of millions of fans around the world, there would be no Culture Club. There would be no ‘Karma Karma Chameleon’. And it was most certainly about the music on Friday night starting with the ‘Church of the Poison Mind’, ‘It’s a Miracle’ and ‘I’ll Tumble For Ya’ through a reggae version of Bread’s beautiful ‘Everything I Own’ which Boy George covered on his solo album ‘Sold’, to the high emotion of ‘Victims’ to ‘Love You Blind’ and one of their biggest hits, ‘Do You Really Wanna Make Me Cry?’, a very chatty, flirtatious and witty Boy George held the adoring crowd in the palm of his hand all night, joking light heartedly with those lucky enough to be at the front and one fan in particular. The night would not have been complete without our National Music Guru, Molly Meldrum in attendance. It was a poignant moment as he was helped on to the stage to wish Boy George a Happy Birthday (his birthday is on Tuesday) and handed him a big bouquet of flowers before leading the crowd in a moving rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’. In thanking Molly for the gesture, George commented that he and Molly go back a long way and ‘He’s the reason I wear hats,’ bringing a tear to the eyes of many in the room.
The four song encore kicked off with a homage to the legendary Johnny Cash with the country flavoured ‘Runaway Train’, from the unreleased ‘Tribes’ album. Then, of course, the song that everyone had been waiting for, ‘Karma Chameleon’ which brought everyone to their feet for what is arguably one of the most ‘feel good’ songs of its time and has lost none of its appeal three decades later. That was followed by a rockin’ tribute to Marc Bolan and T-Rex with ‘Bang the Gong (Get it On)’ and finally yet another tribute to his idol, David Bowie, with ‘Starman’, the song that George sang on a celebrity edition of a U.K. show called Stars In Their Eyes; it was a fitting finale for the show and no doubt many left Rod Laver Arena with stars still in their eyes.
See below for Culture Club’s full set list from the Melbourne show.
by Sharyn Hamey
CULTURE CLUB SET LIST – ROD LAVER ARENA
Church of the Poison Mind
It’s A Miracle
I’ll Tumble 4 Ya
Everything I Own (Bread cover)
Like I Used To
Miss Me Blind
The Crying Game
Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?
More Than Silence
Bang A Gong (Get It On) (T. Rex cover)
Starman (David Bowie cover)
You can check out our gallery of photos from the Sydney show here
You can still catch Culture Club in Brisbane on 14 June 2016
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