tue 23/07/2019

Culture Club, Heaven | reviews, news & interviews

Culture Club, Heaven

Culture Club, Heaven

Intriguing taster gig suggests successful reunion is on the way

The club of many cultures, still a good conceptDean Stockings

In the time that Culture Club have been planning reunions, bands, movements, whole musical eras have come and gone. And still, once every couple of years, a rumour circulates, and a demo is aired. Generally, nothing comes of it, and those memories of dancing drunkenly to “Karma Chameleon” grow a little fainter. Now, with last night’s taster gig at Heaven (where the band gave their first big London performance in 1982), we can definitively say, they are back. A nationwide tour is booked, new songs are written, and the album (provisionally entitled “Tribes”, if I heard Boy George correctly) is on its way, though a release date hasn't been announced.

There were plenty of niggles about last night’s show. Culture Club were only on stage for an hour. The sound balance didn’t work for this space, with too much top and bottom, and a lack of clarity in the mid-range. Some of the new songs – which were for the most part at least interesting, and in some cases showed a lot of promise – needed more development. After a catchy couple of opening lines, the refrain sometimes became repetitive. Whether this was because only a short version of the song was performed, or because the whole song hasn’t been completed, we can’t yet say.

Boy George, who has had his problems over the years, sounds both in good voice and good spirits

The positives, however, outweighed these issues. With a live brass section, the funky R&B power of both the old (“Church of the Poison Mind”, the opener, had a lovely raw edge) and the new songs (“Like I Used To” had a thrilling combination of tenor sax and guitar) came through beautifully. The new songs contained glimpses of touching and intelligent craft, especially in “Human Zoo”, about tolerance and diversity. “Runaway Train”, which George described as channeling Johnny Cash, was a blast, with an evocative country guitar solo. Their versatility is really refreshing. As well as rock, soul, pop, country and R&B, they can perform a convincing reggae song (there was a tribute to John Holt). The original concept of the band, a club of many cultures, is just as relevant now as it was in the early Eighties.

There were the usual suspects from the back catalogue: “Church of the Poison Mind”, “Everything I Own”, “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?”, “Black Money”, “The War Song” and, of course, “Karma Chameleon”. Despite the problems with the sound (were they using a set-up designed for a much bigger space?), there was palpable energy and a sense of hunger for the stage. Boy George, who has had his problems over the years, sounds both in good voice and good spirits. There was some tart banter with the audience. They’re only in their early fifties, so that, if rock longevity is anything to go by, they could be playing live for another quarter-century. A final verdict on the new songs must wait for the album and full-scale live gigs, but if the signs of their renewed creative focus are borne out, this could be the beginning of something quite special.  

With a live brass section, the funky R&B power of both the old and the new songs came through beautifully

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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