Culture Club dazzle with sensational songs old and new

Culture Club, The Human League, Tom Bailey | Perth Arena | 9th December 2017 | ★ ★ ★ ★ ★  

Culture Club played their third Perth show in 18 months showing that fans just can’t get enough of the ’80s icons.

Their massive show at Perth Arena was opened by The Voice – Australia’s Hoseah Partsch who played a few songs, and then came the first nostalgia filled trip with Tom Bailey from The Thompson Twins.

Backed by an all female band Bailey worked through his mid-80’s hits including We Are Detective, King for a Day, and Lay Your Hands on Me. By the time he got to the end of his set it was a massive sing-a-long for Doctor Doctor and Hold Me Now.

The Human League opened their set with the unmistakable sound of Love Action. Lead singer Philip Oakey appeared on stage alongside singers Susan Ann Sulley and Joanne Catherall. Their musical output sounding exactly like their hit records from three decades ago.

Oakey was dressed in the most fascinating outfit, which looked as if he’d just left The Matrix. A long smock like sleeveless top and a pair of trousers that looked like they had a waist to ankle length apron built in.

As the show went on he shed layer, after layer of the outfit, until he revealed that the fascinating pants were actually one pair of trousers sewn onto the pair he was wearing.

The band worked their way through their hits Sound of the Crowd, Open Your Heart and The Lebanon before launching into their upbeat 90’s tune Tell Me When. Mirror Man got the crowd on their feet and dancing. (Keep Feeling) Fascination was followed by Oakey’s uplifting solo hit Together in Electric Dreams.  After a quick costume change the band returned for an encore featuring their biggest hit Don’t You Want Me.  

Culture Club opened their set with a new song Bitchface, but quickly got into the hits the fans knew including Church of the Poison Mind.

Chelsea J was brought on to play the harmonica part, the Perth local lead a sing-a-long of Karma Chameleon on The Voice Australia earlier the year, and while she didn’t make it through on the talent show, George had promised her he’d invite her to play with Culture Club the next time they passed through Perth.

Featuring a band filled with percussionists, saxophones, trumpets, additional guitarists and three powerful backing singers, Boy George, Jon Moss, Roy Hay and Mikey Craig played their big million selling records including It’s a Miracle, I’ll Tumble for Ya and Time (Clock of the Heart) and Miss Me Blind. With each tune the video played behind the band, showing them in their younger days. 

A new song Different Man, inspired by funkster Sly Stone went down well with the crowd, many of the die-hard fans now familiar with the tune given the band’s constant touring. Boy George commented that people often say a leopard doesn’t change its spots, before noting that he wasn’t a leopard, but he himself was living proof that people can change.

Boy George disappeared for a moment to change outfits, returning to the stage to play The Rolling Stones’ You Can’t Always Get What You Want, which was mixed in with Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side.  

Recent single More Than Silence came next, followed by Do You Really Want to Hurt Me? and the powerful Victims. Just like their show at the Fremantle Arts Centre last year, they wrapped things up with a new arrangement of The War Song. 

The show couldn’t be over though until there was a massive sing-a-long of Karma Chameleon, which saw Chelsea J returning with harmonica. The encore continued with Price’s tune Purple Rain – more poignant by the memories that Prince himself had played this same room just weeks before his death.

The show, and the Australian leg of the never-ending world tour, came to a close with an extended jam of T-Rex’s Get It On (Bang a Gong). Boy George brought Tom Bailey and his band, Hoseah Partsch and Chelsea J back on stage for the final bash.

Each time Culture Club have passed through Perth their set list has featured a few changes, their show at HBF stadium last year certainly featured more unreleased material and tunes from George’s solo career, and this latest show omitted those tunes, and all the songs from their later albums with Move Away dropped from the set list. Nothing from 1998’s Don’t Mind If I Do has made the grade.

Each time they’ve come back though they’ve been tighter, sharper and more focused, to the point where it’s a well oiled machine. It’s a performance that leaves fans wanting more- and that’s not a bad thing.

The band have just released a live recording of their show taped at a recent show in London, which will allow those who missed out to hear how great Culture Club are in their fourth decade.

Graeme Watson

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