Verizon Theatre, Grand Prairie
Friday, August 5, 2016
Around the midway point of Culture Club’s 90-minute set at a raucous Verizon Theatre on Friday night, Boy George turned reflective. “Well, 30-some years have passed since we started this thing. Remember, you were going to be a hairdresser, Roy,” George remarked to his guitarist. “And I don’t know what I was going to do. Probably something in fashion.”
Had George not found fame and fortune in pop music, the world of clothing might possibly have garnered him similar success. Long a sartorial flash, George’s wardrobe changes — brightly colored long jackets, shirts sporting excessive floral patterns, and those gaudy and iconic hats — assured that all eyes were centered squarely on him in Grand Prairie. Despite the advancing years, George's aesthetic can still command a room.
Though Culture Club has been a bit of a piecemeal organization since the late '80s, folks still go wild when George is involved. Friday night was no exception. The majority of those in attendance appeared to be fans of the “super” variety, fans that were devoted enough to gleefully sing along word-by-word not just to the hits, but even to a couple of the deep cuts and newer material. Fans that were emboldened enough to declare their love for George at each and every pause in the set. And, fans that had no qualms delving into cosplay.
Several George lookalikes mingled with '80s prom purveyors and numerous others attired in New Wave-era regalia; a particularly ambitious family of four were recognized by George himself for their complete commitment to the guise, an act of service that even extended to camping out in the venue’s boiling parking lot hours before the show. In short, there appeared to be few newbies casually kicking off their weekend with a band of slight familiarity.
It was the '80s right from the get-go, as the band — featuring original members Roy Hay, Mikey Craig and Jon Moss — ran through groove-inflected hits like “Church of the Poison Mind,” It’s a Miracle” and “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya.” Augmented by a bevy of additional musicians and backing singers, Culture Club leaned the music in a spirited direction, relying less on bombastic overproduction and more on the tightly configured arrangements that have made their music club favorites for decades. It was fine work for an outfit that has played together sparingly over the past decade or two.
George, for all his extravagance and penchant for showmanship, also kept things nicely tempered. His soulful voice has lost a bit of range, but still bursts through with command at all of the necessary moments. A bit underrated as a crooner, he deftly commanded the Sly Stone homage, “Different Man” (and even dropped in a nice local shout out to Denton, Stone’s birthplace), and locked in effortlessly in a vamped-up duet of “Black Money” with one of his honey-voiced backing singers.
Throughout the night, he vigorously kicked out dance moves, high-fived fans and engaged in quite the bit of between-song banter. “Dance like no one’s watching. Love like no one’s ever broken your heart. And dress like you don’t give a shit,” was one of his better quips. Ever the entertainer, George did allow himself a moment or two of showmanship, his campy send-up of “The Crying Game" being the most uproarious example.
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Of course, no Culture Club show would be complete without “Karma Chameleon,” the band’s 1984 No. 1 single and default anthem. Friday night, the song appeared in a prime spot, right at the start of the encore and after George had changed outfits yet again. This time, appearing in an appropriately bright green ensemble, George galloped back and forth across the stage, jollily belting out the famous chorus and taking in all of the adulation.
A true musical survivor, George has seen and experienced it all. From the highs of MTV stardom to the depths of addiction to the middling attempts at career renaissance, George has enough material to make for a scintillating autobiography. Back at it though, with his original Culture Club comrades seems to be the best spot for him now. The crowds are eagerly taking everything in, the band is playing in fine form, and George seems appreciative, engaged and captivated. With the hits still resonating and some new music in tow, the time seems right to keep steering the ship forward.