Live Review: Culture Club – 14th November 2018 – Wembley Arena, London, UK
Iconic 1980’s new wave band Culture Club landed 12 top 40 hits and sold over 150 million albums during their career, and have had a lasting influence on pop music and culture. Three of the four founding members Boy George, Roy Hay and Mikey Craig played to a large crowd at The SSE Wembley Arena on 14 Nov 2018. After brief sets from opening acts Thompson Twins, and Belinda Carlisle, the band took the stage at just after 9pm. Absent from the lineup was founding member and original drummer Jon Moss, but I can’t say that he was missed at all because the core band was supported by a large backing band that included not one but two complete drum kits, saxophone, two guitarists, and 4 additional backup singers. When the three founding band members desended the steps from the raised platform above the drums to kick off the show, it was apparent they had a big, rich sound.
Starting off the show was God & Love, one of several tracks they played off their new album Life, and a very different sound for them. From there they carried on through some of the bands more famous hits such as its a It’s A Miracle, Time, Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?, Victims, and Miss Me Blind. Church of the Poison Mind was brillianlty mashed with Wham’s hit I’m Your Man, and the two songs work together like a dream. Several songs really showed the bands reggae influences, such as the Bread cover Everything I Own (with its amazing sax solo) and Let Somebody Love You (also off the new album) which was fantastic. Different Man on the other hand had a deep, soulful sound and dramatic gospelly finish.
George’s vocals, though a little deeper as would be expected with age were on point but he does have a few annoying habits. I feel like he way overdoes the vibrato, perhaps overcompensating for something, but he could embrace the adage ‘less is more’ and reign it in a little. The heavy vibrato weighs down the vocals, and he loses some of that ethereal souldfullness that I think made him one of the best pop vocalists ever. Also, he has a bad habit of dropping the mic too early (I assume for volume control) which cuts off the last word in the phrase. This was especially apparent and annoying on slower tempo songs like Do You Really Want to Hurt Me? and Victims. But that is just being nitpicky. They band sounded great the whole show though.
They closed the show with an encore that included covers of David Bowie’s Let’s Dance, Get It On (with a fantastic solo by Roy Hay), and their worldwide chart-topping hit from 1983 Karma Chameleon. I felt the covers were a little unncessary, and I would have preferred to hear a few more of the bands original material. The David Bowie cover, unlike the Wham mashup, was altogether unispriing. Also, the set felt a little short and I would have preferred fewer opening acts, and a longer set from Culture Club.
Despite some room for improvement, it was a great show.
- God & Love
- It’s a Miracle
- Let Somebody Love You
- Time Clock of the Heart
- Runaway Train
- Everything I Own (Bread cover)
- Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?
- Different Man
- Miss Me Blind
- Church of the Poison Mind I’m Your Man (Wham! cover)
- Let’s Dance (David Bowie cover)
- Get It On (T-Rex cover)
- Karma Chameleon