Culture Club Returns After 32 Years to Paint TD Place Red, Gold and Green!
All photos by Andre Gagne.
It’s been 32 years and, while a Trudeau is once again in office, much has changed since the last time Culture Club played the capital. The decadence and flamboyance of the ’80s resides mainly in music, movies, and memories. What was once the Civic Centre is now TD Place and, as George discovered, sexual acceptance has come so far out of the closet it’s now waiting for you at customs in a red dress, wig, moustache, the whole she-boozle! Well, why not? As the current Trudeau on the Hill said, it’s 2016, a fact made exceptionally apparent if you’re shocking the bastion of androgyny and harbinger of an 80’s sexual identity revolution mere minutes after he lands.
“It was very nice to see that,” the singer told the crowd of 2,000 plus in TD Place last night reflecting upon his airport experience. “I think it would make customs a much nicer place if everyone was in drag.”
Back in March of 1984 –when customs was minus one drag queen and Boy George didn’t have to cart reams of paperwork with him when he travelled– UK’s Culture Club was riding the new wave of their musical popularity on the A Kiss Across the Ocean Tour. They were in a neck and neck race with Michael Jackson for the top single in the country, they were opening for Corey Hart and their second album, Colour by Numbers, was at the top of the Canadian charts.
Jeffery Clifford, face painted this night in tribute to glam icon David Bowie, remembers the show well. He was 15 at the time and recalls looking around to see people with dreadlocks, men wearing makeup, and all those flashy outfits that could only be from one decade. In short, for the then teen, it was mind blowing.
“I think what’s missing in today’s pop culture are people trying to express their individuality through their creativity,” explains Clifford. “Boy George was very important to me because he embodied an idea. He said the best statement you could make is to be exactly who you are, without apology. I think he’s still true to that ideology.”
Clifford tells Ottawa Life of how he latched on early to George’s portrayal of gender roles and acceptance of one’s sexual identity whatever it may be, viewing the singer as one who walked the line gracefully without actually confirming his orientation publically. It was the beginning, he feels, of a move towards more people realizing that if their musical idols couldn’t be classified into one sexual credo, neither could they. That was a pretty big deal to him.
“Boy George showed us you can’t put everybody in a certain box because of who you are, because you want to wear makeup, because you’re different. To me, that was actually even more important than him saying he’s gay because it made people think beyond categories.”
Much like last week’s throwback to the ‘90s, the decade was not only represented by the music but also the fashion. The ‘80s was out in full force with those breaking out their best Boy George outfits and bleached blond wigs. Long time fans like Anne-Marie Cormier, sporting a bowler hat and giant Culture Club badge, says she came of age to the music and now looks at George as an artist who had a lot of guts at a very young age to express who he was so openly.
“His music makes me feel good. It makes me happy,” Cormier said before the show. “It was just so expressive and I loved the multicultural aspect of it, the diversity and the groove!”
It didn’t take long for that groove to get the crowd out of their seats as fan favorites “It’s a Miracle” and “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya” appeared early in the setlist. George even broke into the UK Top Ten pop hit “D.I.S.C.O.” by Ottawan, a group he said showed him that Ottawa existed despite them actually being from France. Though they didn’t put us on the map, as George suggested (the closest they came was a cover of their tune “Hands Up (Give Me Your Heart)” hitting #7 for Canadian band Sway), the musician accurately recalled their “lovely, very tight, lime green outfits” to a puzzled crowd who hung on his every word even if they didn’t quite know what he was talking about.
“Dance like no one’s watching you, love like no one ever broke your heart and dress like every day’s Halloween,” shouted George eliciting a roar from the crowd. The musician would go through three wardrobe changes, each more colorful than the last!
With a crowd already fired up from a powerful set by Canada’s own ‘80s hit-makers (“Hungry Eyes”, “Crying Over You”), Platinum Blonde, Culture Club took the stage backed by a 13-piece band that included original members Roy Hay (guitar and keyboards), Mikey Craig (bass guitar) and Jon Moss (drums and percussion), a powerful trio of background singers, two percussionists, and a horn section.
The show only slowed its pace a few times, once for a beautiful rendition of Prince’s “Purple Rain” that seemed tailor made for George to cover but for the most part it was dance pop nostalgic bliss all the way to encore’s “Karma Chameleon”.
George looked like he was having just as much fun as the audience, joking with the crowd, dancing along and flashing a smile as bright as his outfits.
“We are Culture Club and we only really make sense here on stage,” he said. “Other than that we’re one crazy soap opera.”
Platinum Blond Setlist:
- Hungry Eyes
- Not in Love
- Standing in the Dark
- Situation Critical
- Doesn’t Really Matter
- Crying Over You
Culture Club Setlist:
- Church of the Poison Mind
- It’s a Miracle
- I’ll Tumble 4 Ya
- Move Away
- Everything I Own
- Black Money
- Time (Clock of the Heart)
- Like I Used To
- Different Man
- Miss Me Blind
- Purple Rain (Prince cover)
- Do You Really Want To Hurt Me
- The War Song