Culture Club is reunited — and it feels so good
Boy George could have told a story, maybe the one about an Irish police officer who once caught him doing something naughty and then let him off the hook, but really he shouldn’t elaborate.
“It’s scandalous,” George said Sunday night at the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion, punctuated by a giggle and a wide, canary-eating grin.
Indeed, the 54-year-old singer could tell some stories from his 30-plus years in pop music, a life marked with just as many triumphs as trials. And he drew on those experiences on Sunday in a thoughtful, career-spanning set with Culture Club, the newly reunited band that gave him his start in the early 1980s.
With the original lineup in place — including drummer Jon Moss, bassist Mikey Craig, and guitarist Roy Hay — they were in a loose, playful mood that nodded to both their past and future, not to mention their influences. They saluted David Bowie with a rendition of “Starman” and closed with a curveball, T. Rex’s “Bang a Gong (Get It On).”
“Tonight is a little bit like a wedding,” George said. “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.”
With a lavish band setup that featured three backup singers and just as many horn players, they rolled out three doozies right in a row. “Church of the Poison Mind,” “It’s a Miracle,” “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya” electrified the slightly thin but appreciative crowd before the band unearthed some deeper cuts such as “Black Money.” (Sadly, “The War Song” didn’t make the cut, even though the merch table was peddling T-shirts emblazoned with its refrain, “War Is Stupid.”)
From a new Culture Club album in the works, they offered a sneak preview with “Different Man,” George’s funky tribute to Sly Stone. Another new song, the terrific, country-tinged “The Truth Is a Runaway Train,” gave a shout-out to the city where George had gotten the idea for it last year in the back of a taxi: “Rode in to Boston.”
This being Boy George, the costumes were numerous and fabulous, from fanciful hats (“I had to wrestle Lady Gaga for this,” he quipped about a particular architectural wonder) to long coats that appeared to conceal either colorful dresses or skirts. And his face? Flawless, so much so that he thanked his makeup artist in his farewell remarks.
A note about his voice: It has changed dramatically. But where he has lost the high notes and elasticity, he has replaced them with a weathered croon that gives the material more heft, more pathos. He extracted the wounded vulnerability of “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me,” turning it into a chanson of sorts. And “Victims,” an early single, was downright chilling as he shushed the crowd and delivered his most powerful vocal performance of the night.
With the core four returning for a second encore, Culture Club let the audience serenade them, a cappella, with their biggest hit. “Karma Chameleon” resonated softly and then at full throttle as the band took the lead.
Boston’s own Parlour Bells treated the crowd to a short but lean opening set of theatrical glam rock. Taking a picture of the audience, frontman Goddamn Glenn instructed everyone to say the evening’s unofficial motto: “I’ll tumble for ya.”
With Parlour Bells
At: Blue Hills Bank Pavilion, Sunday