Culture club

Boy George and Culture Club bring jokes, hits and memories to Wilmington

If you’re my age (52) and want to feel old, consider Boy George and his band, Culture Club, have been part of our cultural consciousness for 40 years now. In 1982, Culture Club released the album “Kissing to Be Clever” with its indelible hits “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya” and “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me”, launching the group and in particular its cross-dressing, makeup-wearing the leader in international stardom.

On Tuesday night in Wilmington at the Wilson Center at Cape Fear Community College, a boisterous crowd came out to celebrate four decades of Boy George and Culture Club, dancing and clapping to familiar, reworked versions of the band’s ’80s hits, as well as some shiny new songs and covers. It was a loud show, as a pop/rock concert should be, and despite the muddy, throbbing sound, at least on the lower balcony where I was seated, the crowd seemed too enthralled to care, hooked at every engaging joke of Boy George.

Pop music legend Boy George and his band, Culture Club, performed at the CFCC Wilson Center in downtown Wilmington on Tuesday, September 13.

Just after the scheduled start time of 7:30 p.m., Boy George took the stage adorned with a powerful smile, a bright pink fedora and a black and white graffiti print jacket that matched the dynamic lighting scheme of the concert. He was shod in mismatched sneakers, one black and the other white, perhaps a nod to the multicultural appeal that Culture Club has embraced from the start.

Likewise, the crowd warmly embraced Boy George, likely flooded with memories of his band and music. For some ’80s kids like me who grew up in the South, seeing Boy George on MTV was our first exposure to someone who very stylishly displayed the gender norms of the time. He was the first gay person known to many of us, and the cultural impact of that cannot, I don’t think, be overstated.

Pop music legend Boy George and his band, Culture Club, performed at the CFCC Wilson Center in downtown Wilmington on Tuesday, September 13.

After opening with the bluesy soul-pop of “Church of the Poison Mind” from the massively popular 1983 album “Colour By Numbers,” Boy George addressed the crowd.

“Wilmington, is it?” he asked in his working-class British accent. “It’s beautiful here.”

He joked about possibly opening a nightclub downtown, before quick to add, “Don’t worry, I’m not moving in!” He then introduced the island-flavored, festive, and poppy-flavored “It’s a Miracle,” saying, “We are Culture Club, and that in itself is something of a miracle.”

Pop music legend Boy George and his band, Culture Club, performed at the CFCC Wilson Center in downtown Wilmington on Tuesday, September 13.  On the left, Roy Hay, a longtime member of the group, and on the right, Mikey Craig, a founding member.

The band featured longtime members of the Culture Club dating back to the early ’80s – bassist and co-founder Mikey Craig and guitarist/keyboardist Roy Hay – as well as a trio of golden-voiced backing vocalists, a drummer, a keyboardist, a guitarist/harmonicist/percussionist and a saxophonist who laid down a series of hot solos during the show.

Culture Club and longtime member Roy Hay (right) performed at the CFCC Wilson Center in downtown Wilmington on Tuesday, September 13.

“You’re a little older,” Boy George said at one point. “Like me. I’m 61.”

When an audience member approached the stage and handed him a piece of paper, he joked, “A check.”

The band played a few songs, including “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya,” “Miss Me Blind,” a muddy-sounding “Time,” and “The War Song,” much as the crowd was used to hearing them. A slinky, gay-nightclub version of T-Rex’s “Bang a Gong” paid homage to the band’s London roots and influences.

Pop music legend Boy George and his band, Culture Club, performed at the CFCC Wilson Center in downtown Wilmington on Tuesday, September 13.

For “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me,” however, Boy George sang a super-slowed down, almost meditative version of the pop hit that focused on the vulnerability of its lyrics. Boy George once said he was “less interested in singers and more interested in songs”, and that rings true for him as an artist. He doesn’t have an operatic voice, but rather a pleasant one, and pulls it off with the strength of his personality and the catchy craftsmanship of his tunes.

At one point he joked about how Culture Club had fallen into disrepair after its 1980s heyday, saying some audience members were probably hesitant to attend. But I would say Boy George met if not exceeded the expectations of the public, who clamored for an encore.

Culture Club performed at the CFCC Wilson Center in downtown Wilmington on Tuesday, September 13.  Pictured is co-founding member Mikey Craig.

For this encore, Boy George returned, this time wearing a pink jacket (instead of a pink hat) and a graffiti-print fedora to match his previous jacket, and performed a version of The Rolling’s “Sympathy for the Devil.” Stones. it was undoubtedly a tongue-in-cheek nod to her role in pop culture.

By the time they got to the band’s beautifully timeless hit “Karma Chameleon,” Boy George’s voice sounded a little tired. But at that time, the crowd was helping him sing, supporting him, really loving him, this singer and artist who added so much color and beauty to all of our lives.

Contact John Staton at 910-343-2343 or [email protected]

Pop music legend Boy George and his band, Culture Club, performed at the CFCC Wilson Center in downtown Wilmington on Tuesday, September 13.