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Review: Colette Imison. Photos: Jason Rosewarne

On the cusp of the 40th Anniversary of the album (Colour by Numbers) that catapulted their band into the celebrity sphere, Culture Club brought their ‘Greatest Hits Tour’ to the Rod Laver Arena tonight. Having just completed a tour with Culture Club in the States, Berlin jumped at the opportunity to continue on with the band as special guests on the Australian leg of the tour and they did not disappoint.

Celebrating 46 years as a band, lead singer Terri Nunn took to the stage looking sensational in a stunning (and very 80’s) red corseted bustier and layered tulle skirt.

Announcing that she injured her hamstring working out two days prior certainly didn’t hold her back from putting on a stellar performance together with founding member bass guitarist/vocalist John Crawford, and original member David Diamond (guitar/synth).   Also on guitar was the ultra gothic looking Carlton Bost, David Schultz on keys and Ric Roccapriore on drums.

Opening their set with ‘Masquerade’ from their second studio album ‘Pleasure Victim’, Nunn’s vocals and performance was full of sass and fire, which certainly heated up during the bands performance of ‘Animal’.

During their classic track ‘Dancing in Berlin’, Nunn was escorted into the crowd where she expressed how excited she was to be here again, before sharing words about her mother who inspired a track called ‘Transcendance’. Honouring her mother Joy with a montage of images on the big screen.

Their hit from the best selling soundtrack of 1986 ‘Top Gun’ was a moment everyone was waiting for. Earning them an Academy and Golden Globe Award. ‘Take My Breath Away’ found Nunn singing the intro a cappella, with the arena forming a choir.

Celebrating Nunn’s all time favourite Australian band, Berlin took AC/DC’s ‘Highway to Hell’ to a level that I’m sure would’ve received a nod of approval from the Young brothers and Bon Scott.

Closing with the bands most controversial track, ‘Sex (I’m A…) lyrically made seem ‘Animal’ tame and certainly warmed us all up for the headline act many came all dressed up to see.

Given that The Rolling Stones recently announced the release of their first album in 18 years (‘Hackney Diamonds’) it was suitably fitting that Culture Club opened with The Stones’ ‘Sympathy for The Devil”.

Joined by original members Roy Hay (keys/guitar) and Mikey Craig (bass), the band was a tight unit including Jermaine Whyte (drums), Carl Hudson (keys) Steve Frieder (Sax), and the phenomenal Roxy Yarnold and Vangelis Polydorou on backing vocals.

Birthday girl Roxy gave original backing vocalist Helen Terry a run for her money during ‘It’s a Miracle’ and ‘I’ll Tumble 4 Ya’, which had a latino party vibe about it.

Consistently engaging with his fans, Boy George O’Dowd made mention that it all started for the band in 1982, when Virgin Records released a couple songs.  He stated that no one ever thought that a person like him could ever become a pop star, before announcing that the next song was the song that catapulted the band. Conveying that it was a very personal song that he didn’t want to release. It in turn became the song that started their career.  In almost spoken word, he sang the intro to ‘Do You Really Want To Hurt Me’ from the bands first album ‘Kissing to Be Clever’. They delivered a magical stripped down version of the track that featured some solid keys and acoustic guitar, before bringing the familiar reggae beats in that fans are familiar with.

It was great to see the band dig deep into their catalogue of hits and tracks such as ‘Angel of Mercy’ and ‘Let It Go’ which found the arena light up like a starry night. After belting out George’s favourite track from Colour by Numbers ‘That’s the Way (I’m only trying to help you)’, O’Dowd brought backing vocalist Polydorou to the front of stage.

Australia has adopted Boy George as one of our own as he has continued his connection with the country since first touring here back in 1984. Well known as one of the coaches on the Australian version of ‘The Voice’ for 4 years, George also did a season of the show in the UK.

It was during the UK show that Vangelis Polydorou first captured his attention when he sang a Culture Club song in 2016.  Years later Polydorou finds himself on tour with the band, and only last month released a duet with Boy George called ‘Melodrama’. The song features some serious falsetto tones from Polydorou and finds their voices blended splendidly together.

Taking the audience back to familiar territory with ‘Church of the Poison Mind’, the band complimented the track by mixing it in with the other famous George’s track, Wham’s ‘I’m Your Man’. It’s at this point that a massive shout out must go out to Roxy Yarnold, who ripped out some killer vocals the entire night.

Throughout the show the big screen at the back of the stage took us all back in time with original video clips. The setting was simple which allowed the fans to simply take in the music and journey into the past.

From clocks ticking for ‘Time’ and the recognisable geisha in the ‘Miss Me Blind’ video, it certainly took you back to the days when the country was Culture Club crazy.

With the always glamorous George needing to freshen up with an attire change, he returned to the stage wearing his trademark hat (in yellow) which was suitably coordinated with a yellow polka dot jacket.

Introducing the band during a cover version on T.Rex’s ‘Get It On (Bang a Gong)’, each member had their moment to shine individually. Roy Hay personally found me melting whilst on piano during ‘Victims’, where it was just him and O’Dowd touching every heart in the arena with a super slowed down version of the track.

Sharing that he often gets asked whether he gets sick of playing his songs, O’Dowd stated that as long as the audience sings along he doesn’t. Playing with the crowd, George asked whilst laughing, “Now what have we forgot?” Teasing the fans furthermore, he jumped into an a cappella intro of Culture Clubs mega-hit ‘Karma Chameleon’. It goes without saying, that the final song of the evening found everyone up and dancing and singing along like it was 1983 all over again.

An 80’s revival in music is certainly making a comeback and I’m personally all up for it.

An absolute blast of a night!

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