Monday, February 22, 2016

Culture Club concert review: Temecula, Calif.

photo by Dean Stockings
During Culture Club's sold out show at Pechanga Resort and Casino on Friday night, Boy George was in such a chatty mood that at one point, longtime musical director/rhythm guitarist John Themis pointed at his watch. 

"I know a lot of guitarists out there looking for a job, John," teased George, with a laugh.

The veteran British pop band (which reunited a few years back) made a rare Inland Empire-area appearance in Temecula, Calif.

Opening with a feisty "Church of the Poisoned Mind," the set ran nearly two hours and basically mirrored its impressive Greek Theater gig last July in Los Angeles (see my review elsewhere on this blog).

There were ample classics from the quartet's early-to-mid 1980s chart topping heyday: "Miss Me Blind," "I'll Tumble 4 Ya," "Time (Clock of the Heart), "Move Away," the supremely soulful "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me." A riveting spotlight featuring "Victims" and "Back Money," off multi-platinum 1983 LP Colour By Numbers, proved George could still tap into that old dramatic vulnerability again.

Culture Club's forthcoming Youth-produced album Tribes (its first new studio effort in 16 years) also comprised a good chunk of the set. Highlights included the country soul hybrid "Runaway Train," Sly Stone-influenced "Different Man" and gloriously uplifting single "More Than Silence."

Even with a new horn section and backing female vocal trio in tow, the band sounded sharp. George frequently joked around with them and critiqued fashion choices of fans in the front row. Oddly, he kept asking how many people in the audience were from Pechanga, instead of just Southern California (maybe he thought everyone lived on the nearby Indian reservation). 

The musicians also served up shimmering versions of such George solo hits as the haunting theme song to 1992 film "The Crying Game" and reggaefied take on Bread's "Everything I Own."  

Come encore time, the harmonica player appeared onstage alone to do a vamp leading into crowd singalong "Karma Chameleon." A slinky cover of T Rex's "Bang a Gong (Get it On)" was followed by David Bowie's "Starman." The latter soaring number - originally released as a 1999 Culture Club single B-side - has been a concert staple for awhile. It was prefaced by George explaining what a profound influence the rock legend had on him.

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