ATLANTA -- The rain had just begun to fall on that hot, muggy night when a
calm, cool and collected Boy George, Culture Club's ever-quotable leader, looked out
into the crowd with a sassy smile.
"I refuse to bow down to the weather," he yelled. "I'm dressing up, bitch!"
And with that, he and the rest of his band of '80s new-wave rockers launched into "Time
(Clock of the Heart)," a slinky pop hit of yesteryear that seemed all-too-fitting for the
occasion -- a new-wave reunion featuring the Club and two of their '80s peers.
More than 10 years (and one nasty, tell-all autobiography by George) had passed since
Culture Club last toured together, but it didn't take long for them to shake off the rust at
the Chastain Park Amphitheatre on Thursday. As the opening notes of "Church of the
Poison Mind" perked the crowd up out of their wine glasses, George -- the transvestite
frontman -- hit the stage skipping, wearing a black suit and a large, gray fedora and
holding a Japanese mask in front of his face.
George quickly dropped the mask and flew head-on into the song, with at least as much
enthusiasm as he did 10 years ago. It was sassy. It was amusing. It was Culture Club. No
"This is exactly how I remember them," said Allison Goldbaum, a 28-year-old
computer programmer from Sandy Springs, Ga. "They sound exactly the same."
Goldbaum was right. There seemed to be little hesitation on the part of
Culture Club to play the part of crowd-pleasers and bask in the glory of their mid-'80s
successes. The band's set leaned heavily on its two platinum-selling albums, 1982's
Kissing to Be Clever and 1983's Colour by Numbers, as George twirled his
trademark braids in front of a backdrop that included two huge portraits of
actress/entertainer Doris Day.
"They played just about every song I was hoping for," said 36-year-old Mark
Flouret in the parking lot following the show. Flouret, an accountant from
Dunwoody, Ga., heard about the show on the radio a few days prior. "The guys on the
radio kept saying 'Culture Club,' but at first I thought it was some kind of joke. I didn't
even realize they had gotten back together. I'm glad they did, though."
Much of the crowd seemed to share Flouret's sentiments. The amphitheater was
populated almost entirely by suburban twenty- and thirtysomethings looking for
a nostalgia fix, and Culture Club were more than happy to oblige, running
through pop favorites such as the samba-driven "I'll Tumble 4 Ya" and the reggae-lite of
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am">"Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?"(RealAudio excerpt) without even a hint
of the bitterness that occasionally accompanies acts that have been relegated to the
They did, however, unveil a few new tunes, including "I Just Want To Be Loved," a
synth-driven tune with a reggae backbeat, which George introduced as the new single
from their upcoming album.
The band saved the song for which it is perhaps best remembered for the
lone encore. As the rain began to fall harder, the crowd squealed with
delight when it heard the opening bars to Culture Club's quirky hit,
Massive floodlights lit the audience in a wash of bright light, and umbrellas could be
seen bopping enthusiastically along to the beat. Then, as the song wound down, one
audience-member's enthusiasm got the best of him. A Boy George impersonator who
had been vamping through the crowd before Culture Club's set, drinking red wine and
posing for pictures, rushed the stage and momentarily shared the mic with the real
George before security unceremoniously deposited him back into the crowd.
The sets by openers and fellow '80s castaways Howard Jones and the Human
League were received with somewhat less aplomb.
Synth-pop rocker Jones sounded good but insisted on culling most of his set from his
more recent and less known material, much to the dismay of the packed crowd. The
Human League, whose mid-'80s success was fueled by catchy, synthesized rock
nuggets such as "(Keep Feeling) Fascination," "I'm Only Human" and "Don't You Want
Me," rarely played live during their heyday and seemed less-than-comfortable onstage a
Lead singer Phil Oakey's voice had trouble finding the right notes, and his two backup
singers were little help.
But by the time Boy George and the rest of the guys had finished their set, few in the
audience seemed bothered by the fact that they had watched the openers work out their
opening-night kinks. As they filed toward the exits, spontaneous choruses of "Karma
Chameleon" broke out among the now drenched crowd.
"I guess they're kind-of a guilty pleasure," Jason Anders, a 26-year-old
waiter from Atlanta, said of Culture Club. "I mean, there's nothing wrong with
dancing around and reliving high school every once in a while, is there?"