Boy George in fine voice as Culture Club returns to the stage | REVIEW, PHOTOS

Culture Club, Tom Bailey, Eurogliders, Hoseah Partsch, Lyn Bowtell

Newcastle Entertainment Centre

December 3, 2017

TALENT: Boy George at Newcastle Entertainment Centre. Picture: Simone De Peak

TALENT: Boy George at Newcastle Entertainment Centre. Picture: Simone De Peak

Culture Club have toured Australia three times in the past 18 months but their timeless hits keep bringing the crowds back again – and again. 

Boy George was in fine form in Newcastle on Sunday night and his outfits as impressive as his voice. 

Kicking off the night, though, was George’s polar opposite. The unassuming and quietly spoken Hoseah Partsch. The 18-year-old was a member of Boy George’s team on The Voice Australia this year and finished the competition as runner-up. 

The devout Christian has a voice that can only be described as heaven sent. It is simply beautiful. He sang two songs while playing the keyboard – Ariana Grande’s Almost is Never Enough and his very own single, Paper Planes. He was then joined on stage by Golden Guitar winner and fellow “Team George” singer Lyn Bowtell for a stunning rendition of The Beatles’ Let It Be. Their effortless harmonies were spot on and their radiant smiles lit up the room. You couldn’t help but smile with them. 

Partsch left the stage to allow Bowtell to perform her heartfelt single, He Burns. Recent surgery for an ongoing medical condition meant that she was unable to play the guitar however the stoic singer took it in her stride. Bowtell’s voice is both gravel and syrup and, like Partsch’s, a gift meant to be shared. This reviewer spoke to her later on in the night and she was excited about seeing Culture Club perform live for the first time. Sitting next to her in the crowd, I can vouch that she sang along to every song.

Bowtell also said she was “recovering well” and was looking forward to a successful 2018 after a much-needed break.

Partsch returned to the stage for a stripped back version of Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody and prompted a crowd singalong. His confidence is growing one performance at a time, which is wonderful to watch.  

Eurogliders were up next and they played hit after hit. It is easy to forget how big they were in the 1980s. Frontwoman Grace Knight has a wicked sense of humour and was as entertaining as ever, twirling around the stage with her long brunette curls flying. Can’t Wait To See You, The City of Soul, We Will Together, Without You and Heaven (Must Be There) were highlights however the energetic set was one big singalong from start to finish. A fun set from a talented group of musicians.

Boy George at Newcastle Entertainment Centre on December 3, 2017. Picture: Simone De Peak

Boy George at Newcastle Entertainment Centre on December 3, 2017. Picture: Simone De Peak

Thomson Twins’ Tom Bailey’s set was an ’80s flashback, all synth and electric drums. Bailey himself wore all white, a black fingerless glove and sunglasses. Too cool for school. It was interesting to watch him in action – he sang into a mouthpiece and was in constant motion, moving from instrument to instrument without missing a beat. Doctor Doctor was a crowd favourite and Hold Me Now was, of course, the finale and as satisfying as ever. 

Then it was Culture Club’s turn. George is an incredibly underrated singer. Versatile, too. He is able to move from pop to gospel, soul and even reggae with ease. 

Known as much for his style as his music, George strolled onto the stage sporting a red hat, a red and black suit and a long black shirt with what looked like large red cockroaches on it. He ended up changing his outfit three times, finishing with a black and yellow ensemble peppered with smiling emojis.

He wondered out loud if Newcastle would be a “listening crowd” or an “active” crowd and the theme ran for the length of the set. I don’t know if he ever came to a conclusion but he certainly didn’t mind a chat. 

Church of the Poison Mind, It’s A Miracle, I’ll Tumble 4 Ya and Time (Clock of the Heart) demonstrated George’s vocal versatility. At one point he said: “Some of you are too busy filming to have a good time. Not that I mind, but we’re all here, now, in the moment. At a Culture Club gig you’ve got to dance like no-one’s watching and dress like you don’t give a damn.”

Culture Club at Newcastle Entertainment Centre. Picture: Simone De Peak

Culture Club at Newcastle Entertainment Centre. Picture: Simone De Peak

Security made that difficult for crowd members directly in front of the stage, though. Keen dancers were constantly being ushered back to their seats or to the very side of the dance floor. Some of the ’80s-inspired outfits in the crowd were outstanding. 

George tipped his oversized hat to the Rolling Stones with a funked-up version of You Can’t Always Get What You Want which incorporated a snippet of Lou Reed’s Walk On The Wild Side.

Do You Really Want to Hurt Me? was, for me, the highlight of the set. George said when introducing the song: “Let’s go back to 1982. It was a different time then and I’m a different girl now. I’m a tough bird.”

Watching the original video clips to each song on a huge screen behind the band throughout the set, you were reminded just how genre-breaking and avant-garde Culture Club were for the time. 

The War Song was another highlight, with a clever mix of an upbeat chorus and gospel-like verses. This song is as relevant today as the decade it was written. 

Karma Chameleon was the first song on Culture Club’s return to the stage for an encore, followed by Prince’s Purple Rain and a rocking version of T-Rex’s Get It On

George confirmed he would be returning to The Voice Australia as a coach in 2018. Who knows what Culture Club will do next as a band but they still know how to put on a good show.

A shout out to Culture Club’s three backing singers, too. Wow. Just wow. Incredible voices.