Culture Club

Culture Club

Most of us never dreamed we’d see the day that either Kids In The Kitchen and Culture Club would ever reform and play live together, not least in our hometown. When the opportunity presented itself to catch them both on the same night – together with a Minogue in tow – it was just too intriguing a proposition to pass up.

However, three acts all playing the same venue on the one night was always going to be a big ask from a timing perspective and, as tonight’s first band took to the stage, the plethora of empty seats spoke volumes. A wild and woolly Melbourne night, combined with a dead early starting time, has conspired to weed out the true devotees from the casuals amongst us.

Kids In The Kitchen

Culture Club

That there was anyone present – at all – at the ungodly kickoff time of 6.30pm was something not lost on Kids In The Kitchen's frontman Scott Carne: 'Well, you can definitely tell who all the Kids In The Kitchen fans in the audience are… the ones that turned up early!! Thanks folks for picking up the kids early from school drop off and missing peak hour… don’t know how you did it… I nearly didn’t get on stage in time myself.'

Culture Club

In fact Kids In The Kitchen lead guitarist Claude Carranza had to dash over from playing an earlier set with Joe Camilleri and The Black Sorrows the same day, so those who made the effort to get there early were among the privileged few to see the band play one of their first full sets in 28 years!

Culture Club

Susie Ahern, their original backing vocalist from all those years ago, was also back treading the boards which helped fill out their sound, especially on tracks like ‘Place To Go’ where her vocals simply soared.

For a band remembered as much as anything for their great synth lines, it was slightly disappointing not to see a keyboardist in the lineup – the band choosing instead to rely on a backing tracks to supply all those great hooky brass and keyboard breaks.

That aside, everything else was absolutely on point with Scott Carne’s voice particularly strong - a tribute to all his work in the intervening years in his "Absolutely 80’s” shows. Claude, no doubt relying heavily on muscle memory for most of the Kids material also pulled out some divine solos on tracks like the melodramatic ‘Shine', 'Current Stand' and 'Change In Mood'.

The added benefit of the time for a full set meant we got to hear some of the lesser known material as well like fifth single ’Not the Way’, 'Revolution Love’, 'Out Of Control’ and even Carne’s self-professed favourite Kids In The Kitchen song, ’Say It’ from their impossibly rare second album ‘Terrain’.

At one stage, Carne took the opportunity to personally thank Ian "Molly" Meldrum, who was sitting front row centre.

"We had a lot of fabulous experiences in the eighties, but none better than working with a fellow by the name of Ian "Molly" Meldrum… it doesn’t get any better than this... many things he left out of his book, but one of them was actually producing a Kids In The Kitchen song… I thank you and love you very much for making this song the great song that it is… it’s called ‘Something That You Said’.

And of course, we got to hear the Classic Rock perennial... Carne again: “This is a song that you’ll hear on Classic Rock radio on the way back from school pickup, and the kids in the back will say 'Dad!??! can you please turn that rubbish over?!!'… Yes folks… it’s come to that… it’s called 'Current Stand’."

Their set concludes with the song we all look forward to hearing – the one that started it all, the bouncy ‘Change In Mood’. All the early-comers are up and dancing along and I kind of feel sorry for those who missed this set. Great work Kids.

Culture Club

If you missed the show tonight and want to see the Kids In The Kitchen play another full set, they just announced today that they have a very special show coming up at the Corner Hotel on the 22nd of October.

Dannii Minogue

Next up was Dannii Minogue who sashayed her way on stage in a shimmering Lisa Minnelli-esque outfit and treated her fans to an 11 song setlist of mashups and disco bangers. From where we sat – on the extreme right periphery – the sound fluctuated from very good to not the greatest with the mix pretty muddy and overamped in the lower register at times.
Hopefully the mix was cleaner a little further around the arena.

She began her half hour set with ‘Put The Needle On It’ which featured some top notch percussion from Jason Heerah and great vocals from her backup singers. The glittered fans down the front certainly seemed to revel in it. To my untrained ears, Dannii sounds just like her sister and I couldn’t help thinking that the breathy spoken vocal refrain in PTNOI strongly echoed Madge's 'Justify My Love’.

A medley of ‘Old-Skool' Dannii tracks’ followed: Baby Love/Love and Kisses/This is It

Professing a love for mashups, she then launched into a live acoustic mashup featuring the Doobie Brothers 'Long Train Running’, Sophie Ellis Baxter’s ‘If This Ain’t Love’ finishing with Minogue’s own 'All I Wanna Do’

Next up Minogue showcased a brand new co-write called 'Holding On' with old X-Factor cohort Jason Heerah, performed for only the second time. (The first was at a secret gig at the GH Hotel the previous night.) A very catchy track which was warmly received from those ardently dancing down the front.

Next was her 2001 dancefloor banger cowrite with a couple of Dutch Dance DJ’s under the name Riva: ‘Who Do You Love Now’

The highlight of her set was the closer. Another new mashup featuring Garbage’s hook-laden ‘Stupid Girl’ beautifully paired with her own hit from 2003, ‘I Begin To Wonder’… which judging from the way everyone was cheering at the end worked an absolute treat and got the tick of approval.

Dannii's setlist ran like this:

Put The Needle on it
Old Skool Classics:
(Baby Love/Love and Kisses/This is It)

Live Band Mashup:
(Doobie Brothers 'Long Train Running’, Sophie Ellis Baxter’s ‘If this Ain’t Love’ /Minogue’s own 'All I Wanna Do’)

Holding On
Who Do You Love Now
Stupid Girl

Culture Club

Culture Club

Culture Club

A few minutes reprieve for the crowd while the stage is reset and then it was the moment most had been waiting for.

A large screen at the back of the stage runs a short three minute précis video which encapsulates the Culture Club journey. The boy's meteoric rise to the top and then the subsequent stressful fallout endured by its core members and solo career of Boy George as a DJ and even snippets from his darker days.

Then, just as we reach the end of the AV onslaught, suddenly it’s a very smiley Jon Moss on the kit banging out the unmistakable intro to 'Church Of The Poison Mind’… to rousing cheers from the audience.

Culture Club

These cheers only get incrementally louder as Mikey Craig’s funky bassline kicks in...

Culture Club

then Roy Hay appears on guitar and steps up and elicits a cheeky ska-ish BRRRRRR into the mic.

Culture Club

Then the loudest cheer of all so far as THAT Boy saunters on to centre stage dressed fetchingly from head to toe in Pink…looking every bit like Thunderbird’s Lady Penelope doing her best Parker impersonation.

We hear that characteristically soaring harp intro and we’re off... ‘Church Of The Poison Mind’ sounds every bit as vital tonight as it did back in it's heyday and the crowd reaction is euphoric… George is in fine voice, albeit, singing in a sightly lower register then I remember. It gives the evening a slightly more statesmanlike tone and is a timely reminder that this is a voice that has travelled through a lot of life’s ups and downs – and thankfully lived to sing the tale.

At song’s end George thanks Dannii and Kids in the Kitchen for doing such a great job warming the crowd up and promises tonight’s set will be a selection of familiar battle hymns and other odds and sods… “This one’s called ‘It’s A Miracle!'”

During the song, it becomes very apparent why George’s three stellar backing vocalists share the stage tonight. Their combined voices are heavenly and absolutely soar on the choruses.

Culture Club are in essence a 13 piece band tonight with the three backing vocalists, an additional percussionist, keyboardist, a second guitarist, and a three piece brass section. As you would expect, the band in full flight sound truly formidable… deftly applying all the sonic nuances and touches we’ve come to love in Culture Club songs.

Culture Club

"Thank you! It’s so nice to look out there and see you all 'swinging it' and dancing and having a great time… Why are we here?… BECAUSE WE LOVE MUSIC…! it’s the thing that glues us all together… whatever age, sexuality, colour… all of that. In here it becomes irrelevant… Roy always says… and Roy does cut the odd great quote,… he’s a bit like Coco Chanel… Roy always says “If you grew up with a Culture Club poster on your wall, you’re probably a little bit more open minded" and that’s a good thing, right? ...And after that little statement, there’s nothing we can do but ‘TUMBLE!” Huge cheers ensue.

Fan footage from YouTube:

The percussionist comes into his own during this song, and it’s happiness is infectious. I find myself up and dancing. “Okay, let me see you shake your thing…” Jon and the percussionist trade fills on a nice little extended drum solo which we all wiggle along to.

“Thank you!.. So you know... our songs are... on the surface, quite happy...but the undercurrent is full of melancholy, which sums up the human condition really…well it does for me … you know I’m right.. YOU KNOW I’M RIGHT… you deny it now but when you get home and think about it, with a nice cuppa tea… or maybe a carton of XXXX - a nice strong beer.. who knows?… whatever turns you on people… but I have, in my time had the reason to say to quite a few people… “Move… Move... Move… AWAY!” (Laughs) Quite decisive.’

'Move Away' has always been a firm favourite and dependable dance floor filler and tonight the audience are moved indeed. I scan the floor section below me and everyone is swaying. The song sounds muscly tonight and George is crooning like Smokey Robinson. Just brilliant.

Things take on a distinctly reggae dub tinge for the following track. It’s a cover of Bread's 'Everything I Own’ – Georges first solo UK #1… a great singalong with lots of hands in the air…

“So, this is Gig #3… Gawd Australia’s BIG innit?… BIG and FAR! But you know what?.. It’s a really long journey to get here but it’s so great when you do… you know, everyone’s been kinda gorgeous I must say… This next song is one of my favourite Culture Club songs... I wish I knew what it was about. I read an interview with David Bowie and he said ‘I have no idea what I’ve been writing throughout my entire career'… and I think that’s probably true for all of us really… we think we know what we’re writing about but… oh, you work it out. This one’s called ‘Black Money’.

Backing vocalist Theresa joins George for this quieter one, and with the audience hushed in gobsmacked appreciation, together the dynamic of Georges sultry tones against Theresa’s angelic vocals is a heady mix. Nice keyboards from Roy, as well as some lilting sax from the brass section. This leads into an interlude which allows George to slip away for a quick costume change. He reappears within about a minute in a totally new Flouro getup...

'Ahh… almost missed the bus… How’re you doing? Aren’t they good??? Mr Roy Haag on the piano… Not really an appropriate outfit for this song but hey, break the rules… I told you we do bittersweet melancholy madness…'

Then comes probably one of the evening’s highlights… It’s ‘Victims’ with George simply singing to Roy's piano accompaniment.

“You know it’s always interesting when you’re putting together a setlist for a show, because the audience always ask for the most bonkers things… things I can’t even remember writing… this particular song in some ways I kind of understand a little more now… a little like the last song ‘Victims’ – some songs you kind of grow into as you become a little older and wiser...this one’s called 'Time Clock of the Heart’.

'I feel like we’ve seduced you a little bit … we’ve lulled you into a full sense of comfort but unfortunately when you’re a band like Culture Club, the only place you’re gonna hear new music is at a live gig… cos’ radio doesn't play new music, unless it’s by five year olds…(Laughs) so.. that’s what makes the live situation so much more exciting than ever… cos that’s the place where you can be 100% authentic and that’s what we’re all about in the Culture Club… Anyway... no band is ever un-influenced by the things they grow up with… like Bowie, T-Rex, people like Gladys Night and the Pips, Stylistics... the list is just ridiculous really… I was reading an interview with Sly Stone a couple of years ago… and he said,"There are many things I regret – I just can’t think of any right now!" which is quite a ballsy thing to say.. I wish I could say that but unfortunately I can’t… this is a song I wrote about Sly Stone after reading that interview.. It’s very funky and it’s gorgeous.. so just liberate yourselves… you can just sink down… it’s good for your glutes!'

What follows is the funkiest version of 'Different Man’ I can ever remember hearing… and true to his word it IS gorgeous. The girls lift it to another level again with their vocal harmonies which effortlessly underpin George’s funky 'Tom Jones-ish’ delivery… To see the grin on his face as he belts this out is a joy. Here is a man at peace with where he now finds himself.

'This is a song about 'now being sane’, about not obsessing about relationships… about being able to walk away and slip into something much more comfortable… like a coma! It’s called ‘Like I used to’.

Culture Club

'Miss Me Blind’ is next up and George introduces it, explaining it was Culture Club channeling ‘Shalamar' and funking it up even further… gigantically funky guitar from Roy in the breaks on this one too.

George pauses for a few moments at the song’s end to allow the hyped-up crowd to settle down a little before introducing ‘The Crying Game’… With impeccable production supplied by the Pet Shop Boys, it mirrors all the sadness and wistfulness of Chris Isaak’s 'Wicked Game’ and somehow trumps it. Another highlight to hear live.

'People always ask me, ‘Do you get bored of doing your songs? And I say, well, we haven’t done them for some time now so… NOOOO! (Laughs) And although I often sing this particular song when I do my solo tours, this next song takes on another kind of magic when I do it with these three 'monsters'… And I mean this in the most affectionate manner. (Laughs) This is a song called ‘Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?’
The inevitable sea of camera phones blanket the stadium for the duration of the song.

Fan footage from YouTube:

'Apparently this song fell flat last night… so let’s not let that FUCKING happen tonight eh? Pretend you’re at a fucking Queen concert… cos after all... you ARE really!' (Laughs)
The audience take his instruction to heart as the song rocks out… it’s a really powerful rendition of 'More than Silence’ to close out the main set.

The few minutes scheduled break while the band towel down is filled unexpectedly by the appearance of a frail Molly Meldrum who has brought along a bunch of flowers and wants the audience to sing Happy Birthday to George… his speech, although badly affected by his recent accidents is obviously so heartfelt and I find myself misting up at the true affection on display in the house between these two tonight. ‘Love you Molly! We go back a long way... He’s the reason I wear hats!' The band then rip through a Johnny Cash inspired honky hoedown of a song George penned about truth and trains called '(The truth is a) ‘Runaway Train’

'So we are kind of now in a bit of a country mood right?… Don’t be frightened of Country… just think of Dolly Parton... in the biggest wig you’ve ever seen in your goddamn life… and a pair of very tight embroidered flairs, and it’ll all make sense… and then think about a bunch of crazy kids from the UK with dreadlocks and big hats coming over to Australia and then arriving at the airport and seeing all these really young kids with dreadlocks and big hats, you all looked so beautiful… Shall we do Karma Chameleon? It’d be rude not to…’

Fan footage from YouTube:

Now the whole arena is swinging along and it’s in this moment that all previous non-believers are converted to the Church of the Poisoned Mind… it’s a celebratory vibe that conquers all. Culture Club are not only contenders tonight, they’ve walked away with the Championship belt.

Just when we think there’s no more left in the Culture Club tank, Boy George has a little more left and the band launch into a ripper version of T-Rex’s ‘Get It On’.

Fan footage from YouTube:

This is deftly followed up with a homage to perhaps his greatest idol:

‘So.. I guess one of the reasons I make music is because of the man David Bowie…And if you haven’t bought a copy of 'Blackstar', it really is the most exquisitely beautiful record…BEYOND... You HAVE to listen to it on headphones and you HAVE to have the lyrics, because it’s just – it's a work of genius…and you don’t hear records like that these days… and really... buy it… it’s great. Kind of wish I was doing something from Blackstar now but I’m not… (laughs) …This is the first song I ever saw Bowie singing on the Old Grey Whistle Test, which is a show in the UK …and he was wearing a gorgeous snakeskin all-in-one-thing ..very tight… And I thought ooooooo! ...I wanna be like HIM! I’m sure there’s some people in the audience who had the same experience… when they first saw ME!' (Peals of laughter)

George then launches into a very heartfelt version of Bowie's ‘Starman'.

Fan footage from YouTube:

Like the T-Rex track, it’s unexpected and yet, when I stop to consider all the influences that have brought us to this moment I realise it’s completely fitting. Everyone in the house sings along and it’s a joyous way to finish what has been a stellar evening of nostalgic, melancholic celebration courtesy of the Boy and his quite unique band of Cultured Clubbers. Damn fine show and very pleased I made the effort.

Culture Club’s setlist:
Culture Club

For our complete photo gallery of Culture Club, click the following link:
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