Boy George and Culture Club pack two nights of nostalgia At the Hollywood Bowl. Review: Culture Club & Berlin at Hollywood Bowl 8/26/23
HOLLYWOOD, CA- Last weekend, British pop icon Boy George & Culture Club closed out ‘The Letting It Go Show’ tour with two nights at the Hollywood Bowl. Fans were also treated to an opening set from fellow ’80s chart-toppers, Berlin. The result was a night packed with nostalgic new wave music and good times had by all.
Berlin started the night with a 30-minute set that got the crowd on their feet, reliving their glory days. From the opening song “Masquerade” to all the hits in between, including “Metro,” “No More Words,” and the Oscar-winning “Take My Breath Away” from Top Gun, the band was on fire! Lead singer Terri Nunn astounded me with her amazing voice and her effervescent, powerhouse energy. Nunn donned a gorgeous red dress that most twenty-somethings couldn’t pull off, which had me googling her age in disbelief.
I’ve seen Berlin several times, and it’s astounding how every time they seem to impress me even more. This particular concert was, hands down, the best I’ve seen from them. Perhaps this electrifying performance is attributed to the resurgence of original members David Diamond (guitars/synth) and founding member John Crawford rejoining the band in recent years. Or maybe it’s because, after more than 40 years, this concert marked a massive milestone for Berlin – their first Hollywood Bowl show. Nunn told the crowd it was a bucket list moment, and being there to witness this well-deserved moment for the band was special.
Nunn thanked the audience for showing up early to catch their set (which I wish was a tad longer) and seemed genuinely in awe of performing on the magical Hollywood Bowl stage. I’m confident that playing this iconic venue is a dream for many musicians, and I’m thrilled they had their moment and wholly owned it.
Towards the end of their set, Berlin covered “She Sells Sanctuary” by The Cult, which drew a delighted reaction from the crowd. The highlight was the last half when Nunn left the stage to mingle and sing up close and personal with fans in their box seats. This was arguably the most memorable moment of the night.
The band wrapped up their set with the risqué song “Sex (I’m a…)”, during which Crawford took center stage for some campy fun alongside Nunn.
As Culture Club band members ascended the stage, the crowd erupted, eagerly anticipating Boy George. When the pop star took center stage, the excitement was palpable. They opened with a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy For the Devil.” The opening line, “Please allow me to introduce myself,” drew wild cheers. The band quickly satisfied fans’ cravings by playing classics like “Miracle” and “I’ll Tumble For You” early on, reserving mega-hits such as “Miss Me Blind” and “Time (Clock of the Heart)” for later in the set.
Seeing Boy George, now in his 60s, made me reminisce about my younger years. I remember being fascinated by his gender-bending persona and flamboyant style as a child. My family adored Culture Club’s music. And because I was young, I was oblivious to the ongoing speculation about his sexuality. But reflecting upon it, I love how it didn’t matter to anyone, at least not in my circle. We just loved his music. One of my brothers even emulated Boy George for Halloween, and I don’t recall my devout mother objecting. Boy George transcended his role as a singer. He was a pioneer and irresistibly charming, not afraid to challenge societal norms, stand out, and bridge diverse cultures. This inclusivity became evident as I observed the diverse crowd of fans. Everyone adores Boy George! (Including Morrissey, who received a shout-out from George.)
George is acclaimed for his rhythm, blues, and reggae vocal style, all of which shone brightly during the hour and a half performance. Notably, the band gave “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” a prominent reggae twist.
They also added a reggae touch to Bread’s classic “Everything I Own,” making for a fun rendition.
Speaking of covers, several were integrated into the set. One highlight was David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold The World,” during which George invited international singing star LuLu for a duet. The band also brilliantly mashed up their hit “Church of the Poison Mind” with Wham’s catchy tune “I’m Your Man.”
For the encore, the band blended multiple classics, starting with T.Rex’s “Bang a Gong.” George invited Terri Nunn back on stage for this number, and she was sensational! Lulu also returned, contributing to a cover of Tears For Fears’ “Shout” that transitioned into The Isley Brothers’ version and even included a snippet of “Hit the Road Jack.” Witnessing this musical melange was truly special.
Concluding the night was Culture Club’s iconic song “Karma Chameleon,” which had everyone dancing and belting out the lyrics. The nostalgic thrill music from the past provides is incomparable. Judging by the crowd’s energy, I believe we all felt this sentiment profoundly.