Review: Culture Club at Musikfest

Review by Justin Burkhardt

“I heard on Facebook that this is one of the hippest places in America to play” said Boy George, lead singer of the English new wave band Culture Club who were the headlining act at the Sands Steel Stage on Saturday night. Touring with all the original members for the first time in 14 years, Culture Club performed for a sparse (oh don’t worry we’ll get to that later) but enthusiastic crowd and those who were in attendance were treated to a show filled with some awesome 80’s nostalgia, great songs, and a lead singer who kept the audience engaged all night long.

Culture Club started the show with “Church of the Poison Mind” before George made his remarks about playing MusikFest. He also added “I completely work with that building (the Steelstacks) and can’t wait to see it lit up”. The band, which besides Boy George featured 13 people, including the 3 lady background singers, played through their hits like “It’s a Miracle” and “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya”, “Miss Me Blind”, “Victims”, and “Time (Clock of the Heart” with the same enthusiasm I’ve seen in their old music videos. Being born in 1985 I felt like I stepped back into time for the night. Though I must admit that I, and the girl sitting next to me, were disappointed and remarked that we didn’t really see anyone dressed up like they were from the 80’s or in Boy George style fashion. I’m sure there were some people there, but I wish I would have seen them. (It was too hot for my member’s only jacket, so I left it at home)

Culture Club also performed a very solid Reggae-sounding cover of Bread’s “Everything I own” which then transition into “Let Somebody Love You”, a new Reggae-infused track from their new upcoming album Tribes. The band also performed another new song “Runaway Train”, a Johnny Cash-inspired culture club sounding song but with a country twang. I enjoyed these two new songs, and how they were mixed into the set. The band was on point all night long, especially the three female back-up singers.

But Boy George was the star of the show. Even between the numerous costume/hat changes (I counted five, including one giant black headdress) he kept the audience engaged through out the night. He joked about things like how he, like Taylor Swift turn their relationships with boys into songs. He also talked about how the song “Beautiful Ones” by Prince is the song he likes to play when he’s sad. He even talked about the progress we’ve made as a culture when it comes to gay rights and sexuality, even commenting “What the hell is normal” (when it comes to sex/sexuality). I feel keeping an audience engaged has become sort of a lost art these days with some performers and I really appreciate it when a lead singer not only does it, but it seems natural and unforced. It just makes for a better concert experience in my opinion. While Boy George’s voice may have changed a little bit with age, he’s still great on stage.

The regular set ended with the hit “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me”. The band returned to the stage for an encore which started with “More than Silence”, went into their big hit “Karma Chameleon”, and ended with “Bang a Gong (Get it on)”, a T.Rex cover. If I had one minor complaint about the show it would be that I didn’t hear “The War Song”. One of the band members had a “War is Stupid” shirt on and I believe they were selling them in the merch tent, which made me want to hear the song!

80’s culture has made a bit of a comeback in recent years, which is why it saddened me to see most of the bleachers (and some of the audience seats) left unfilled. This is why we can’t have nice things Lehigh Valley. I absolutely applaud ArtsQuest for getting a reunion tour like this (especially for someone my age who wasn’t able to see Culture Club in the 80’s) and like the Flaming Lips the night before, it’s an absolute shame more people didn’t attend. I know there are a lot of diverse and smart music fans in the Lehigh Valley, I’m still just left wondering where they were to support a talented band that has sold over 50 million records and were one of the biggest groups of their era. If you get a chance to see this reunion while they’re still stateside, do yourself a favor and do so & enjoy an hour and 45 minute set of 80’s nostalgia!

5 Comments

  1. Diane Cheer

    August 9, 2015 7:12 pm,

    Hi,

    Am really glad they gave a great performance. I am sorry I missed it. My husband and I love their music.

    When I went to look up the ticket prices, it was a real downer. My husband said it was very reasonable for what concert ticket prices go for these days. Like….I had no idea that to see, say, Cher, it costs over $600.00!!

    It may be reasonable, but it is still way too much for us. If there were prices below $189.00, I could not find them. I am not so great at navigating the endless pages online. Makes me feel like a cauliflower.

    Also, I still remember the days when M-fest had great acts that were essentially free. Somehow, the idea of pricey pricey seats that only some can afford at Musikfest, goes against the grain.

    Nothing against Culture Club. We still love them. But, we also need to eat and send our kid to college.

    Thanks for your review, Diane

  2. Courtney

    August 10, 2015 11:27 am,

    How much were the tickets there? Were they really $189, that seems odd.

    I am seeing them tonight and the tickets are $70. CC has a lot of people on stage with them including backing singers. All of these people have to make a living.

  3. Justin Burkhardt

    August 10, 2015 2:22 pm,

    Thanks for reading and responding you too. The tickets were around the 70$ mark but for two people that could put it up there.

    Diane- as a longtime concert attendee, i would suggest staying away from secondary markets for ticket sources, deal directly with the venue/ artist. As far as it being expensive, you must remember that ArtsQuest is a non-profit organization. People see MusikFest and they don’t see all the hard word that goes into making this happen through out the year, they think it’s all just fun and games. ArtsQuest like any non-profit relies on support from the public to keep these great events (not just Musikfest) going. And good acts of all sizes are expensive to bring in and a festival this big is so much work and money. They also sell their own tickets (and don’t use LiveNation/Ticketmaster). As a consumer and patron of the arts, i believe most people would rather support an awesome non-profit like them as opposed to the alternative. Thanks for reading/commenting!

    Courtney- yup they had 14 people on stage including Boy George, great acts like these cost money, but are MORE than worth it again knowing that money made once the artists are paid, goes back into this non profit so they can continue to have amazing events like this! Thanks for reading/commenting!

    For any fan of the 80’s this was WELL worth the price, and I’m sadden by the turnout of such a good time!

  4. donnamarie

    August 10, 2015 2:34 pm,

    One of the other issues with the ArtsQuest venue at Musikfest is presale of tickets to patrons only, weeks in advance. Many times those patrons buy the tix and then do not attend, resulting in many vacant seats. ArtsQuest and the promoters get paid so they don’t care, but by the time the public on sale dates come around there are hardly any seats left so forget about getting a group of friends seats together, or being anywhere near the stage. I’m sure it must be dispiriting for the artists to see all those vacant spots and have much of the crowd be not true fans, but those wealthy enough to purchase their exclusive memberships.

    ArtsQuest has no one to blame for the poor attendance at most of their paid concerts but themselves.

  5. Justin Burkhardt

    August 10, 2015 6:58 pm,

    Donna,
    The State Theater also has pre-sales. So do various live nation/ticketmaster shows, i mean sometimes if you have the “right” credit card carrier you can get them to online. They all do it. It makes sense for a non-profit like ArtsQuest to get the tickets in advance, its the benefits of supporting the non-profit. Anyone can become a member (it’s also tax deductible, so another benefit besides supporting an awesome non profit). I know someone who walked up to the flaming lips concert and got tickets in like the first 5 rows. It’s not as big of a problem as your making it and it’s not just for the wealthy. The basic ArtsQuest membership i believe though am not certain is only 100$ and it’s tax deductible. That’s a pretty good deal to support the organization and get to join in these pre-sales. Again these concerts and especially festivals are EXPENSIVE, but the prices aren’t outrageous at all for the acts your seeing.

    I sympathize with people who find concerts in general to be expensive, but ArtsQuest offers many good free acts at LeVitt during the summer as well. They’re not some organization that has outrageous ticket prices or standards, in fact how they run things is how more organizations should. They try to make it as affordable as possible given what it costs to run such a large scale festival. They also offer so much other free (and low cost) entertainment throughout the year.

    They’re doing it right. We need to support them and more organizations doing it right. I’m not sure what I blame the lower than average culture club attendance on exactly, it’s a combo of things really too long to get into here, but it’s not anything Quest has done/is doing. But thanks for commenting!

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