Review Scene: Culture Club & Berlin, Rod Laver Arena, Saturday 9 September 2023 by Maryanne Window

Photo by Maryanne Window

Some might say that Berlin, the American new wave band formed in 1978 and Culture Club, British new wave club kids from 1981, are unusual touring partners some 40 plus years later in 2023 but I beg to differ. Musically they are poles apart but as far as being “of a time” I can remember an earlier instance of them being paired up together. As a teen in the ‘80s I was all about whatever was happening on the radio. My stations of choice were 1422 3XY and 92.3 EON FM and one birthday I remember being gifted “H’it’s Huge ‘84” on vinyl. Apostrophes, knitted vests, stretch jeans and compilation albums were top priority in 1984 and this particular album featured Berlin’s “No More Words” and Culture Club’s “Miss Me Blind”.

Photo by Maryanne Window

I’m happy to report that both songs were included in tonight’s respective set lists and they sounded equally as good as they did back in 1984. In fact, time seems to have frozen for Berlin’s Terri Nunn and Culture Club’s Boy George O’Dowd as their vocals were outstanding live in 2023.

Berlin totally rocked in terms of musical intensity and crowd engagement. Nun’s vocals were as good as if not better than I have ever heard them. Original member John Crawford on bass was solid as was long term member David Diamond on guitar, seamlessly slotting in alongside their younger band mates augmenting the sound. Synth/keys player and musical director Dave Schulz brought a cohesive edginess to the arrangements which brought the live intensity of the band into the 21st Century and allowed room for Nunn’s vocals to soar.

Photo by Maryanne Window

Despite pulling a hammy at the gym 2 days before, Terri Nunn gave her all in this set from start to finish, even immersing herself in the audience as she literally took her wireless mic and ran with it through the floor section without missing a beat. They certainly put on a slick show. Punchy and polished, Berlin made the most of their time on stage. The backlit screen projected evocative images of their early days, a photo tribute to Nunn’s late mother during Transcendance and some raunchy video footage to accompany the likes of Metro, Dancing in Berlin and Sex. The crowd favourite was of course the mega hit Take My Breath Away, made famous by the Top Gun movie soundtrack album but the show stopper had to be a super rocking version of AC/DCs Highway to Hell to end the set.

Photo by Maryanne Window

Culture Club made use of the big stage with a 9 piece iteration of the band. Core original members Boy George, Roy Hay and Mikey Craig were firing on all cylinders, augmented on stage by drums, keys, guitar, saxophone and two backing singers. One of the backing singers, Vangelis Polydorou cut an imposing figure in a shimmering silver sequined suit paired with impressively chunky glam rock platform boots and significantly lowered the on stage age average. The 29 year old Voice UK finalist has been taken under Boy George’s wing and is now managed by him and signed to the front man’s record label.

Opening with an impressive if not unusual choice of cover in the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil”, Boy George showed the crowd that he still has the pipes, his voice sounding as good as it ever has. As per Berlin, Culture Club’s show made good use of the projection screen, showing clips and stills from their heady days in the ‘80s new wave scene. All the big hits were rolled out so that even the casual fan who was a teen circa 1984 would be all over this set list. “It’s A Miracle”, “I’ll Tumble 4 U”, “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me”, “Church of the Poison Mind”, “Time” and “Miss Me Blind” were big crowd favourites with plenty of singing along and phones being held aloft to capture snippets of lost youth.

Photo by Maryanne Window

A stand out was a reggae version of the Bread classic “Everything I Own” along with a mash up of “Church of the Poison Mind” and the Wham! Classic “I’m Your Man”. Boy George’s quick witted banter showed that he didn’t take himself too seriously and he genuinely seemed like he was having the time of his life out there playing music to a very appreciative audience, stating ‘Getting older is a luxury and playing rock’n’roll allows you to act like a teenager’ before stumping the band and getting the set list out of order.

The first encore was a charged up cover of the T-Rex classic “Get It On” and saw Boy George emerge with a costume change announcing “I’m Boy George and I created myself out of cardboard and glitter!” This was followed up with a deep cut from the “Colour By Numbers Album in “Victims”, a song George recalled playing in Melbourne in 1984 according to Dannii Minogue who had told him that she was in attendance at that show. Of course the closer was the song everyone had been waiting for, the smash hit “Karma Chameleon” that rocketed Culture Club to international stardom and the crowd was more than ready for it. While there weren’t as many classic Boy George outfits in the audience as there may have been at those 1984 shows, the enthusiasm for nostalgia was strong and the band certainly served up and delivered exactly what the people came for.

About Maryanne Window 50 Articles
Maryanne is a writer and bass player. You can find her onstage with Monique Brumby.