In 1984, with long brown hair and a hot pink blazer, the frontman of Culture Club stepped onto a now-demolished bridge in Rundle Mall to a throng of adoring fans.
Boy George was an aesthetic anomaly, a pioneer of androgyny and a progressive icon. Adelaide didn’t know what hit it.
Now, that very same mall is regularly filled with young Adelaideans embracing androgynous fashion, style and identity – in many cases, they probably have no clue about the Culture Club singer’s impact on them.
The Mall’s bridge is gone, too – something bemoaned by Boy George at Culture Club’s Adelaide Entertainment Centre performance last night.
“You remember when I was the only weirdo in town – now they’re everywhere,” he laughed.
“I liked it better when it was just me.”
He might well have been referring to the crowd before him. Fans across generations came to see Culture Club, many decked out in neon, big hair and sequined suits. Other chose to don George Alan O’Dowd’s trademark hat.
They were there for a trip down memory lane for the most part, with older audience members out in force for this band that’s maintained a soft spot in the Australian psyche.
Although this reviewer was born in ’94, tracks like “Karma Chameleon” and “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me” have been inescapable karaoke hits for my entire life. O’Dowd’s multi-year appearance on televised talent show The Voice also rejuvenated his (somewhat fraught) image in the minds of Australians.
Culture Club kicked off their Adelaide gig with a string of hits, including “It’s A Miracle”, “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya” and “Move Away”. The band settled into a groove with the reggae-infused pop they’re half-known for before moving onto a section of the setlist more dedicated to their synth ballads.
Before they stepped onto the stage, however, the crowd was treated to an opening set from another ’80s throwback: Berlin. The band is most famous for the song that launched thousands upon thousands of marriages, “Take My Breath Away”. But diving into their discography last night, Berlin managed to convince the crowd they were worth their time. Singer Terri Nunn even hopped off the stage – backed by security guards – to croon for the seated Entertainment Centre audience.
But it was Culture Club that the hodgepodge audience had come to see. The band’s tour through their greatest hits eventually came to a climax with a rendition of “Victims” from their 1983 album Colour by Numbers. Commencing with the now-iconic piano riff and building into a triumphant serenade, the song was clearly the centrepiece of the show for O’Dowd, who pulled off the track perfectly all these years later.
The hits kept coming – “Time (Clock of the Heart)” being a standout – before an encore performance first of T. Rex’s “Bang a Gong (Get It On)” and, finally, “Karma Chameleon”.
Adelaide may have changed in the years since Boy George stepped on that Rundle Mall bridge, and that bridge is now entirely gone. But whatever the band put in the water that day has made an indelible mark.
Culture Club played at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre on September 11 as part of their Greatest Hits Tour.
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