x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Boy George: there is something special about Culture Club

Boy George and Culture Club are just one of the many acts that will help the UAE herald the new year.

The veteran pop musician Boy George has been working solo but says he finds a special 'magic' in working with Culture Club again.
The veteran pop musician Boy George has been working solo but says he finds a special 'magic' in working with Culture Club again.

New Year's Eve may be on Saturday, but UAE revellers will have a head start when the UK's 1980s hit-makers Culture Club perform on Thursday night in Dubai's Tennis Centre, kicking off a weekend of festivities including concerts, raves and a masquerade ball before culminating with band-of-the-moment Coldplay ringing in the new year on Abu Dhabi's Corniche.

Culture Club's reunion, however, has its own share of eager fans. The frontman Boy George says the decision to begin the band's 30th anniversary tour in Dubai - its first performance in 13 years - during the festive season was a no-brainer for the group.

"Well, what we do is not really a hard job," he laughs. "I was walking with my friend the other day and I saw a man digging the road. I remember looking at him and saying, 'Now that is real work!'

"There is a certain amount of stress that sometimes comes with touring, but to be honest, it's just bonkers that I am making a living doing what I love."

For Boy George, the reformation of Culture Club is not merely another chapter in the band's storied career, but also marks a personal rejuvenation of a life that has seen as many highs as lows.

George credits the lessons learnt from his personal struggles to the fact that he turned 50 in June, which triggered a fresh bout of self-reflection.

"I am definitely a smarter person than what I used to be," he admits. "I realise now how lucky I am doing what I love. It's very exciting now, more exciting that I am enjoying it."

George is referring to the announcement earlier in the year that Culture Club would reunite for a new world tour and a sixth album in 2012.

Speaking from a London rehearsal venue, George says time has not affected the group's chemistry.

"Even with the large gaps, the weird thing is that everything seems to fall back into place," he says. "The spark is more about how much you enjoy what you do. If you love what you do, that translates to whatever it is."

Perhaps more than his band's other members, it is George who will keenly feel the difference performing with them on Thursday night.

For the past two decades, he has been touring sporadically as a solo act, part of which brought him to Dubai in April as one of the headliners of the Here and Now - The Very Best of the 1980s concert at Meydan Racecourse.

He says the experience made him realise Culture Club is truly a group effort.

"We are more powerful as a combination and that really makes a difference," he says. "To be back in the band, there is something special about it, what we do together is magical and individual and it pushes you to do different things."

This eclectic band dynamic was responsible for Culture Club's success in the mid-1980s.

Powered by the hit singles Do You Really Want to Hurt Me, Karma Chameleon and Church of the Poison Mind, the group's sound incorporated reggae, rock, calypso and blue eyed soul.

No wonder the media had a hard time pegging the band, with Culture Club labelled everything from pop, rock, reggae to new wave, all of which George brushes off.

"When we got successful we got lumped with all these 80s bands, but we don't have that 80s sound at all. When we are writing a new record, we put all our favourite influences into the pot, we are not thinking about what's trendy or what the kids are doing."

Even now, George says he remains aloof from what is happening in the pop world and that years of being an in-demand house music DJ have brought home to him some of the limitations of pop music.

"I don't feel very connected to the pop scene; it feels like a separate universe to me to be honest," he says. "I love the way dance music is always evolving, how there are new things to play ... It just seems there are less rules in dance than pop music."

However, with the exception of "more of a groove element", George promises the new album will be similar to the group's classic material; British producer Steve Levine, who helmed the group's 1983 hit-laden album - Colour by Numbers - has even been enlisted for the project.

George states that Dubai will be the first audience to hear the new material sounds, with the group introducing one new song among all the old hits.

"This Dubai show will be mostly hits and in chronological order, so it will be songs that people know," George says. "We even have a large brass band and backing singers as well. It is a big production."

Culture Club plays at Dubai Tennis Centre, 31 A Street in Al Garhood on Thursday. Doors open 6pm; the show will start at 9pm. Tickets are Dh295 from timeouttickets.com

sasaeed@thenational.ae