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When Boy George burst onto the music scene in 1982 with his band Culture Club’s hit “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me,” his unique, androgynous style in its MTV video was a true artistic revelation.
The British music, fashion and LGBTQ icon, born George O’Dowd, expanded upon the ‘70s glam-rock looks of David Bowie, T-Rex and The New York Dolls, eliminating the punk attitude from sexually ambiguous appearances.
But music is the reason Boy George has endured years of peaks and valleys – and he’s returning to his roots by reuniting once again with Culture Club.
The band takes the stage Sunday at the Pompano Beach Amphitheater along with fellow new-wave stars The B-52s and Tom Bailey of the Thompson Twins. You’ll hear timeless classics such as “Karma Chameleon,” “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya,” “Time (Clock of the Heart)” and “Church of the Poison Mind,” plus tracks from Culture Club’s new album, “Life.”
The Miami Herald caught up with the Boy to talk about the show, his reunion with Culture Club, his history with The B-52s, and why he loves makeup so much.
Q: You and Culture Club have reunited a few times over the years. How does it feel this time around?
A: We’re like the Liz Taylor and Richard Burton of pop – you know, we sort of break up, but we never quite let go. It’s always like, ‘Wow, I’ll never work with you again, but maybe let’s hope.’ We’ve never really, really fell out on a personal level. I’ve personally felt the need to go and do other things, and I’ve done that, but we never really broke up ceremoniously.
But first of all, I would never go on the road with people I don’t like – it doesn’t matter how much you pay me [laughs]. I think we’re in a very good place in terms of being friends and being able to let each other be who we are. I’ve changed a lot in the last 20 years, and I sometimes think that the other guys don’t really know who I am. Sometimes people have this big idea about you and it’s much more comfortable than the reality. In the same way that sometimes you read things that are written about you and are completely untrue, but they kind of make you more interesting, so you don’t care [laughs].
Q: The new album is called “Life” – that about covers everything, doesn’t it?
A: I think the album is very celebratory – it’s a joyful record but it’s got dark edges. I guess because the things I write about now are coming from a very different perspective – I would never write a song like “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” and it’s “Oh, woe is me” scenario [laughs]. It’s just different – some of the old songs, even the meaning changes over time. You write a song when you’re 20, and you think it’s about this, this and this, and then 30 years on it’s about something else. And that’s the nature of writing and music – you’re never really set in one idea. Something can kind of spark up a song, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it won’t change. And that certainly happened with a lot of the old songs. Where you are is who you are right now.
So there’s been a lot of change, and it’s very soulful and it’s a really powerful record. I’m really happy with it, and I think it’s probably the best record we’ve done since [1983’s] “Colour by Numbers,” and that’s a big thing to say.
Q: Are you playing any new songs on this tour?
A: We are. We’re doing a handful of new songs, but you know what? They don’t really feel like new songs – they actually feel very, very Culture Club-y. And the big audience wants to hear [the hits], but I think it’s important not to be apologetic when you do new stuff. I’m not a self-indulgent performer – I want the audience to react. If I play something live that doesn’t work, I won’t play it again. But when the audience sings along to a song they’ve never heard by the second chorus, you know that they’re enjoying it.
My job as a performer is to go out and seduce the crowd, and make them feel comfortable. I talk to the audience, I’ve sung with them, I’ll talk about what they’re wearing, or what they’re not wearing [laughs]. I don’t embarrass people, but I certainly engage with them. I want people to feel that they know you – I want there to be a lot of warmth.
Q: You’ve toured with The B-52s a few times now – are you good friends?
A: I remember The B-52s in the ‘70s – I went to see them in London. And I’ll tell you a very funny story: I ran up to them after the gig, and I swear I had a green face – that was something I used to do when I was 17 – and they were walking up the street, and the look on their faces … they were horrified! I was like, “Hi!”And Kate [Pierson] and Fred [Schneider] were like, “Oh, my God!”
I remember being a fan when “Rock Lobster” came out, and there was such a buzz about them when they came to London, such an interesting band. And they’re such an iconic band, and I think they fit really well with us.
Q: David Bowie played around with the androgynous look quite a bit, but you committed to it 100 percent from the beginning. Was that scary at first?
A: Actually, to me, I discovered what I could do with makeup, and how I could totally transform my face and become another person. And that was like, it was a relief in a weird sort of way, because it was a way of being able to get attention, but also hide behind a mask. For me, it was a revelation, discovering makeup and playing around with it, and “Oh, look how different I look!”
Q: You’re 56 now. Do you approach a major tour differently than you did when you were younger?
A: Well, I don’t drink, I don’t take drugs, I eat healthy, I exercise, so yes! [Laughs] You get away with a lot when you’re in your 20s.
If you go
- What: Boy George & Culture Club
- When: 6:30 p.m. Sunday
- Where: Pompano Beach Amphitheater, 1806 NE Sixth St., Pompano Beach
- Info: www.axs.com; $49.50-$199.50