Some of the greatest icons from the ‘80s are proving they are just as iconic in 2023. Boy George and Culture Club’s Letting It Go Show has the band touring through the summer, with Howard Jones and Berlin joining them for the 25-city run. Boy George and Culture Club wrapped up a sold-out, mini-residency in Las Vegas earlier this year, and fans across the country are eager to enjoy “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me,” “Karma Chameleon,” and “Church of the Poisoned Mind” in their own states.
After an incredible storm blew through Nashville in the afternoon, the temperature was thankfully not “hell level” hot; just “this kinda sucks hot.” Despite the heat, the outdoor venue located next to the Cumberland River was filled with a colorful variety of fans: Gen X in ‘80s band tees, families with small children, women and men in sequins and feathers, and of course, Boy George lookalikes.
There remains no shortage of love for ‘80s and ‘90s music, as we have seen with Cruel World selling out the past two years. The only band invited to play both years is Berlin, and now, we would see them in action.
As the band walked onto the stage, there were cheers, but when front-woman Terri Nunn walked out… the excitement level was noticeably increased. Sporting her trademark black and blonde hair, black leather outfit, and orange booties, she was as gorgeous as ever as she began “Masquerade.” With her unmistakable voice present, the song was given a bit more of a rock edge, but kept the heart of the original version. Nunn held all the notes perfectly, giving no indication that the heat was holding her back. “No More Words” followed, also with an updated sound, and Nunn strutted across the stage as the security guards were bouncing their heads along to the song.
As the song ended, Berlin was greeted with loud cheers. Nunn, with a big smile on her face, observed the crowd and said, “Forty-five years of Berlin and it’s an honor to play Nashville. You’re people who make and support music.” They moved into “The Metro” and were met with lots of singing in the audience. After “Animal,” Nunn began to sing “Take My Breath Away” with just her voice – no band – and the crowd sang the first part of the chorus. The band joined in and Nunn left the stage to walk into the crowd, all the way up the aisle, going to the lawn section.
Nunn remained gracious and charming, even when some fans got overzealous and security had to intervene. From the lawn, she introduced the band: Dave Schulz (keyboards), Carlton Bost and Dave Diamond (guitars), Ric Roccapriore (drums), and John Crawford (bass).
Saying “They do not suck at all!” and still on the lawn, Nunn began a cover of The Cult’s “She Sells Sanctuary.” Eventually she was able to make her way back to the stage for “Sex (I’m a…)” to duet with Crawford, who founded the band with Nunn and Diamond. The Los Angeles band received a hearty and well-deserved round of applause at set’s end.
Howard Jones – in a peacock colored jacket with sequin accents, and a blue streak in his hair – very simply walked out to the stage and introduced himself, complimented Berlin and thanked Culture Club for inviting him on the tour. Kicking off with “Like to Get to Know You Well,” Jones’ voice sounded the same as always, as if no time had passed.
Jones sat at his keyboard for “Everlasting Love,” which featured throbbing beats that led into a punchier version of “New Song.” Playing keytar and keyboards, Jones still had the electronic sound, but just a bit more updated sound. He also displayed some sweet dance moves.
As the sun finally set, a ragtime version “Life in One Day” was followed by Jones introducing a member of his band: Nick Beggs from Kajagoogoo. Beggs wrote Kajagoogoo’s monster hit, “Too Shy,” and Jones joked, “We are going against all legal advice to play it. We’re happy to go to jail for it.” The bass-heavy version (with Beggs on bass) had the crowd going and Jones had them sing the chorus. Jones closed it with, “Kajagoogoo never made it to America to play live, but hey, we did!”
Jones was affable and charming when he spoke, and at the end of “No One Is to Blame,” he had the crowd sing the chorus by saying, “Sing it with me one time. I just love to hear it.”
One of his new songs, “Celebrate It Together,” is a poppy track you cannot help but bob your head to. It was followed with crowd favorite “What is Love?” which brought a loud cheer and fans clapped along.
Before his final song, Jones said, “This is a song about when things go horribly wrong… there’s nobody that has a perfect life. I always wanted to write songs that got people over the hump… And if we threw it all away, things can only get better. We can do this. We can solve the problems. We can turn things around. So I would invite you to go completely bonkers in this song. Completely abandon all sense of propriety. Go crazy.” Anyone who may have been sluggish due to the heat before was on their feet, following Jones’ request, and dancing with joy. The band ramped it up into a club mix version which created a dance-party vibe, before winding it down with just the piano and Jones’ voice alone.
Darkness had fallen and a purple-hued, bubble-shaped curtain was center stage. A drumbeat began and the curtain fell away to reveal Boy George and Culture Club. With a full band, horns, back-up singers, and George on a platform – looking stylish as always – it appeared as if a gospel church dance party was about to begin.
Starting with “Next Thing Will Be Amazing,” the crowd was on their feet and dancing right away. At the song’s end, George greeted the audience with, “Good evening Nashville! It is good to be here, in a city that really loves music. We are Culture Club.” They went into “It’s a Miracle,” which resulted in hundreds of phones coming out to record video. Between George’s dance moves and the AMAZING vocals of back-up singer Roxy Yarnold, it was quite a moment!
George would talk and joke in between each song and when he said, “Shall we tumble?” he was greeted with excited cheers as they began one of their massive hits, “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya.” They did play some “oldies,” but mostly new and unreleased songs, which were pretty damn catchy. In addition to George and Yarnold, original Culture Club members Mikey Craig (bass) and Roy Hay (guitars) provided solid musicianship with Darren Lewis (keyboards), Meryl-Anne Evanson (drums), Steve Frieder (sax), and Vangelis Polydorou (vocals).
As an intro to “Melodrama,” George joked, “This band knows a thing or two about drama. We’ve experienced it! Now here’s a little song about it.” It was followed by a reggae influenced cover of Bread’s “Everything I Own.”
After the tour title song, “Let It Go,” George said, “We cannot go back in time, but metaphorically we can. This song has taken us on an incredible journey.” “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” started with a slow, ballad-anthem style and George’s voice was full of passion. The crowd was on their feet, whipping out their phones to record again, and the song ramped up to the more familiar reggae sound, complete with an incredible sax solo.
“Hold Back the Feeling” and “Angel of Mercy” were followed by George saying, “This is dedicated to anyone who left early because they are going to miss the most beautiful fucking moment and it serves them right!” “That’s the Way (I’m Only Trying to Help You)” included a duet with Yarnold that was indeed amazing, and if you left early, yes, it serves you right!
“Church of the Poison Mind / I’m Your Man” brought the party back and Culture Club continued with the familiar hits with “Time (Clock of the Heart)” and “Miss Me Blind” before departing the stage. They came back for the encore with two covers and a hit: “Sympathy for the Devil” (The Rolling Stones), “Karma Chameleon,” and “Get It On” (T. Rex).
I’ll be honest: Not all ‘80s and ‘90s artists can perform like they used to. But these three did a fantastic job and if there were any voice discrepancies, I did not hear them. If you want an evening of danceable entertainment that puts you in a jubilant mood, The Letting It Go Show is for you!
Catch Culture Club, Howard Jones, and Berlin as they cross North America with stops in places like Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Dallas, Austin, and San Diego (August 19th at North Island Credit Union Amphitheatre). The tour wraps up August 25th and 26th in Los Angeles at the historic Hollywood Bowl.