There are plenty of reasons for Culture Club to be on tour this summer -- not the least of which is that it's been 35 years since the once controversial group formed in London.
But it's ultimately elemental for the four band members.
"We love performing. That's the best part of being in a band," bassist Mikey Craig says by phone. "What's great is the band sounds great, and there's a great energy that comes off the stage that people love. The reviews we got last year were phenomenal, and I think that's what kind of triggers this new tour."
Culture Club's heyday, of course, came during the MTV-fueled early- and mid-80s, when the group's first three albums sold platinum or better and launched hits such as "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me" and "Karma Chameleon." Culture Club won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1984, while frontman Boy George's androgynous look and outspoken personality made him a darling of all media, and the band only benefited from the attention.
And the caliber of the music helped it endure even after the band first split in 1986, driven apart by personal and creative differences as well as Boy George's escalating drug use.
"They're great songs," explains drummer Jon Moss, 58, who also played in the Damned and Adam & the Ants and was George's partner during the band's early days. "If you like bands like Culture Club, it's not like there's a new band to replace them. YOu want to see Culture Club. You don't just go on to a new brand."
And, adds Craig, 56, "The attraction of Culture Club is that the music is so eclectic" -- a mix of pop, reggae, soul and rock. "We're four very different personalities contributing to the sound of Culture Club, and I think that's what sort of draws people towards us like a magnet. People have grown up with this music and the songs are timeless.
"It still feels fresh, and that's what's really, really important."
These days, Moss and Craig say, the personalities in Culture Club are in sync. Even Boy George, Moss notes, "is much more personable now. He's much more easygoing." "He doesn't tell people where to go anymore," Craig adds with a laugh, "but he does chat a lot." "Yeah," Moss says, "people might ask for their money back. They don't know if they're at a bloody gig or a seminar!"
The band bonhomme extends to the recording studio, too. Culture Club has been working on its sixth studio album -- and first in 17 years -- called "Tribes." Craig says it sounds like "classic Culture Club," but it also reaches in new directions; Moss even exults over the idea that there's "a really nice rock track" that's different than what the group has tried before.
"As I said earlier, we're four very different guys contributing to the sound of Culture Club, and once again you've got that same diversity," Craig says. "There's different genres on there that represent us, really. That's probably why George came up with the title 'Tribes,' to represent the different tribes that make music, whether it's (heavy) metal merchants or reggae guys all dreadlocked and smoking spliffs or what have you.
Those are the tribes that follow the different genres of music, and that's what the album is trying to represent, I think. It'll be better when we actually release it."
7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 17.
Meadow Brook Amphitheatre on the Oakland University campus, Rochester Hills.
Tickets are $35-$95 pavilion, $25 lawn with a $75 lawn four-pack.
Call 248-377-0100 or visit palacenet.com.
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