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Boy George and Culture Club are finding good karma, new "Life" these days
Boys will be boys, they say.
But Boy George will always be ... well, different.
A flamboyant, androgynous personality with a soulful voice may not be as provocative now as it was in 1983, when George emerged with his band, Culture Club. But 35 years later he still stands out in a crowd — and in the crowd — as he brings the group back to concert stages with its first new album in 19 years.
And at 57 he's more seasoned and accomplished and ready to deal with all that comes with being an iconic pop culture figure.
"I feel like I'm in more control now," George (born George O'Dowd) says by phone from England. "I've definitely gotten more relaxed with my whole relationship with the public and with fame. I'm a lot easier with it, and a lot more approachable, I think."
During Culture Club's mid-'80s heyday — when the group won a Grammy Award for Best New Artist and produced hits such as "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me," "Time (Clock of the Heart)," Karma Chameleon" and more — George was as much tabloid sensation as MTV darling. He burned out on the attention, particularly as it focused on his drug addictions, including an arrest for possession of heroin, and tumultuous personal life.
"It was strange stuff," he recalls. "One minute I'm skinny, the next minute I'm as big as a house. You do learn to kind of let that float over your head in a way. I used to get really annoyed about it. Now I just kind of let it go and try not to look."
George's attitude has been noticed by those around him. "He's much more personable now, much more easygoing," says Culture Club drummer John Moss, George's former partner. "He doesn't tell people where to go anymore." The Thompson Twins' Tom Bailey, who's touring with Culture Club this summer, adds that while George "wasn't always the easiest guy to get on with" during the '80s, "now he's perfectly charming, really together in terms of his own health and welfare, so I was very impressed with him, I must say."
George's mission these days is to convince people that Culture Club can still impress, both on stage and on record. On Oct. 26 the group will release "Life," its first new studio album since 1999. Culture Club has been playing some of the new songs on stage since 2016, and George promises it will have the same kind of variety as the group's other albums.
"It's funny when you say it sounds 'very Culture Club,'" he notes. "Culture Club has always been very eclectic musically," he says. "We've worn our influences quite proudly but we've never stuck to any particular theme. There's always been elements of soul, reggae, rock 'n' roll. It all goes into the mix and it comes out and sounds like us.
"I just feel that we've made an album that we've been trying to make maybe since (1983's quadruple-platinum) 'Colour By Numbers.' It just feels looser. It's very catchy. The songs are really strong, really melodic. It just has an ease about it that I really like."
Most important to him, however, is the ability to tour and play live, which is where he hopes Culture Club can plant a flag that will sustain the band for years to come.
"We've kind of slowly but patiently been rebuilding our kind of live reputation and working towards making this new record," George says. "Really the best place to showcase music now is live. Radio is not necessarily helpful to a band like Culture Club; You get a few plays, but all of it has changed.
"The one place that hasn't changed is live; If you can put on a good live show, that's really where the fun is. It's the only place where you can really be completely authentic. You have to get out there and make it work, and if you do it right you can do it forever."
• If You Go: Boy George & Culture Club, the B-52's and Tom Bailey perform at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 30, at DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township. Tickets start at $20. Call 313-471-7000 or visit 313Presents.com.
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