So, for this review, we’re going to play a game called “Totally 80’s!” where we just blurt it out every time something totally 80’s happened at this show.
While most of us remember the 80’s as consisting of wood panel walls and waaaay too many commercials (don’t tell anybody how old I am!), the audience at the Starlight in Kansas City on Tuesday night chose to remember the 80’s as just the colorful and neon bits. That was the first thing you noticed when you walked into the venue– the staggering amount of hot pink leg warmers, side ponytails, and scrunchies. It was like flipping through the pages of Lisa Frank (Totally 80’s!). This was definitely an atmosphere where people felt comfortable showing their true selves and letting their hair down (or rather, sticking it waaaaaaay the fuck up with the aid of that crusty bottle of L.A. Looks or Dippity Do they’ve been hanging onto for too long now).
It was one big 80’s party, and Culture Club were at the helm of this party boat. They burst onto the stage with “The Next Thing Will Be Amazing,” an absolute banger they wrote in the pandemic. This song had everything– a line repeated over and over again, an elaborate backing vocals section, and a sexy sax guy (Totally 80’s!). Afterwards, Boy George and his GIANT FUCKING HAT (I swear, it gets bigger every time we see him) addressed the audience. Normally an introduction requires a “hello” or “How is everyone doing tonight.” But your sassy gay uncle opened with the very warm and welcome “There was a time when I was the only weirdo in town… now they’re” *gestures vaguely* “EVERYWHERE.” And with a guff, they headed into the next song. He then shouted out the wrong side of Kansas City, but don’t fret. He circled back a couple of songs later and corrected himself. “Kansas City, Missouri,” *gestures in gay frustration* “APPARENTLY.”
Culture Club is a fantastic music experience for fans old and new, though this show really kept everyone on their toes. They took on different variations of their own songs, as well as covers (including the very reggae’d out cover of Bread’s “Everything I Own.” The band also brought along Vangelis Polydorou, of The Voice UK (Boy George coached him on the show) to sing both backup and solo on “Melodrama.” Their hits, sandwiched between covers and lead by a frontman who knows how to work a crowd and has the voice of a damn angel, made for a superb show that was worth dragging a sleepy audience out for on a Tuesday.
Howard Jones, the refined gentleman of the night, was a show stealer thanks to his solid performance style and knack for changing things up in his songs (just like headliners Culture Club). He emerged straight away with a keytar (Totally 80’s!!!) for “Pearl in the Shell.” From the standpoint of a journalist who’s covered hundreds of shows, the best ones are always where the performer runs back and forth across the stage to exercise their rapport with the band. He peppered in piano ballad takes on his songs throughout the set, and won hearts with Kajagoogoo’s “Too Shy.” But it was his final song, “Things Can Only Get Better” that absolutely floored the audience when the ending suddenly diverted from its signature 80’s sound to a club banger. Had to slap myself to make sure I wasn’t daydreaming back to my raver days (I said don’t TELL ANYONE how old I am!!).
Berlin is a show you should catch every time. I swear, Teri Nunn put stars in everyone’s eyes when she came onstage. She emerged in this fluttery little white number that had wings, you guys and was this extremely likable little nymph with an energy in her voice (her singing voice but especially her talking voice) that was just infectious. Fuck! She’s so cool.
The new wave sweethearts were definitely heavy on the synth (Totally 80’s!!) because, let’s be honest, they perfected it years ago. Berlin noted the last time the band came through Kansas City, right in the middle of the shutdown, playing to cars with windows rolled up. Which meant that, if there was any applause, they never heard it. “So between songs, it was total silence and it was awful!” Nunn joked. The band has been around for 46 years (!!) but will forever remain cool for including a cover of The Cult’s “She Sells Sanctuary” in their set.