Photos and words by G.
Boy George of Culture Club
1980s music titans Culture Club are back. They slayed New York last night, July 27, 2015, with the first of two sold out shows at the Beacon Theatre in Manhattan. Here are 5 things I observed at the show:
Boy George of Culture Club
1. Culture Club have so many great songs! When I arrived at the Beacon Theatre, a DJ was spinning 1980s music remixed with modern beats, which set the mood for an incredibly good time. At the stroke of 8:30, Boy George, Mikey Craig, Roy Hay and Jon Moss, better known as Culture Club, hit the stage. A video montage of Culture Club’s highs and lows preceded the band coming out and then they pummeled the crowd with hit after hit. If you had the pleasure to be alive when these songs came out, you remember that these tracks were so massive, the radio all but played them to death. When you see songs as beloved as these performed in a large concert hall, the enthusiasm of the crowd makes you fall in love with them all over again.
Roy Hay and Boy George
Kicking off with “Church of the Poison Mind,” the entire night was a giant sing-a-long, with the audience losing its mind during classic tracks such as “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya,” “It’s a Miracle,” “Miss Me Blind,” “Time (Clock of the Heart),” “Move Away,” fan favorite “Black Money,” “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?” and the song that the audience went the most bonkers over, “Karma Chameleon.” Two of Boy George’s solo hits, covers of “Everything I Own and “The Crying Game” were also played to much adulation from the crowd. David Bowie’s “Starman,” which was included on Culture Club’s first reunion album in 2001, closed out the show. But the night was not all nostalgia, Culture Club is working on a new record and 6 songs were aired, including the self reflective “Like I Used To,” “Different Man,” “Let Somebody Love You,” and their latest single “More Than Silence.”
Boy George of Culture Club
2. Culture Club’s music transports you back to a time where things were not disposable. As Boy George pointed out on stage, the world is finally starting to get its first taste of sexual equality and this was the world Boy George has wanted to create and live in since the onset of his career. When you think of how far we’ve come since Culture Club debuted in 1982, you realize how many barriers were broken down by this band. How many other bands do you know that were multi-racial, straight, had an extremely outspoken, openly gay lead singer and had crossover appeal throughout the world? Not many! Boy George has always been uncompromising in his stance on being yourself under any circumstance and not giving a fuck what anyone thinks of you. In a time where you faced much more persecution from your peers and the media for being flamboyant, out and proud than you do today, gay culture owes a huge debt of gratitude to Boy George for never backing down.
3. Culture Club shows still attract a widely diverse audience. I’ve seen the band together and Boy George solo on many occasions, and you will rarely find a more diverse crowd. Last night, you could readily find young and old people, gay, straight and of all races and that is a great thing. I think the audience had a collective realization of all these things I said after “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?” was played and the ovation after the song went on for several minutes and Boy George even had to tell the audience to stop cheering because he was about to get emotional from the outpouring of love.
Roy Hay and Mikey Craig
4. Culture Club has aged really well. From the songs still sounding amazing, to the fact that the band looks great and well preserved, Culture Club may have only had a few hit albums, but they left a permanent mark in music history. Boy George famously had drug and legal problems for many years and not only was he in good shape physically, he also sounded great. His voice is a little huskier than it used to be, but he can still hit the notes and he still lets you have it with his witty onstage banter, his numerous costume changes and his “it quality” as a performer.
5. I would be remiss if I didn’t get up on my soap box to complain about the excessive amount of selfie and picture taking that went on. I am guilty of taking photos as much as the next person, but there is one slight difference – I use an actual camera (which is cheaper than an iPhone and light and compact to carry around) and I bring this up because I do not have to block other people’s views to take my pictures. What exactly are the people doing with all these photos and videos they are taking? Certainly not blogging about them for a worldwide audience to read! Cell phone photos come out much worse than camera photos. Also, they are much more obtrusive and people literally don’t seem to care at all about anyone around them, because the only way to get a photo is to hold the device over your head, which blocks the view of EVERYONE behind you. Take as many photos as you like and I don’t care if you watch the entire show through the back of your phone – but PLEASE PAY ATTENTION to your surroundings!!!!! So many times in the show, Boy George came over to our side to serenade us and his face was cock blocked by everyone around me holding up their fucking phones and even worse, their giant iPads!!! Boy George complained about this during his last solo tour and I wish he would have said something about it last night because it’s plain excessive – and it’s happening at every concert I go to, and as I go to a lot of shows, it’s starting to become a deal breaker for me.
The irony is that many of the concert goers should know better because when this music came out, it was not a digital age and we actually had to live in the moment and experience the concert. I guess some nostalgia is conveniently forgotten.
Roy Hay, Jon Moss, Mikey Craig of Culture Club
The setlist was:
Church of the Poison Mind / It’s A Miracle / I’ll Tumble 4 Ya / Let Somebody Love You / Everything I Own / Like I Used To / Move Away / Black Money / Victims / Human Zoo / Time (Clock of the Heart) / Different Man / Miss Me Blind / I Just Want To Be Loved / The Crying Game / Do You Really Want To Hurt Me? / More Than Silence
Crowd Sing-a-Long of Karma Chameleon / Runaway Train / Karma Chameleon
Boy George – He’s a star, man!
Photo by G.
New York! Whatever you are doing on October 1, 2015 – cancel it! The legendary Grace Jones will be signing copies of her autobiography, “I’ll Never Write My Memoirs” at Barnes & Noble in Union Square. Be there or have regrets forever for not attending. More details can be found on Barnes & Noble’s official website. Will someone save me a place in line?
Photos, words and HD video by G.
Jökull Júlíusson of Kaleo
Hot band alert! Please put the 4 piece Icelandic band Kaleo on your radar if they are not already. Fusing the worlds of rock, pop and folk seamlessly, Kaleo are poised to become huge. They played their first ever show in New York on July 15, 2015 and both the audience and myself loved what we heard. Even if you didn’t like their music, there is visual eye candy for days. Lead singer Jökull Júlíusson has that perfect strand of hair that falls in his face, amazing biceps and a voice that makes him sound like he’s been performing for decades. Just check out the video below if you don’t believe me. He also is an expert whistler, though you won’t hear it in the video below.
The video you are about to see is Kaleo’s soon to be hit, “I Walk On Water.” The song starts off really slow and mellow, but don’t get discouraged if you don’t get instant gratification. After a minute or two, the song picks up steam and you will see exactly why you need this band in your life.
I spoke with the band after the show (see below) and I told them about my trip to Iceland from a few years ago, and we discussed how beautiful their country is. If you have not been, I highly recommend it. They told me that they recently filmed a video inside a volcano (which will be out in the coming months) in Iceland, but for the time being, they have relocated to Austin, Texas. Look for their debut album to come out in late 2015 or early 2016. Thanks again for a great show Kaleo! Looking forward to hearing and seeing more great things to come!
Kaleo and Geoffrey Dicker (photo by a Kaleo crew member)
Kaleo are: Jökull Júlíusson – Vocals and guitar (white shirt), Davíð Antonsson – Percussion and vocals (blue shirt), Daníel Ægir Kristjánsson – Bass (red shirt), Rubin Pollock – Guitar (far right, grey shirt)
Photo and words by G.
When I first ‘discovered’ the music of Amy Winehouse in 2007, it was love at first listen. I hadn’t discovered her music in time to see her perform in the extremely intimate New York venues Joe’s Pub and Bowery Ballroom, but luckily for me, she came back around a 3rd time to play the recently (at the time) opened Highline Ballroom, which is a 15 minute walk from where I live (bonus!). My friend April made me a deal – she would get the tickets if I secured us a spot in line. Done. As luck would have it, when I turned up to the venue to get in line, Amy Winehouse had just finished sound-checking and was exiting the venue at the very moment I arrived. Amy couldn’t have been a lovelier person and she was so happy to see that I had her first album “Frank” which I asked her to autograph for me, because at the time, it was only available as an import in the US. It was a week before she’d be married, and she was healthy and very happy. It was the ultimate Amy Winehouse experience because I got to talk to her, her soon to be husband Blake Civil Fielder took our picture together, she autographed both of my CDs, and I was able to secure a front row center spot to see her perform and as she exited the stage for the last time that night, she handed me the set list! At the time, I had a pretty shitty camera, but April had a good camera, luckily, and her amazing shots of the concert can be seen here, and I highly recommend you check them out at this link which will open in a new window. The concert which was supposed to be the beginning of her rise to stardom US, turned out to be her final trip to New York. When I would tell people about my experience, they found it hard to believe, because shortly after this concert, her life became a tabloid-ridden mess. I would hear these stories and see these tabloid pictures and every time, a piece of my heart would break because the person I was reading about in the news was not this lovely lady that I had met. As soon as you’d hear that she was doing ok, she was back in the news again for something dubious and this downward spiral continued for the rest of her short life.
Amy Winehouse and Geoffrey Dicker. Photo by Blake Fielder
Filmmaker Asif Kapadia decided to make some sense out of this tragedy and he made the exquisitely beautiful, but monumentally sad documentary “Amy,” which is in theaters today. Like with the Kurt Cobain documentary “Montage of Heck,” what you thought you knew about these famous rock stars is only a sliver of what really happened and both films bring these huge talents back to life, even if only for a few hours.
“Amy” shows that from a very young age, Amy Winehouse had the gift of song and possessed one of the most unique voices to ever grace the stage. Intimate footage shows her singing her earliest gigs, auditioning for a record label and despite having a powerful voice, she was just a shy Jewish girl from the UK. Though she had a wicked sense of humor, she was very fragile and after her parents divorced early on in her life, she seemingly never recovered fully from it.
She never saw herself as a star and she didn’t even think her music was accessible to a wide audience. She was just a girl with some songs. She started to gain a following in the UK, winning some awards and it was at this point, you realize she never had a chance at survival. Her manager was a promoter, her father, whom Amy worshiped, had dollar signs in his eyes, and she met Blake Civil Fielder, a man that was poison to her life. The tempestuous relationship with Blake was a “can’t live with or without” him situation for the rest of her days.
Already known to be able to drink people under the table, Blake introduced her to heroin and crack cocaine and her life became a yo-yo of getting clean and falling off the wagon. The pair broke up and Amy channeled her pain into the songs that would make up her classic album “Back to Black.” “Amy” features fantastic studio footage of her laying down the vocal for the song along with producer Mark Ronson and after Amy delivers the song, it shows her stunned by how sad the song turned out.
“Back to Black” was recorded and the album sounded like a throwback to the girl group sound of the 1950s, but with a voice so unique and with modern lyrics about destruction and getting your heart broken that people of every generation related to it. One of her final chances at survival came before the release of this album as an intervention was staged to take her to rehab, but it was decided by the people around her that the album should go forward instead. Though she was involved with shady characters, it’s easy to point the finger knowing what we know now, and the good thing about this film is that it doesn’t point fingers. Everyone involved in her life was to blame to some extent (aside from her childhood friends) and it is abundantly clear when you watch this film.
The song that put her on the map, “Rehab,” would also be the beginning of her demise as the global hit turned her into fodder for the paparazzi to follow Amy everywhere she went. The ample footage of her being swarmed by paparazzi is disgusting and you wonder why laws haven’t been created to prevent paparazzi from being able to stalk a person at their place of residence. She reconciled with Blake, did a quick tour of the US (see opening paragraph) and they got married. The honeymoon did not last long as Amy was torn between a tempestuous relationship, non-stop partying and contractual singing obligations.
Her husband got arrested and jailed and once again, Amy’s chance of turning her life around all but vanished. She’d get clean for a brief period of time and then go back to drugs and drinking. There is heart wrenching footage of her accepting a Grammy award live via satellite in London and she pretty much freaks out that Tony Bennett, one of her idols, is the man presenting the award. Despite how messed up she was, she was so happy to be recognized for her accomplishment and it is possibly one of the final moments in her life when she was happy. She confided to a friend that without drugs and drinking, life didn’t have much meaning for her and the downward spiral began to escalate at this point.
She took 6 months off to go to a rehab facility in St. Lucia and she was met by her father, who turned up with a reality TV crew! Disgusting. There is footage of some fans wanting to take a picture with Amy and on camera, her father yells at her. Amy obliges the photo and she tells her father not to make a fool of her both on camera and in front of her fans. It’s just another example of how this fragile person had the wrong people in her inner circle.
This is when the movie becomes really depressing as her life is just a series of getting clean, falling off the wagon, getting chased by the paparazzi and being a mess in public appearances. Perhaps to spare us all of the gory details, footage of her smoking crack, that at the time leaked onto the internet, with the lead singer of Baby Shambles was not shown, nor was her seemingly random desire to get breast implants. Even the footage of her final full length concert in Serbia didn’t show the full extent of how bad off she was as they focused on her being too messed up to sing, but if you search the internet, you can see how sad it was when she actually did sing at that show. What does make it into the film; however, is the audio of a conversation she has where she says that if she could give her voice back in exchange for not being hassled when she goes out in public, she would. Too sad for words.
In her final studio appearance, she sang at Abbey Road Studios with her idol, Tony Bennett, as he was recording a duets album. You see how nervous she was and after not being pleased with her vocal take, she apologizes to Tony Bennett for wasting his time. Bennett, ever the gentleman, is not mad and in fact he encourages Amy and tells her that they will get the perfect take and not to worry about it. You wish his presence in her life would have shown up sooner, but alas, it was not meant to be.
After calls to her childhood friends, in which they described hearing the voice on the phone of the Amy they knew and loved, where she really sounded serious about turning her life around, a typical day in the life of Amy Winehouse where she drank from morning to night found her with 4 times the legal limit of alcohol in her system and it caused her heart to stop and she died in her sleep at the age of 27.
You will be angered by the tragedy of what could have been if only she’d gotten clean. You will be angered by all the poisonous people in her inner circle. You will be angered when you see what the vicious paparazzi can do to a fragile person. On the other side of the coin, you will be thankful that although the world will never have any more new music from Amy Winehouse, we have the masterpiece “Back to Black,” and the memory of one of the best voices of all time, preserved in this beautiful portrait of a beautifully tragic girl. Rest in peace, Amy.
Photo of the movie poster and moderately sized rant by G.
The Yes Men Are Revolting
Before we discuss the must see movie, “The Yes Men Are Revolting,” let me ask you if you’ve ever heard of The Yes Men? If you answered no, I am here to shame you into getting your head out of your ass and telling you to wake up. The news media loves to report on all of the “isms” and all the “phobias” – racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, transphobia, phobia, phobia, phobia, ism, ism, ism. The media has cleverly packaged these crimes against humanity it as “your life is totally fucked because of these people.” Before you call me a callus asshole (maybe it’s too late?), yes – all these problems suck. Yes, it’s a ridiculous shame that in 2015 we still have people killing others because their belief system varies from that of another person. Yes, it is ridiculous that people are still holding grudges about injustices that happened long before any of us were alive. Yes, it’s ridiculous that there are people who hate you because you are different than they are. When you think about it, haters have existed since the beginning of time. There are always a few bad apples ruining it for everyone? What is being done about it aside from spreading more fear?
Are we teaching the “theory of gravity” in schools? The “theory of gravity” is this: take a black person, a white person, a man, a woman, a straight, a gay, a religious person and a non religious person and have them all leap off a 50 story building at the same time and who is the superior group? Gravity doesn’t give a fuck about your circumstances! Therefore, we should respect the laws of gravity and we should respect ourselves! You don’t need a degree in physics to figure this out!
I see a lot of Facebook and Twitter bitterness but I am not really seeing people taking action to make change happen. I think people get off on being angry, to be perfectly honest. This is why people share stories before fact checking and this is why there is an influx of people complaining but not taking action. The reason I bring all this up is because while everyone is ‘Facebook madder than hell’ about all these issues, the one issue that affects EVERYBODY ON THIS PLANET – global warming (or climate change), is an issue that is being swept under the rug.
While we are being distracted by all this unnecessary bullshit, corporations and governments are ensuring that we are all one step closer to the grave. There can’t be haters if there are no people left on the planet.
Enter the Yes Men. For over a decade, Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno (Not their real names, which makes them even more awesome), have been pulling pranks on corporations and government agencies to bring forth change. They are not sharing stories on social media about cute animals and they are not writing posts about the top 20 reasons a particular issue makes them mad. Instead, they are taking action and more than that, they are documenting it to try and spread these important messages to the masses.
I could not describe the Yes Men better than they way they do on their website, so I am just going to quote it verbatim because this paragraph alone is the reason you should not only know who they are, but follow their every move for updates on how to make this world a better place.
“The Yes Men are a group who use any means necessary to agree their way into the fortified compounds of commerce, and then smuggle out the stories of their undercover escapades to provide a public glimpse at the behind-the-scenes world of big business. The stories are often both shocking and hilarious. They have been called “the Jonathan Swift of the Jackass generation” by author Naomi Klein. The Yes Men have impersonated World Trade Organization, Dow Chemical Corporation, and Bush administration spokesmen on TV and at business conferences around the world. They do this (a) in order to demonstrate some of the mechanisms that keep bad people and ideas in power, and (b) because it’s absurdly fun. Their main goal is to focus attention on the dangers of economic policies that place the rights of capital before the needs of people and the environment. Right now they’re focused on passing carbon emissions laws in the USA.”
Each of their films – “The Yes Men,” “The Yes Men Fix The World,” and their latest “The Yes Men Are Revolting” are part documentary, part prank and if you think you have balls, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen the Yes Men in action. They are like the Banksys of environmental issues and they are truly gods who walk amongst us for risking everything to try and bring forth positive change.
Please please please go see their films. They are available to stream and “The Yes Men Are Revolting” is showing in select theaters across the country. Please please please sign up for updates on their site. Please please please become a member of The Yes Lab, where you can help carry out these types of projects on your own. The world depends on it.
I dare you to share this story on your social media networks!