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!
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.
Photos and Words by G.
Steve Stevens and Billy Idol!
Billy Idol and his guitarist Steve Stevens are rock gods! On May 29, 2015, they played an outdoor concert on Pier 97 in New York and it rocked so hard! I’ve seen Billy Idol perform a few times over the years (including earlier in 2015 at the Beacon Theatre – but there is no review because I was on a blog hiatus) and Billy Idol never disappoints.
On a blue highway…. Billy Idol!
If you know little of Billy Idol’s history, he’s been performing for nearly 40 years, which in and of itself is an amazing accomplishment. There was a period of time where he was a major drug addict and he was nearly killed in a horrible motorcycle accident where he was not expected to ever walk again, let alone perform. I mention these things because Billy Idol showed no signs of being anything other than a rock god for the duration of his performance.
Before I discuss how great Billy Idol looked and sounded, let me paint a picture of the scene. Pier 97 is located at 55th Street and the West Side Highway, and what that means to non-New Yorkers, is that you have a panoramic view of the Manhattan skyline in the background as you watch the concert.
New York suffered a punishing winter, and the weather has just started to get nice, so being able to be outdoors and not freezing your ass off is such a treat and during the Billy Idol concert, the weather was absolutely perfect. The show kicked off with “Postcards from the Past,” a track from Billy Idol’s latest album “Kings and Queens of the Underground,” his first new album in almost 10 years. “Cradle of Love” was next and from then on, he had the audience in the palm of his hand. His signature moves of jumping around, “the snarl,” and fist pumping were present throughout the show and it drove the audience wild!
Because Billy Idol’s songs were played to death on the radio in the 80s, you sort of forget how great they sound when you have a concert full of people singing along to his songs and how many times, the songs lend themselves perfectly to crowd participation. For example, hearing the whole of Pier 97 shout out “FLESH! FLESH FOR FANTASY!” at every chorus during that song along with Billy gives me chills thinking about it. Or during “Rebel Yell,” when the crowd shouts out “More! More! More! Woooooooowwwwww!” or during “White Wedding” when the audience sings “It’s a nice day to…. STAAAAAART AGAAAAINNNNN!” is also chill inducing. During “Dancing With Myself,” at every chorus, Billy Idol said “If I had a chance, I’d ask NEW YORK to dance,” and if people hadn’t completely lost their minds by that point in the show, that sure did it. He also changed the lyrics of his cover of The Doors’ “LA Woman” to “New York Woman.”
Billy Idol gave many shout outs to New York, where he said that a lot of his hit songs were written here. He thanked the audience for “making my life so fucking great” and he also thanked his long time guitarist Steve Stevens for the same thing. Steve Stevens is a killer on guitar and he was given several guitar solos whereby he slayed the crowd!
Steve Stevens plays the guitar so effortlessly, that you could not help but watch him in awe as he shredded his guitar. During a lengthy solo, he was playing fast and slow which lead to the inevitable opening notes of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” and after a few seconds, he looked at the audience and shook his head no as if it was too cheesy to play that song and then he went back to his solo and scorched the guitar. He also slayed during his solos on songs like “Flesh For Fantasy” and “Rebel Yell” and during “White Wedding,” the track started off acoustically before transforming into the rockin’ version we all know and love by the second chorus.
The show closed with Billy Idol’s famous cover of Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Mony Mony” and as always, it featured the in between lyrics crowd chants of “Hey Motherfucker, get laid, get fucked!” The show was about all you could ask for when it comes to the setlist as he dug deep in his back catalog all the way back to the Generation X days (with “Ready Steady Go!”), and he played the majority of his hits, with the exception of “Catch my Fall,” “To Be A Lover,” and “Don’t Need A Gun.” Perhaps he will resurrect those great songs for his next tour? If you have ever loved a Billy Idol song, and how could you not?, you should make sure you see him live the next time he comes to your city, because he and Steve Stevens are true rock gods!!!
I’d like to give a shout-out to Bar 9 for hooking me up with tickets. Thanks so much, I had a blast!
The setlist was:
Postcards from the Past / Cradle of Love / Can’t Break Me Down / Dancing With Myself / Flesh For Fantasy / Save Me Now / Ready Steady Go / Sweet Sixteen / Eyes Without a Face / LA Woman (Doors cover) / Steve Stevens Guitar Solo / Whiskey and Pills / Blue Highway / Rebel Yell
Encore: White Wedding / Drum Solo / Mony Mony (Tommy James and the Shondells Cover)
The May 29, 2015 sunset
Photos and words by G.
Roger Daltrey of The Who
The Who are celebrating their 50th anniversary as a band by touring and I popped my Who cherry by seeing them perform at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on May 26, 2015. As someone who has seen nearly all living rock and roll legends in concert, I felt I owed it to myself to go check out The Who and here are 10 things I observed while watching their show:
1. Despite being down two (of 4) original members (RIP John Entwistle and Keith Moon), the two that are left – Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend – may be both 70 but they rocked and rocked hard for 2 solid hours with no intermission.
2. The visuals that showed on the screens behind The Who were amazing. Every song had a different trippy pattern and many times, the screens showed highlights of The Who’s amazing 50 year career.
3. While Pete Townshend did not smash any guitars, he did his signature move where he swings his arm in a circular motion while jammin’ out. Seeing him do that move throughout the show (as well as watching Roger Daltrey swing his microphone) are so iconic that it was definitely a show highlight. On the subject of Pete Townshend, he told a lot of funny stories in between songs and poked fun at how old he and Roger are.
4. Despite being in the dreaded Brooklyn, Barclays Center is a really nice venue. The people that work there are always super friendly. The site lines are pretty good unless you have nosebleed seats, in which case, if you have a fear of heights, you will definitely be freaked out. Pete Townshend also gave Brooklyn a nice little dig when he said “it’s good to be back in New York, even if it is Brooklyn.”
5. The ticket said 7:30 pm, and they were not kidding. At 7:30, opener Joan Jett and the Blackhearts promptly took the stage. Joan Jett was great! She did an 11 song set that included “Bad Reputation,” “I Love Rock and Roll,” “Crimson and Clover,” “I Hate Myself For Loving You,” “Light of Day,” and “Cherry Bomb.” Hearing the audience participate in mass sing-a-longs of these tracks was awesome and it was a great taste of what to come when The Who took the stage. As a side note, I think that Joan and I might have been the only gays in the entire building, so I am glad we represented! Also, in between Joan Jett’s set (hey, it rhymes) and The Who, the screens showed a visual history of The Who’s career and they mentioned that Joan Jett recorded her first album at The Who’s studio and she didn’t have any money at the time so she promised to pay back the money (and she did) and also included a Who cover as the b-side of her first single.
6. Like with Joan Jett, The Who have so many classic songs, that even if you think you are sick of them, they sound amazing when an arena full of people are singing them in unison. Some examples of the massive hits played were “Who Are You,” “The Kids Are Alright,” “My Generation,” “Pinball Wizard,” “You Better You Bet,” “Baba O’Riley,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” and “Eminence Front.”
7. The Who didn’t just play the same old boring setlist (which from my research looks like it varies a little bit for each show). They packed the set with hits, but they also played some lesser known tracks such as the mini-opera “A Quick One (While He’s Away),” “Slip Kid,” “Bargain,” “Sparks,” “Join Together,” and “I’m One.”
No Marijuana Smoking
8. Roger Daltrey got a ration of shit recently for complaining that people were smoking pot too close to the stage. To not look like such an asshole, before the concert, the above message was shown to the audience explaining that the smoke bothers Roger’s voice and if compromised, the show could be canceled. Roger also addressed this on stage, which made a lot of people roll their eyes. Seems a little on the douchey side, but the message was redeemed when they offered an alternative – “eat one of them funny cakes instead.”
The Who at Barclays
9. The Who mentioned numerous times before, during and after the show that proceeds from selected tour ephemera would be donated to help children fight cancer. Pretty commendable because most merch proceeds from big bands go into building another wing for their mansions.
Keep Calm and Listen to The Who
10. To think that The Who have been performing some of these songs for 50 years is so impressive. They found a way to breathe new life into their older material and as a result, this did not come across as a sad version of a formerly great band. Instead, they rocked harder than many bands who weren’t even born when The Who had their last hit song. If The Who come to your city, should you see them? You better, you better, you bet!
Joan Jett’s set list was:
Bad Reputation / Cherry Bomb / Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah) / You Drive Me Wild / Light of Day / Love is Pain / The French Song / Different / I Love Rock and Roll / Crimson & Clover / I Hate Myself For Loving You
The Who’s set list was:
I Can’t Explain / The Seeker / Who Are You / The Kids Are Alright / I Can See For Miles / My Generation / Behind Blue Eyes / Slip Kid / Bargain / Join Together / You Better You Bet / I’m One / Love, Reign O’er Me / Eminence Front / A Quick One (While He’s Away) / Amazing Journey (with “Captain Walker” snippet from “Overture”) / Sparks / Pinball Wizard / See Me, Feel Me / Baba o’Riley / Won’t Get Fooled Again