In a nostalgic yet soulful return, 80s music icon Boy George and his band Culture Club kicked off their world tour in Tel Aviv Tuesday night, their first show in Israel in 30 years.
And George wouldn’t let you forget it.
“Wouldn’t it be creepy if I looked the same and sounded the same?” he asked the crowd at Tel Aviv’s Menora Mivtachim Arena. “I’m 56!” he yelled, to applause. “I’m definitely a lot smarter than the last time I was here.”
Though his voice has aged, George’s gospel-reminiscent harmonies, blended with his female background vocalists, stood out in the 2-hour show.
Joining him on stage were the three other original members of Culture Club. With Roy Hay on guitar and keyboards, Mikey Craig on bass guitar, and Jon Moss on drums and percussion, the British rockers delighted audiences with a fuller ensemble of brass and percussion that highlighted their unique blend of soul and reggae.
George addressed his Israeli fans often throughout the performance, with the word “nostalgia” never far from his lips.
He and Culture Club, of course, played their big 80s hits “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me,” “The War Song,” and “Karma Chameleon” — the latter performed with Israeli singer Dana International, who brought the audience to their feet.
“We always thought we were a symbol for all those who felt a little odd, a little left of center, a little different,” said George to the diverse crowd of fans, who ranged in age from their 30s to 50s.
The crowd filled about two-thirds of the arena — creating an intimate performance — and most were familiar with his songs.
A few were seen sporting classic Boy George 1980s garb, including top hats and braids, but it was George who stole the show fashion-wise with a bright yellow two-piece getup emblazoned with a Star of David.
His trademark sass was also on display on Tuesday night, performing a new song called “Resting Bitch Face” and calling out a front-row heckler in the audience.
During the show, George also referred to an October Twitter exchange with a Times of Israel editor about his relevancy, though he mistakenly referred to it as the Jerusalem Post.
“I’ll let you know when I’m not relevant,” he said, adding that “nowadays critics don’t matter because everyone’s a critic.”
George went on to say that he and the band suffered “abuse” for choosing to play in Israel and even lost a band member who refused to play in the country.
Nevertheless, George, who has performed in Israel on a number of occasions, told the audience that he “loved it here” and that there was “such a mad vibe in this country.”
“Whenever I go to Israel, people always say don’t go there, don’t go there,” said George. “Fuck off! I go where I like!” exclaimed George, to cheers from the audience.
Culture Club closed out the night not with an original song, but with more nostalgia, playing Prince’s “Purple Rain” and “Bang a Gong” by glam rock band T. Rex.