George stirs emotions.
BOY GEORGE, The Sage Gateshead BOY George last played The Sage Gateshead two years ago and since then has had a rather high-profile absence from the limelight described to the audience as "my holiday last year".
Direct influence drawn from George's time with her majesty's prison service was articulated in the bluesy (new) song Pentonville Blues, which had a buoyant groove despite its prickly subject matter. Recalling his reggae-flavoured solo number one Everything I Own and Culture Club reunion single I Just Wanna Be Loved pleased the ferociously loyal crowd who seemed to adulate him more so than ever. It took some time before the voice was into full gear; his once sweet and clear, white soul voice now has a husky, weather-worn blues quality, but is nonetheless emotionally stirring.
Returning for the second set, the crowd interaction ramped up a pace as we were treated to Culture Club classics alongside traditional gospel favourites. Do You Really Want to Hurt Me had the audience up on its feet from this point onward.
Perhaps most startlingly was how the evening quickly seemed to dissolve from straightforward pop concert into an uplifting, hands-in-the-air singalong, more reminiscent of a gospel church service. Bow Down Mister and Karma Chameleon rubbed shoulders with a cover of T Rex's Get It On with each number coming thick and fast like divine songs of worship, seemingly engrained on the memories and heartstrings of the audience devotees. By the time George and the band were back for their encore of two gospel songs Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen and This Little Light of Mine, the audience were basking in a cleansing jubilance as much as the man himself.
I'm sure the 1982 Boy George wouldn't have anticipated anything other than a "church of the poison mind", but last night it was a church of pop hymns which rung out loud, clear and healing.
AT THE SAGE - Boy George