Boy George - O2 Academy, Oxford
It's not every day you get blocked on Twitter, but my recent review of Boy George’s new album didn't go down so well with the man himself, leading to that social media snub. It seems he took umbrage at a line I wrote about his voice. Now maybe I could, should, have worded it differently, as the point wasn’t that his voice is worse; it’s not, it's just different. And seeing him in the flesh reinforces that point. A slight mitigation is that George’s voice sounds better live than it does on This Is What I Do, there are more layers to it, it’s richer. His second song tonight, ‘Feel The Vibration', is proof as he opens it with two long, strong, notes. The other thing that’s obvious straight away is that George has rekindled his romance with reggae, with a horn section in full blow throughout.
He throws in the odd non-horn track, the slower Lou Reed classic ‘Satellite Of Love’ and new tracks ‘Any Road’ and ‘Death Of Samantha’ offer variation and a chance for George to give the voice further chances to shine. The classics obviously get the biggest cheers of the night - a brilliant jazz-blues ‘Do You Really Want To Hurt Me’, a slowed down ‘Karma Chameleon’, and a party version of ‘Church Of The Poison Mind’ - but the biggest surprise is how the new tracks fit seamlessly into the setlist. Single ‘King Of Everything’, and the best song of the night ‘Love Is Bigger Than War’ are highlights, whilst the oft overlooked ‘Bow Down Mister’ marks the end of the night.
No matter how you regard Boy George, no-one can deny that he puts on a great show and has surrounded himself with excellent musicians, the horn section and lead guitar deserve special mentions. But the main draw is George himself, despite flashes of annoyance at the sound system, he’s a showman throughout: funny and engaging, enjoying witty banter with the crowd and at ease with everything and everyone. When the crowd and band have both had great fun you know it’s been a good show.