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Review: Culture Club, B-52s revisit the 1980s with Minnesota State Fair show

September 4, 2018

Do you want your MTV?

Not the MTV of Jersey Shore and Teen Mom. No, the MTV of its 1980s heyday when music video clips filled the schedule, not over-the-top reality series.

If you dug the old MTV, you might have ended up at the Minnesota State Fair grandstand Monday night for the back-to-the-80s concert featuring Culture Club, the B-52s and Tom Bailey of the Thompson Twins.

It was a fun evening of nostalgia, colorful personalities and some pretty good and not so pretty good music.

Featuring three original members, four backup singers and five sidemen, Culture Club has bolstered its 80s mix of Motown-meets-the-Caribbean to become fuller and contemporary. Despite some technical problems, the band sounded crisp and suitably soulful.

Even though his voice is huskier now, frontman Boy George, 57, has blossomed into a committed, often deeply soulful singer. But hes always been known for his outspoken personality, which was surprisingly restrained on Monday.

The oft-censored Twitter force and an outrageous semi-regular on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills was certainly more outrageous two years ago at the Myth nightclub in Maplewood. Perhaps distracted by some technical problems early in the set, the kind of grumpy George kept his comments to a minimum of stock lines such as we deal with love, its many discontents and the occasional miracle.

He mentioned playing at First Avenue the first time Culture Club came to the Twin Cities in 1983 and otherwise it was pro forma patter. He didnt even make much fuss over new tunes such as Let Somebody Love You and The Truth Is a Runaway, which had a twangy country vibe at the Myth two years ago but now had more of a pop-soul feel.

Of course, the focus was on Culture Clubs classics, including the good groove of Miss Me Blind, the big beat of Church of the Poison Mind and Do You Really Want to Hurt Me with its stirringly churchy vocal intro.

Perhaps in keeping with the MTV vibe of the concert, Culture Club covered three MTV classics, opening with a rote rendition of David Bowies Lets Dance and encoring with a by-the-numbers reading of Robert Palmers Addicted to Love and closing with Princes Purple Rain, which turned into a fiery gospel duet with George and a female backup singer (Culture Club did a less memorable Purple Rain at the Myth three months after Princes death).

Like Culture Clubs 80-minute set, the B-52s hourlong performance reminded the 8,843 concertgoers that MTVs glory years were about artists with strong visual personalities and catchy music. The Georgia-launched, new-wave combo still has colorful personalities in singer Cindy Wilson, she of the blonde bouffant wig and green mermaid dress; singer Kate Pierson, she of the crimson wig and rainbow shawl, and singer/cheerleader Fred Schneider, he of the stars-and-stripe vest and oddball instruments (toy piano, walkie-talkie, glockenspiel, slide whistle).

These three original members ages 62 to 70 seem like they come from Planet Kitsch, but thankfully they were buoyed by stellar musicians including drummer Sterling Campbell (remember when he was in Minneapolis own Soul Asyulum for a bit?) and bassist Tracy Wormworth.

The B-52s vocals were subpar, but it was difficult to resist their cartoon personalities and the danceable rhythms of Love Shack and Rock Lobster.

After creating film music for years, Bailey, 62, has released his first solo album in 25 years but, backed by an all-female trio dressed in white, the man in white mostly revisited such Thompson Twins tunes as Doctor Doctor and Hold Me Now, which brought back memories of the movie Sixteen Candles in which it was featured and, of course, being addicted to MTV in the 80s.

The only thing that could have made the concert more complete would have been if Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman or some other vintage MTV VJ had been the emcee.

Twitter: @JonBream 612-673-1719

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