Atlanta Music Scene

Atlanta music, concerts and entertainment

Concert review and photos: Culture Club, B-52s and Tom Bailey brave the rain to brighten up Chastain

From the…And So It Goes Department.

On Saturday night, Jason Aldean’s sold-out performance at SunTrust Park was delayed more than an hour because of a severe weather threat – and it never rained.

On Sunday night, the blissful ‘80s lineup of Tom Bailey (of Thompson Twins fame), The B-52s and Culture Club sold out State Bank Amphitheatre at Chastain Park, and for about two hours a steady blanket of water doused fans.

But, without the threat of lightning, the show stayed on course and fans – many prepared with ponchos and umbrellas – seemed even more amped by the weather as they danced at their seats (upon arriving on stage, Fred Schneider of The B-52s cracked, “I hope the weather isn’t ruining your artisanal cheeses!”).

Tom Bailey sounded record perfect on some Thompson Twins favorites. Photo: Melissa Ruggieri/AJC

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Before the sogginess seeped in, however, Bailey took the stage with his three-piece female band.

Everyone on stage – all clad in white - proved a marvel at multi-instrumentation. Bailey shifted from keyboards to electronic drums to guitar to harmonica throughout the 40-minute set, which opened with one of TT’s smaller hits, 1982’s “In the Name of Love.”

Not only has Bailey aged well physically, but his voice was remarkably supple as he sated fans with “Lay Your Hands on Me” - complete with mid-song guitar and cowbell licks – and “Doctor! Doctor!,” its familiar moody synthesizers at the forefront.

While Bailey knows that fans want to hear the familiar, he also just released his first solo album, which is also his first new music in 25 years, so one new track could be expected on the set list. 

Bailey chose the title track, “Science Fiction,” which glimmered with the New Wave sheen that dominates past work.

There would be no exiting the stage until the inevitable “Hold Me Now,” a worldwide smash for Thompson Twins in 1983 and still a staple of Flashback Friday playlists. The record-perfect rendition was augmented by the enthusiastic crowd, which stood and sang along, even as the band stopped playing their instruments until the song faded out in a chorus of vocals.

Bailey is hardly a frequent presence in Atlanta, so his inclusion on this ‘80s-centric tour was indeed an extra value.

Cindy Wilson of The B-52s plays her bongos at the start of the Chastain concert. Photo: Melissa Ruggieri/AJC

As the rain began to pelt, The B-52s - whose tenure stretches back to the late-’70s - bopped out to “Planet Claire,” in all of its colorful, bizzaro glory.

Cindy Wilson, her hair in a bouffant straight out of 1980, stood in a form-fitting gown to the right of the always-engaging Fred Schneider, while Kate Pierson, boasting crimson hair and a rainbow cape over a bust-enhancing, glittery dress hung on Schneider’s left, flailing her arms as she sang and bringing many splashes of color to the stage. 

Joined by guitarist Greg Suran, keyboardist Ken Mairui, bassist Tracy Wormworth and drummer Sterling Campbell, the band tore through a set list including “Private Idaho,” “Dance This Mess Around” and “Mesopotamia.”

The dampened audience flapped arms and gyrated hips as The B-52s blitzed through a non-stop musical party, their own dance moves a combination of herky-jerky 1960s and disco abandon.

Kate Pierson brought many splashes of color to the stage. Photo: Melissa Ruggieri/AJC

Wilson, Schneider and Pierson all sounded strong – Pierson’s banshee wails countered by Wilson’s cooler tone and Schneider’s almost comically staccato proclamations - three unique pieces that all own a piece of the quirk that defines the Athens-birthed band. 

The women were especially in sync on the Schneider-less “Roam,” the most conventionally poppy song in their catalog.

Schneider broke out the glockenspiel for the Wilson-fronted “Give Me Back My Man” and then grasped a cowbell for the intro to “Love Shack.” The spirited shout-singalong was punctuated by a mid-song detour into War’s “Low Rider,” a clever way to extend the performance of their biggest hit.

Before wrapping with a strobe-light-flashing finale for “Rock Lobster,” Schneider had one message for the crowd – “Let’s move forward, not backward.”

Fred Schneider of The B-52s gets funky on "Planet Claire" at Chastain. Photo: Melissa Ruggieri/AJC

About 9:30 p.m., the recognizable pulse of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” boomed from the stage as Culture Club opened its show with an homage to the British icon.  

Almost immediately, centerpiece Boy George toyed with the fans in the front row, telling one, “Wow, that dress is amazing!” and later leaning into the face of another and saying cheekily, “Get off your phone and concentrate!” (which garnered a huge cheer).

But he also shared anecdotes and asides with fans, referring to Culture Club as “a living, breathing soap opera.” Joining the original quartet of George, drummer Jon Moss, bassist Mikey Craig and guitarist Roy Hay was a quartet of musicians – including a saxophonist – and a team of backup singers.

Although Boy George sounded rougher than usual on “Let’s Dance” and his voice IS huskier than the golden soul-pop days, he settled in nicely on the pulsing “It’s a Miracle” and “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya,” the song’s silky Caribbean lilt a welcome antidote to the weather.

Boy George performs one of Culture Club's numerous hits. The band headlined the July 22 show at State Bank Amphitheatre at Chastain Park. Photo: Courtesy of The Image Berne

Sporting a shimmering hat, a long black and gold jacket and gleaming white sneakers, George strolled the stage throughout, looking genuinely happy to share Culture Club’s refined hits, even if “Karma Chameleon” might be the most overplayed song on those same Flashback Friday playlists.

Hearing “Time (Clock of the Heart”) and “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me,” reminded what an anomaly it was that the band’s songs found such success given their throwback soul sounds that contrasted much of Top 40 radio in the ‘80s. Even the harmonically rich “Miss Me Blind” and gospel-pop throwdown, “Church of the Poison Mind,” when heard today, sound impressively distinctive.

And Culture Club isn’t done yet, either. A new album is coming this fall and the band unveiled a few songs, including the soulful blast of sunshine, “The Truth is a Runaway Train” (George said Gladys Knight will be featured on the recording).

“Culture Club is a one-stop shop for anyone who is a little bit different,” Boy George said from the stage, a sentiment that was deeply appreciated by the crowd. 

About the Author

Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer Melissa Ruggieri covers the Atlanta Music Scene and entertainment news for print and online.

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