On Saturday, September 15th, 2018, Mariah “The Boss” and I, along with our good friends Peter and Chere “Rabid Chihuahua” Jones, headed south to catch Boy George and his cohorts in concert! We made sure to leave town early enough that we could make a stop for dinner at the new McMenamins’ Kalama Harbor Lodge, which recently opened right on the Columbia River in Kalama, Washington.
The building itself looks great, and although McMenamins is kind of known for buying old properties and restoring them, they built this facility from the ground up. Despite the fact that the building is brand new, it looks old on the INSIDE because they used a lot of reclaimed materials to build and decorate it. The ambience is fantastic, and it would probably be a fun place to stay, if you’re cruising through the Northwest and need a place to sleep for the night. Unfortunately, I can’t really speak very highly of the food. Between the four of us in our party, we tried three different entrees (Peter and I both had the King Kalama burger), and NONE of us were particularly happy with what we ordered. The food was also pretty damn expensive, considering only one of us ate the whole meal (and he ended up having stomach issues later!) I only had about two bites of mine… (I asked for no onions, and it was swimming in onions. I asked for no sauce, and it was covered in sauce. I was hoping for a hamburger—I got a “HOW HOT CAN YOU HANDLE” challenge…) So, our overall impression of the joint: looks nice, might be a good place to have a couple of drinks and some appetizers (which weren’t too bad), but avoid the dinner menu (unless you have a deep wallet and an iron stomach!)
Anyway, we made the best of it—and then broke the news to Peter that we weren’t going straight home after dinner but had a little stop to make in Portland before calling it a night. (He’s more of a Rob Zombie or Big and Rich music fan than a New Waver, so his wife felt it best NOT to tell him we were going to see Culture Club until it was too late for him to say no…) After convincing him that we weren’t joking, we got back on the freeway and headed for Portland!
Our destination was the Theater of the Clouds at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. I hadn’t seen a concert at the Moda Center before this (I’d only been there for comic conventions), but Mariah had seen Depeche Mode a few months before at this venue and said it was a great show. The “Theater of the Clouds” is, I believe, just the main stadium (where the Portland Trailblazers entertain their fans with their sporting skills) with some curtains up so that you can only see a portion of the arena. We had some nosebleed tickets, too, and I mean we were WAY up in the stands. Like SCARY HIGH! (We had to duck, on occasion, for passing satellites…) It was so far up, and the seating is so STEEP, that I was terrified just climbing the stairs. I get vertigo, and this section of the venue, for someone like me, was pretty scary to get to—but the one good thing about steep seating is that the person in front of me could have been eight feet tall and I wouldn’t have had any trouble seeing over his head!
The first act out of the chute was Tom Bailey (formerly the front man for The Thompson Twins) with a new, all female backing band, and they were FANTASTIC! Bailey maybe didn’t have as much energy as he did when he was 20, but he still moved around the stage a lot, playing a variety of different instruments and ripping through his well-known back catalog. The band was fab, and the sound they produced was a cool mixture of techno atmospherics and programming, infused with those old Thompson Twins’ tones, which gave the nostalgia a kind of updated, electro feel. Very cool. Besides the classic cuts, Bailey also played a newer song, “Science Fiction,” which was interesting and enjoyable enough that I’m going to look for his new album next time I’ve got some extra cash! Chere, who was mostly interested in seeing The B-52’s, said she was surprised at how much she enjoyed Tom Bailey’s set, and I agree. His performance was great! The songs are iconic, the stage show was fun to watch, AND his final cut (“Hold Me Now,” of course) had the entire audience on its feet and singing along! Well done, Mr. Bailey and associates. Well done.
I apologize for the quality of my photographs (actually, according to the signs all over the place as we were coming into the theater, NO photography or video recording were supposed to be allowed—although the folks sitting directly in front of me seemed to be live-streaming the entire show as it was going on!!!) I don’t have a professional camera, just my silly phone, and I didn’t realize I was going to be two miles away from the bands, but I did my best! The poor, little camera on my phone even has trouble taking up close shots when the light is low. (Here’s a couple of “concert selfies” with me and “The Boss” as examples of low light imagery!)
Next up was The B-52’s, who I’m sure most people know as a fabulous party band with several mainstream hits! If you DON’T know The B-52’s—which seems unlikely, but not impossible—they are a tongue-in-cheek, surf, rock, dance band with clever lyrics and great male/female vocal interplay, and very high energy songs that make you feel good, whether you want to or not! They were fantastic to witness live as well, with a quirky, amusing stage show, and classic, iconic tunes. At one point, Fred Schneider left the stage, leaving Kate and Cindy to tear through a couple of the female fronted tracks (“52 Girls” has always been one of my favorite songs), and he came back a few songs later wearing a gigantic, pink, cotton candy wig and ridiculous, over-sized glasses for “Party Out of Bounds!” It was hilarious! And that’s what you get from The B-52’s: a great sense of humor and a party in a box! Mariah and Chere pointed out that the vocals maybe weren’t quite as strong as they used to be, (they thought Ms. Williams was having some trouble sustaining her notes), and the dancing might be a bit more subdued than it was in “the old days,” but for heaven’s sake, these performers have been AT IT since the 1970s! Fred is something like 67 years old now! You can’t expect him to do the “Shy Turnip” with the same gusto as he did in ’81, and for my money, the show was still excellent!
And finally, we get to Boy George, who has been one of the most influential and controversial performers since the 1980s, when he chose to come out as an openly gay man in a world that wasn’t quite sure what to make of that (yet. We’re WAY past caring about sexual orientation, now, right?) Regardless of his sexuality (or perhaps DESPITE it) he and his band managed to rack up an impressive string of hits in the U.S. and around the world, and he has continued to be a force to be reckoned with for four solid decades now (as a DJ, a producer, a performance artist, AND a musician.)
I sometimes forget how good Culture Club was/is as a band, even though I still have both Kissing to be Clever and Colour by Numbers on vinyl. The mixture of reggae/ska rhythms, r&b pop sensibility, and George’s unique vocals really is fantastic, and the band was spot on perfect performing live. (Mariah says she forgot how good “Church of the Poison Mind” is, too. I’m not the only one with a bad memory!) George’s vocals have a deeper, more bar-room quality to them now (HE isn’t 19 anymore, either!), but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and his back-up singers were all incredibly talented. The show was excellent, and the band started straight out of the gate with a Bowie tribute song. (Peter didn’t care for it, but I thought it was a touching gesture.) Then they cracked right on through a number of “sing-along” classics, with George giving us some great, stand-up comedy banter between the numbers. He really is a hilariously funny performer (sassy!) who knows how to entertain a crowd. The band also performed an Aretha Franklin tune, obviously in tribute to her, and pulled out a Robert Palmer cut from the 80s, as well. (I didn’t remember that Palmer was also a goner, until I looked it up!) If you’re going to do cover tunes, you might as well make them meaningful!
Overall, this was a FANTASTIC, FUN, highly enjoyable experience, which I would happily see again if given the chance. (Although I might spring for floor seats next time…) I was very impressed by all of the performers, and very happy to have been able to share the experience with some good friends (and with Mariah, of course!) The evening was primarily a nostalgia fest, reaching back to our kid-hoods, but so what??? The music from the 80s is still fucking awesome. I don’t care what the slags and haters and downers want to say. I’ve been a PROUD WAVER since the late 1970s. Blondie, Devo, Billy Idol / Generation X, The Cure, Adam Ant, Depeche Mode, OMD, The B-52’s, New Order, Gary Numan, The Clash, The Thompson Twins, Human League, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Heaven 17, Thomas Dolby, Men Without Hats, Public Image Ltd., Siouxsie and The Banshees, Yaz, Naked Eyes… These are my favorite bands, and they have been since I was a kid! I was never ashamed to love what I really love, even when the world went GRUNGE, and I was supposed to hate electronic music and spectacle and futurism. FUCK THAT! I’m still holding my FAITH that the NEW WAVE sensibility will come back into fashion, someday—that the future will seem BRIGHT and PROMISING again, that we’ll finally get those silver jump-suits and bright lights and colorful architectural designs that we were promised 30 or 40 years ago—eventually. Until then, keep that NEW WAVE SPIRIT alive, and dance like a star!
—Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Supreme Bunny Lord of The P.E.W.)
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