Music reviews: Ball Of The Bells
Culture Club/ Ms Dynamite - Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh ****
By Andrew Burnet
THE main stage at Edinburgh's Hogmanay is not the easiest of gigs. You're guaranteed a packed, up-for-it crowd; but they're of all ages and nationalities, and live music might not actually be their top priority. Also, it's decidedly parky, which can sap the concentration somewhat.
The best kind of bill contains something with broad, nostalgic appeal to pull in a wide audience, backed up with something that's absolutely of the moment. So you could do a lot worse than pair Culture Club, the recently reunited gender-bending darlings of the early 1980s , with Ms Dynamite, unquestionably Britain's outstanding newcomer of 2002.
Culture Club frontman Boy George is a personable but not particularly outspoken host, mostly content to let his songs do the talking. This is fair enough when they're hits from the band's heyday -- they open well with Church Of The Poison Mind, which anyone over 30 will recognise -- but some of the less familiar material simply sounds dated and lacklustre. Fortunately, the set is evenly sprinkled with hits: the lilting reggae of I Just Wanna Be Loved (dedicated to pro-Section 28 bus magnate Brian Souter); the Latin-lite I'll Tumble 4 Ya ; the chart-topping pop of Karma Chameleon.
And even though George is unforthcoming, he's pretty generous. For the show's high point, Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?, he hands over lead vocals to 'one of you lot' -- young Scottish actor Euan Morton, who has been playing George in his autobio graphical stage musical Taboo in London. With his dreadlocks, baggy white romper suit and huge Homburg hat, Morton is the spitting image of the Boy George who emerged in 1981 -- a singing, dancing embodiment of David Bowie's classic line 'not sure if you're a boy or a girl'. And tonight Bowie -- credited by George as 'the man who introduced me to drag' -- receives his own tribute in the closing song, a rapturously received cover of Starman.
Culture Club leave the stage before the bells, though MC Grant Stott does manage to summon George back for the countdown. An unhappily long gap follows as roadies scramble to prepare the stage for Ms Dynamite. The audience is anything but warmed up -- but when the slight, shy 21-year-old finally appears she quickly shows her star quality. It's immediately clear why Dynamite -- known to her family as Niomi Daley -- won a support slot with Eminem, three Mobo awards and the Mercury music prize last year .
She once described her singing as sounding like 'a cat being thrown off a building'. In fact -- with a bit of support from her backing singers -- she comes over as a fiery lark, jiving playfully as she delivers her vengeful jibes at drugs, poverty, violence, evil politics and men behaving badly, offset by those jaunty hip hop backing tracks.
Highlights of a short set include her breakthrough hit Booo!, Krazy Krush and the current single Put Him Out, but demand for an encore becomes urgent when she slips off without playing her heartwarming signature song Dy-na-mi-tee. She has to do it in the end, of course. We're frozen to the bone. We need it.
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