Ross-On-Wye International Festival

He doesn't disappoint...

The Boy isn’t a has-been. Rather, he’s an always-been. Forever bouncing back from one personal crisis or another and still an indisputable, eccentric star.

There’s almost a misty nostalgic dew oozing through the full seated indoor pavilion marquee as the small town crowd waits for their childhood idol to take the stage. And he doesn’t disappoint. Still wearing that trademark jester-chef hat and a thick paste of make-up, let’s hear it for The Boy, everyone.

Smash hit after not-so smash hit pours out. His revival show, which contains no new songs, is a continuous crowd-pleaser. The crowd soon leap from their seats to sway in that classic ’80s TOTP way. And songs like ‘Church Of The Poison Mind’, still sound as fluffy and fresh as ever – but no different.

“A lot of people really hate this song, but they still bought it,” he remarks as he introduces ‘Karma Chameleon’. At least he has the grace to concede that.

His band – not Culture Club – are a similar standard to what you’d expect on the QEII or Cunard – a cut above the cross-channel ferry entertainers. And mysterious soul singer Zee (as she’s introduced) can volley a cathedral-sized multi-octave holler impressively when summoned.

Frivolous George likes the reverb on his mike, and that’s as radical as he gets. It’s half-arsed pseudo-soul and cod-reggae all the way, with a dash of farty jazz fusion and synth-pop.

No surprises either, apart from when he covers his former idol David Bowie‘s ‘Starman’, and he and his singers massacre the ending in an excruciatingly discordant caterwaul. And is he trying to be clever, or has he really forgotten the tune to ‘Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?’.

The cringeworthy ‘Bow Down Mister’ is his encore song, with an extended crowd chant. It’s one of those occasions when you feel like a killjoy heathen for not clapping along with the rest of them. No, George doesn’t disappoint the foot-stamping, hollering crowd of everyone aged from 30 to 80. But like puffball skirts and shoulder pads, you can’t help feeling some parts of the ’80s are best left in history.