Bill Kaelin

Bill Kaelin: Slave to the rhythm

I love music. I would rather listen to iTunes any day than turn on my TV. I wake up to it, work with it and usually fall asleep to it. The only thing better than listening to my favorite artists is actually seeing them perform their creations live. In a trifecta twist of fate I got to see three of the biggest gay music icons perform recently; with Culture Club becoming the first band I got to check off my bucket list.

I wasn’t expecting much after hearing rumors that lead singer Boy George had lost most of his vocal range as a result of hard living, but hearing him belt out “Black Money” at the beginning of the night proved his staying power and took me on a time-travel trip back to my youth. I remember my Dad’s frustration at the site of George’s “pop tart” image plastered on my bedroom walls but I was blinded to his gender flux by loving his music and sense of style. Thirty-two years later at The Fox Theatre I got more Boy George with a beard than the signature drag queen with dreadlocks, but he seemed happier than ever, acknowledging his past struggles and proving to the audience that “Time” had been good to him in the end by putting on one of the best shows I had seen in a while.

Music Midtown produced the next LGBT live music escapade for me, and is one of those iconic Atlanta events that makes me so proud of our city. The talent this year featured double gay headliners with Elton John and Sam Smith, but since I had already seen Mr. Smith, my loyalty lay with Sir Elton John. If tears could signal a super show, then Elton was off the charts, inducing major waterworks throughout the night. Singing the chorus of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” with tens of thousands of my peers was a spiritual experience, with the rest of the performance spanning The Rocket Man’s entire career. He evoked gasps from the audience with a set list featuring hit after hit.

I didn’t think anything could top that, but then the grand finale of my magical musical tour came courtesy of my gal pal Lisa, who made me an offer I couldn’t refuse when she welcomed me to stay at her beautiful L.A. home to see the legendary Grace Jones at the iconic Hollywood Bowl. Thanks to Delta, my destiny was decided, and off I went to the “Best Coast” for 48 hours to hang out with my bestie and to be the “Slave to Miss Jones’ rhythm” under the super blood moon.

When I was a child, the androgynous supermodel and Andy Warhol muse of the 1980s scared the shit out of me, but as I grew older I learned to appreciate her unique blend of gender-bending performance art, disco and dub music. In concert, her pitch-perfect voice, bare-breasted Keith Haring body paint and countless costume changes well-exceeded my expectations. The show was a nonstop, 2-hour pop art spectacle that was scary, sweet, sentimental and straight up sassy. Grace spoke to the audience in between songs about love and love lost while showing everyone what it means to grow old Gracefully at age 67.

Miss Jones served up some serious performance art, complete with a 10 minute-plus hula hoop session to end the show, leaving me inspired and so grateful that I had the chance to see these three living legends live and in person.

Je’taime beaucoup Miss Jones, Boy George and Elton John and most of all to the music that has become the soundtrack to my life.

Bill Kaelin is the owner of Bill Kaelin Marketing Events and Consulting Agency in Atlanta.