(Words – Ian Bell, Photos – Rodney Magazinovic)
All the way through Kylie Minogue’s incredible pop-tastic concert on Tuesday there was one persistent thought returning to my brain again and again.
Kylie is simply the most Eurovision-esque act we have ever produced.
She is pop.
She loves a bit of glitter and sparkle.
She can do a quick change.
She’s a show pony.
She knows a bit of French.
Sorry Guy Sebastian, but Kylie was our only hope to out Euro-pop the Europeans in Australia’s one-off chance to compete in this year’s Eurovision. I mean, I wish you well and all, and ‘yay Australia’, but y’know where I am coming from right?
Kylie is pop perfection.
The tribes of St Patrick’s Day revellers slowed me down in getting to the venue in time for Australia’s latest pop starlet, Betty Who (word was she was good), but there was no way I was going to miss one second of Giorgio Moroder’s brief DJ set. Not that you would have known it by the number of people chatting away, playing on Facebook and generally ignoring his set, but that 74 year old Italian man up there is an absolute legend. A pioneer of electronic dance music, a king of the disco era, producer, writer, musical architect, innovator, and influence. He produced all of Donna Summer’s biggest hits, worked with Blondie, Freddie Mercury, and recently has worked with Daft Punk and, of course, Kylie. The man who wrote the soundtrack to Midnight Express. The guy who wrote Electric Dreams with Phil Oakey from Human League. Here he is. On the stage DJing only songs he has had a hand in creating. Love To Love You Baby, Flashdance, Hot Stuff, I Feel Love, Bad Girls, Call Me. His new album will feature collaborations with SIA, Britney Spears, Foxes and Charli XCX, among others. There are some who know exactly who is in our presence and like myself, they are freaking out a bit. In Europe or the States, it would have been a euphoric and reverent dance party, but whilst it was great to have this Disco Icon here for the few, his set was largely under appreciated by much of the audience.
After a short break, the air was electric with anticipation and it was time for the main event. From the moment the lights go down we are on a sugar-coated rollercoaster ride with the woman Moroder described as our ‘national treasure’. For 26 years Kylie has been all about the pop. Uncomplicated and unashamed. The music is mostly to dance to, to have fun with and that is exactly what we are here for.
The set is revealed with a metal construction that look like girders, but serves as a structure for dancers, band members and often stunning video projections. Kylie arrives lying down on a large pair of neon lips as the band rips into Les Sex from last years Kiss Me Once album. Wearing a short red dress and matching fascinator, she could well be on her way to a Melbourne Cup lunch (as long as it was disco themed and had room for scantily clad dancers and a mega tonne of lights). In My Arms (X 2007), co-written by Calvin Harris, keeps people moving. While newer numbers like Timebomb and Wow are really well received, when the band starts vamping on Step Back In Time the joint goes mental with delight. That crowd favourite merges into Spinning Around, and here is a song that every single person can sing-a-long to in the ‘La La La’ parts of the chorus.
One of my absolute favourite Kylie songs is next. The anthemic Your Disco Needs You was released in 2001 from the Light Years album, co-written by Robbie Williams and Guy Chambers, its disco beats and chanted chorus often reminds me of The Pet Shop Boys Go West, and it has become a staple of Minogue’s concert tours.
Throughout the night Kylie interacts with the fans. Some are seeing her for the first time. Some have been with her all along. And one French guy is attending his 31st concert on this tour! He is rewarded with an on-stage selfie.
On A Night Like This has everyone dancing and leads perfectly to the return of Giorgio Moroder, now behind a DJ console made of a silhouette of his face. Apparently the underwhelming reaction to his set earlier has not gone unnoticed by Kylie. She suggests that we ‘Google’ him. Together they perform Right Here Right Now, their collaboration which was leaked from the forthcoming Moroder album, just in time for the tour. There is a tantalizing moment when Kylie busts out a couple of lines from the Donna Summer classic I Feel Love, but they sadly take it no further.
Much of this audience is excited by Kylie’s more recent material: when Slow starts there are gasps and squeals. A video of Chasing Ghosts gives Kylie the chance for another costume change before a blockbuster medley of Hand On Your Heart, Never Too Late, Got To Be Certain and I Should Be So lucky (complete with a recreation of the bath tub scene from the original video). Some artists shun their early work, embarrassed or bored by the naivety of their oldest hits, especially in the pop world. But one of the great triumphs of a Kylie concert is her ability to have as much fun with her back catalogue as her audience. Each new song in this medley is met with a huge cheer, and less clothes, as a couple of her hunky dancers help her get down to a heart shaped camisole and glittery underpants by the time she is getting out of the bath.
Down is another video costume change opportunity and when she rises from under the stage atop a huge table, Kylie is wearing a fetish cop hat and skirt. There is some poignancy in Minogue singing the INXS classic I Need U Tonite. It’s a great version but everybody in this audience is well aware of the tragic end that came to Kylie’s former boyfriend Michael Hutchence. It is followed up with Sexercise, written by Adelaide’s own super pop success story Sia Furler, who also acted as executive producer on the latest album. It’s a catchy song with hilarious choreography and everybody on stage is have a ball with it. Can’t Get You Out Of My Head provides a chorus that anybody can sing along with (more La La La’s) and everybody can dance to. It is also an interesting (if possibly co-incidental) run of songs, from the Ramsey Street innocence of Got to Be Certain, through the seismic impact of Hutchence on her personally and musically, through the Sexercise awakening and the longing for your perfect lover in Need U Tonight.
While re-distributing a gift from a fan of two dozen roses to the crowd, there is a lovely moment when she trusts her fans to send a rose from the front row to the very back of the upstairs seats while she sings Tears On My Pillow acapella. It is worth noting that unlike many of her pop princess contemporaries, Minogue is singing live with a voice bold and strong. There is quite a lot of choreography, but it it’s not the high impact aerobic workout style which forces many divas to rely on backing tracks. So Kylie is wise enough to know at 46 years old, trying to keep up with the onstage version of your thirty-years-younger self is a fool’s errand. She lets the dancers dance and her costumes and sparkles provide some of the colour and movement for her.
A cracking version of Kids still works really well, despite Robbie Williams’ absence. Beautiful is a stunning ballad from the latest CD, co-written and recorded with Enrique Iglesias. And perhaps it’s my line of thinking about the set list’s/Hutchence arc that makes me think it’s about him.
It used to be, you and me
Love like no other
Our world around, could fall apart
But we had each other
Saw you walking, you were smiling
And it hit me like the first time
Feels like yesterday, has come and gone
But nothing’s changed, when I look at you
You, you are so beautiful
You, you are so beautiful
You’re my eyes
I just want you to know
That after all this time
You’re still the one
Another costume change into a Mardi Gras showgirl outfit of black and silver, and we are hitting the home stretch. Kiss Me Once, Get Out of My Way and a incredible Love At First Sight and we are almost home. But then she brings out The Locomotion, suddenly it’s thirty years ago, she is seventeen, her accent hasn’t been anglophiled and she’s just taking those first steps into the charts. She’s Charlene on Neighbours and all the girls want to be her friend and all the guys wish they were Jason Donovan. It’s perfect.
The set finishes up with a spectacular All The Lovers from Aphrodite (2010).
The lights are down but we are going nowhere. She returns for a one song encore of Into the Blue, the opening track from the Kiss Me Once album. It’s great, but not quite as euphoric as it might have been with a bigger hit to close. There was a lot of love in the room tonight. For almost three decades Kylie Minogue has been defying the critics, smashing records and being a world class act.
On a night like this, all should bow before the magnificent Queen of Pop, Her Most Royal Majesty, Kylie Minogue. Long may she reign.
In My Arms
Step Back in Time/Spinning Around
Your Disco Needs You
On a Night Like This
Right Here Right Now (with Giorgio Moroder)
I Feel Love (snippet)
Chasing Ghosts (video)
Hand On Your Heart / Never Too Late /Got to Be Certain/ I Should Be So Lucky
I Need U Tonight
Can’t Get You Out of My Head
Tears on my Pillow
Kiss Me Once
Get out of my Way
Love At First Sight
All The Lovers
Into The Blue