03 August 2008
There was a good family atmosphere at this week's Kylie Minogue concerts at the O2. Before she came on stage, the cameras were pointed at the audience, prompting the kids to giggle at their faces on the giant screen and the twentysomethings to flash their gold hotpants. With the mix tape playing before the show, and the crowd involved from their arrival, it felt more more like a baseball game than a concert. Perhaps that's because I usually go to rock concerts, and this was the best in pop music.
If any proof were needed of Kylie's broad appeal, you only needed to visit the merchandise stand. Goodies ranged from sticker sheets at a pocket-money friendly £2, up to signed coffee table books weighing in at £250. Every purchase came with a 1.2ml sample bottle of her latest perfume. She isn't just a singer, she's a brand.
And she's always been an actress, of course. There are brief moments where you see a flicker of something in her face that quickly fades, and you're left wondering how much of the real Kylie came out to play tonight.
I've seen Kylie before, back in 1997 when she was writing songs with the Manic Street Preachers and lost her core audience for a while. That was at the Shepherds Bush Empire, and a very different production to tonight's show.
At the O2, the scale of the show was much bigger. There were dancers and acrobats, glitter cannons, and balloons falling from the ceiling with Kylie's name on each one. Video screens behind the performers and under their feet across the whole stage made each mini-set look different. There were seven costume changes, including Kylie as a cheerleader while the dancers were American Footballers, and Kylie flying in on a giant silver skull wearing a red uniform.
The setlist concentrated on her latest album X, which is no bad thing. It's a strong album, with the opening track Speakerphone, the singles Wow and 2 Hearts, and the album tracks Like A Drug and In My Arms being as strong as anything she's released before. The track Nudity didn't quite work, but it was the only misfire. The rest of the songs were drawn mainly from the albums of the noughties, which made for a consistent disco-led set. When the drums kicked in on an extended version of Slow, it was particularly powerful and I enjoyed hearing Love Boat, Can't Get You Out Of My Head, and Love At First Sight.
The unaccompanied introduction to Step Back In Time reminded us all she can really sing. This show was a proper live gig, with the exception of a playback rap on Shocked which masked a costume change while Kylie was backstage. Shocked and I Should Be So Lucky were rare concessions to the past, and the Deconstruction years were overlooked. I had hoped to hear Confide In Me, which would have brought a nice contrast to the set.
For all the show-womanship, the production was really about live music. The band was tight (including Kim Wilde's niece on backing vocals, trivia fans), and Kylie focused on the vocals. Her own dance moves were relatively limited to avoid exhaustion, where others before her have often chosen to mime instead. The whole show was uplifting and positive. Good, honest, family fun.