How Do You Describe A Feeling?... Live @ The O2 Arena, August 4 2008


5 août 2008, 17h52m

Mon 4 Aug – Kylie Minogue

I'll try to keep the smug gloating to a minimum, but suffice to say my current job has some stellar benefits! Sure, I'm back behind a desk answering all kinds of flustered calls from people whose English is less than proficient, retaining my position as the first person they have to speak to and the last person that they want to. And I am more than a little demystified by the amount of stress, time and inventive expletives used to book an artist into a venue, a festival or a stadium. Yet as I was given my guest pass and "free bar" wristband upon entering the O2 Arena for Kylie Minogue's last European date of her promotional tour for her most recent album X, I couldn't help but feel more than a little excited! It may have been offset by the shame of Brighton Pride that a friend and I merrily endured Saturday prior or the woozily choppy ferry ride along the Thames to the venue itself (complete with a visual display that outdid that old proverb about alcoholic receptacles stranded upon precarious structures), but I was back in gay mode for what had been promised as a visual spectacular soundtracked by disco ditties so pleasurable that any guilt that should have been felt was quite frankly told to piss right off... even if my half-hearted attempt at high street/soulless fashion, complete with eyeliner, betrayed my own cynical ideas of gay signifiers and iconography. Still, if I can't hook up with someone at a Yazoo concert, how in the hell can I at one of Kylie's??!!

For those unfamiliar with the O2, I really cannot stress how fucking gigantic the place really is. A couple of months ago, I did actually go and see Neil Diamond there with a wonderful friend of mine (not my thing... but he did barmily recite an impassioned sermon calling for tolerance of the gays and transgenders to thousands of white-bred traditionalists, which was really quite hilarious), and our having to walk around the whole of the stadium to get to seats that rendered the mighty stage down to a respectable speck in my line of vision really left me in awe... and kind of like I'd walked into a Nazi rally by mistake! This time, however, the whole work party had taken up a good three-row block of seats that sat on the upper left (and within throwing distance) of the stage... given the visual opulence of the show to follow though, it really didn't matter where you sat in the end. I'd heard that Kylie's team of designers, choreographers and video artists had done well to out Showgirl her last tour and that the widely reported £10 million price tag of the tour suggested we were in for a treat, but it became something else entirely once album track Speakerphone started buzzing ominously through the speakers as the black curtain wrapped around the stage elegantly fell...

What you had for £10 million was the most intoxicatingly bizarre visual resplendence that amount could buy. Most of it would most certainly have been used to design, orchestrate and finally power the enormous visual panels kitted along the far wall and the stage floor itself, as well as a fair amount used to portray the various patterned sequences and scenarios beamed through in digitally-enhanced Technicolour gloss, most featuring Kylie in all variety of cyber-kitten get-ups from Kabuki to space vixen to Night Porter-style rebel. Another sizable chunk would have been spent on the physical setpieces themselves, among which were a black pyramid that rose from centre stage to reveal the titular star wrapped inside a detailed Japanese headdress before the night's first truly memorable song performance, Come Into My World, and the enormous golden skull she saucily strapped herself onto and that carried her centre stage about thirty feet in the air for Like a Drug. The costume changes were innumerable, even for the intensely acrobatic dancers; a mixture of different pop culture reference points, the most eyecatching being her tiny sky blue cheerleader outfit for Heart Beat Rock and her first costume which most was most probably inspired by the villainous angelic robots that populated her appearance on BBC's Doctor Who last Christmas, a long flowing black tunic with gold details and a nuts'n'bolts-style chunky halo.

Being a show fronted by an international icon as opposed to a celebrated musician, the event itself was very well-executed, nary a hitch, slip-up or crazy spontaneous moment to be seen or heard. For a show of such galvanizing virtuosity though, one could be forgiven for wondering if maybe the music itself could have afforded to be a little more adventurous in their arrangements, given that so much money was spent to necessitate one keyboardist, one guitarist, one bassist, one drummer, two back-up vocalists and a brass band trio. One of the night's standout moments was the band finally rocking out in the fade-out to Slow, no doubt inspired by Tricky's own punk-flavored interpretation on his new album. And fan favorites such as Confide in Me and the new album's best kept secret Stars could have been added instead of the am-dram tongue-in-cheekiness of the showgirl interlude featuring a spirited-if-displaced version of Barry Manilow's Copacabana (At The Copa). Understandably, it's all in an effort to tick boxes for each denomination of Kylie's huge fanbase, which embraces nursery school children as much as it does elderly party-rabblers, and the sheer glossiness of the whole shebang is pretty much critic-proof. Though Kylie's own personality and influence on the night yielded some curious results, especially with her more recent work...

The first half was definitely slower and a little more robotic than the second and the influence of Kylie's present-day peers were highly in evidence. The Gwen Stefani influence that seems to have eaten away at so many female soloists recently was in full swing, quite flagrantly so on the cheerleader atmos on the aforementioned Heart Beat Rock. Björk's more recent oriental fashions and headgear were referenced for the Kabuki segment on the tour, which still provided some of the night's better songs. Speakerphone and Nu-di-ty were daringly (and racily) performed in spite of their drawing the latest album's most critical daggers, the latter especially sounding like a Britney Spears knockoff. And even if she managed to pull it off, the video display of Kylie in digitally spiritual rapture that provided a backdrop for her otherwise moving rendition of No More Rain quite inescapably, maybe even tastelessly, ripped off Madonna's finest moments from the Ray of Light era. However, whenever Kylie finally gave in to her back catalogue of camp fun and frolics (which, let's face it, is the single most defining and lovable attribute about her as a pop singer), it was the stuff of pop heaven, especially those that tested her upper register. The relentless bombast of Your Disco Needs You justifiably drew the loudest reaction of the night from the crowd, alongside Come Into My World and On a Night Like This. And thankfully, she knows how to pull off a great encore that quite elegantly traversed her latest (The One and Love at First Sight) and with one last camp gesture embraced the Stock Aitken Waterman days finally with I Should Be So Lucky.

The spit and polish of the whole night was precisely as shiny and calculated as the X album, but to draw a critical line under all of that would be unfair. Though Kylie embraces arty cyber-retro references in all of her songs and videos that allow listeners with a degree of so-called sophistication to enjoy her work, a Kylie album/show is about having a good time first and foremost, and on that level alone the performance last night was a success. It also must be said that her winning vivantism goes a long way in making all of this camp pomposity digestible, if not credible, herself keeping a playful handle on the show with trademark mid-show banter that encourages the audience rather than belittles them. X isn't the best Kylie album, especially when compared to those indelible dance hits from years ago, but it's still trussed up in the best possible package a pop star can provide for their fans and Kylie's European tour ended on a fabulous note last night. If only this whole Gwen Stefani thing would just stop... :^/


  • Mimey

    Shame? Shame? Oh you mean missing the parade due to SOMEONE's tardiness, do you? ;-) It is much easier to tolerate your good gig fortune fringe benefits when you seem so appreciative of them. You will surely lose all your friends the first time you go all "oh ANOTHER glamorous gig last night, how very tedious." So Kylie is fully aware of my love now, yes? I should expect an email inviting me out to dinner any day now? Fingers crossed! :-P

    5 août 2008, 19h26m
  • Orange_Anubis

    How marvellous! I love that she had a chunky halo costume at one point!

    5 août 2008, 22h24m
  • CvaldaVessalis

    Tardy or not, good times were had, even if at one point I nearly blew up an entire street! And did manage to yell your email address at Kylie at one point, but considering there were at least 10,000 other people shouting at her at the same time, I can't be certain if she did get all of it... :^/

    6 août 2008, 9h43m
  • Mimey

    I can't really ask for more than that!

    6 août 2008, 20h37m
  • musicalmadgari

    Work definitely has it's benefits - third row in, dead centre - hurrah! Good review - great read! Can't wait for the DVD!

    7 août 2008, 9h35m
  • CvaldaVessalis

    You lucky thing, musicalmadgari! I suppose the only thing I'd miss from not being where you was sat was every single groin thrust of all those dancers... maybe I ought to get the DVD after all! ;^)

    7 août 2008, 9h50m
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