Monday, October 12, 2009

Kylie across America

Even before she launched her first US tour in her 22 year career, the Kylie live extravaganza passed into legend. Her final, three show residency at Hammerstein Ballroom in NYC was packed to the teeth with fans who've been gagging to see the pint-sized, Aussie, pop rocket for years. Nobody, myself included, ever thought they would see the day when Kylie would grace a concert stage on American shores. Thankfully, she found time in her busy schedule to swan across North America with nine shows in six cities.

Last night's show, the first of three in NYC, was utterly magnificent. It was an aural and visual assault that is usually seen in arena sized venues. Somehow, Kylie and her crew managed to squeeze all the necessary equipment into the intimate space. Seven, massive, high definition screens, which never ceased to amaze, transmited video vignettes recorded and designed for each of the nearly 30 songs in her live set. Their monolithic presence occupied most of the stage. Lasers shot through the darkness with sparkling accuracy. The stage appeared as if it were a rain slicked street which reflected the colorful images which danced across the screens. And there was nary a dry ice machine in sight.

Most surprising aspect of the evening? Kylie sang every song live. She will admit she doesn't have the strongest voice in the biz, but she gives it her all, does an amazing job and makes it seem completely effortless. After the show, my concert companion and fellow Kylie maniac, Daniel, and I discussed the relative ease with which she commands the stage. With the demanding schedule and vocal work needed to carry off a show of her magnitude, she hardly seems to break a sweat. Comparatively, someone like Beyoncé always looks like she's struggling through every acrobatic move and melismatic vocal that the viewer is left exhausted by the end of even one song's performance. Kylie leaves her audience basking in the glow of a joyous celebration at the end of her nearly two hour show, a journey which is full of fun, reflection and mutual admiration.

"What about the song selection?", I hear you ask. Considering KM has had a career spanning a little more than two decades, she relies on the hits. And by "hits" we mean the ones she's had outside the US considering she has a solid, cult following here rather than the mass media attention she enjoys in the rest of the world. In between the greatest hits, she sprinkled in a smattering of songs from her most recent longplayer, "X".

The show was broken down into seven acts with the final one being the encore. Here's the set list from last night's show in its full glory.

Act 1

1. Overture
2. Light Years
3. Speakerphone
4. Come Into My World
5. In Your Eyes

Act 2

6. Shocked (which incorporated very brief portions of "It's No Secret", "What Kind of Fool (Heard All That Before)", "Step Back In Time" and "Keep On Pumpin' It Up")/What Do I Have To Do?/Spinning Around
7. Better Than Today

Act 3

8. Like A Drug
9. Boombox/Can't Get You Out Of My Head
10. Slow
11. 2 Hearts

Act 4

13. Red Blooded Woman/Where The Wild Roses Grow
14. Heart Beat Rock/Wow

Act 5

15. White Diamond
16. Confide In Me
17. I Believe In You

Act 6

18. Burning Up/Vogue
19. The Loco-Motion
20. Kids
21. In My Arms

Act 7 (Encore)

22. Better The Devil You Know
23. The One
24. Love At First Sight

Kylie started the show with an overture which consisted of a montage of classic film themes. Once the final strains of orchestration started fading, the synths and beats kicked in, the lasers pierced the darkness and Kylie descended from the ceiling of the venue on the top of a giant, chrome skull and trilled through "Light Years", the "I Feel Love" inspired, lead track from the album of the same name. Rapturous applause enveloped the room and the energy level didn't let up the entire evening.

Some of the show's highlights included an energetic "Can't Get You Out Of My Head", which received a roaring welcome, and Kylie's performance of "Slow" in two different styles. It began as the familiar, electro, bleep n' sleazy production from the original recording and segued into a rocked out version with guitarists posturing at the front with power chords. Then she brought on her formidable, horn section on to provide some light funk and fever to the burlesque backdrop of "2 Hearts".

From burlesque to beefcake, Ms. Minogue clearly shows she has studied her core, consumer demographic. Cue shower scene and scantily clad, musclebound dancers on the floor to ceiling screen. Such was the setting for "Red Blooded Woman" which stayed true to the song's original production featured on the album, "Body Language". Oh, the synchronicity! Because Kylie trotted out her male dancers wearing nothing more than red, terricloth towels while she sat perched on a pommel horse from which she sang. The entire time, homoerotic shots of her dancers in a variety of sports related scenes - gym workouts, weightlifting, boxing, gymnastics - played across the bank of screens. You could hear the audience salivating.

At the end of "Red Blooded Woman", Kylie delivered a brief burst of her Nick Cave duet, "Where The Wild Roses Grow". Without missing a beat, she continued the sports motif with a cheerleading, drumline rendition of "Heart Beat Rock" and ripped right into "Wow".

Earlier on in the show, during her retro set in which she played a medley of older hits including "Shocked", "What Do I Have To Do?" and "Spinning Around", she cleverly hinted at several of her Stock Aitken Waterman produced chestnuts including "It's No Secret", "What Kind Of Fool (Heard It All Before)", "Step Back In Time" and "Keep On Pumpin' It Up", which was a surprise considering it was originally a PWL single credited to The Vision Masters & Tony King featuring Kylie Minogue way back in 1991. All of the retro selections were performed in front of the massive screens which featured acid house smiley faces, bright neon colored graphics and filmed footage of her dancers made to look as if they were shot in the early 90s.

After a brief step back in time, Kylie flashed fast forward to the future as she treated her audience - who by this time were eating out of the palms of her pretty, little hands - to a brand new song, "Better Than Today", from her forthcoming, eleventh longplayer.



The song, which bears more than a passing resemblance to something which Scissor Sisters might have produced for Kylie, was written by British singer/songwriter Nerina Pallot. We've uncovered a clip of Nerina performing the jaunty, little number at recent live show in the UK.



After the amazing, eye popping performance of "Wow", Kylie took the tempo down a bit and performed a selection of ballads stretched out on an velvet chaise, all of which was preceded by an ode to vintage film. Kylie spoke snippets of dialogue from classic Hollywood movies accompanied by sweeping cinematic orchestration. For this segment, she chose a backdrop which reflected the art deco design of the golden age of film. A black and white shot of the New York City skyline featured in the background while a full moon floated high above the stage. Then she delivered dramatic renditions of "White Diamond", "Confide In Me" and "I Believe You", which was stripped of its original, disco glitter and given a lovely, heartwarming, string and piano arrangement. The true essence of the song was able to breathe which allowed the listener to discover the aspirational beauty of it.

Only three ballads on the tarmac and KM Air took off for another flight as more burlesque inspired imagery strutted across the stage. Kylie mashed up her own "Burning Up" with the spoken break from Madonna's "Vogue", which provided another hint at old school, Hollywood glamor. She cooed her way through a thoroughly swingtastic, sex kitten rendition of her debut, Australian single, "The Loco-Motion" and launched immediately into "Kids" where her backing singers took over Robbie Williams' vocal duties. The last song before the encore was the zippy, synth number, "In My Arms".

And what an encore it was! Three songs across her entire repertoire including the bouncy and joyful "Better The Devil You Know" followed by the glorious, icy warmth of "The One" and the sheer sparkle of "Love At First Sight".

Sadly, no "I Should Be So Lucky" or my favorite, "Put Yourself In My Place". Also, "On A Night Like This', which is listed in her program, was conspicuously missing.

Overall, Kylie's concert was a greatest hits tour in more ways than one. She not only performed songs from across her entire career, she also pulled in her favorite visual elements from her various tours, thus giving US fans a glimpse into many images they may have missed over the years.

Simply put, Kylie loves being a showgirl. Her stage design and presence is dripping in the Las Vegas style and tradition so expertly presented by Cher during her various residencies in Sin City. And Kylie has fun. There is never a moment where you feel like she isn't loving the art and spectacle of it all. No messages. No pretense. No forced smiles. She and the audience are having the time of their lives.

6 comments:

  1. A+ on your review! I have a few of her past concerts on my computer and it was nice to see bits of them performed again and NOT in an arena sized venue. Since the Hollywood Bowl is outside ... those lasers you wrote about shot to the sky! Amazing. I read somewhere recently that she's going to do a full-on las vegas stint!?! If that's true ... I'm sooooooo there! LOL.

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  2. Amazing review - feel like i was there. I saw her showgirl tour in England, loved it (obviously) and felt like I was at a theatrical production. She really does go all out.

    I adore Nerina Pallot too - her new album is full of the pop elements of Better Than Today, but if you get chance dip into her oft overlooked debut for songs like Watch Out Billie and Jump. Magic. She was in concert last night in Birmingham and was just wonderful.

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  3. @Mike - Thanks for the compliments! I would have loved to have seen Kylie at the Hollywood Bowl. Not sure she could hold a long, LV residency, though.

    A little bird told me a new album should see the light of day in March or April!

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  4. @Paul - Thanks! Glad you like the review. It was tough watching the show, taking notes, dancing and trying to remember everything!

    I'll check out Nerina ASAP. Thanks for the tip.

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  5. Excellent review and, of the many I've read, one of the most lovingly detailed. It sounds like it was a really great show, and I'm glad to hear everyone (including Kylie) was having fun. She really is one of a kind. :)

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  6. @Moogaboo - Thanks! It was a magnificent show. There was lots of love in the audience.

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