Tuesday, 12 April 2011
Kylie Minogue - Live at the O2 Arena, 9th April 2011
Kylie Minogue will always hold a special place in my heart. Growing up, her music represented a soundtrack to countless memories and emotions; and looking back now, there is a song for every occasion. Aphrodite was one of my favourite albums of last year; All The Lovers confirming her place as one of the most inspiring and magical artists in pop. And for that to stand true over twenty years since her first single was released makes the matter all the more impressive.
With an artist like Kylie, the fact that she blows pretty much every other live concert out of the window goes without saying, leaving the most logical comparisons being with her previous tours. The thing that struck me most was the more naturalistic feel of Les Folies compared to X2008 and Showgirl Homecoming. It might seem a strange thing to say considering the pure opulence of set design and costumes on offer, yet the observation comes less from what Les Folies contained, but more about what its predeccesors did.
Showgirl Homecoming was the big comeback gig (and in my opinion, still the best Kylie gig to date, in many respects due to its virtue as a 'greatest hits' tour, something 'album tours' can find hard to compete with). Then came X2008, Kylie proving herself in a new, rapidly changing age of pop music as well as serving to help boost the relatively low sales of the X album and its singles. These concerts were so immensely extravagent and often futuristic, a physical push to knock the critics back in their track and to say with complete confidence that Kylie was here to stay. But now, with Les Folies tour and the Aphrodite album, Kylie has assured her place in pop for all eternity.
She has finally truly achieved that which she seemed on the cusp of for so long; untouchable national treasure. Thus, she no longer needs to prove herself to her critics; giving her unparraleled freedom to do what she wants with her music and tour. And that freedom really shows. In her performances Kylie is impeccably cheery, radiant and upbeat. And it transmits through to the audience too - they're all up on their feet partying away, clapping along - having the time of their lives. Tonight, Kylie is the friend of each and every person here - those who hold so much adoration for her and her music. Les Folies is a celebration of that adoration.
The songs felt brisk, muscular; as if they'd all been given an extra spring in their step. The costumes and dancing became an integral part of every track. Kylie riding on a winged dancer above the audience while singing a cover of the Eurythmics There Must Be an Angel (Playing with My Heart) was a physical embodiment of this - the unity between Kylie, the design of the show, and the songs all combined effortlessly into one.
I must admit, I was surprised at how Aphrodite-heavy the gig was in terms of the number of tracks from the album. Obviously, as a tour in support of the record, some of these songs were to be expected, but that also means less space for the singles. And when you have as many singles as Kylie, it's impossibly difficult to choose which ones to include - everyone has their favourites. But equally, there are those classics that are everyone's favourites. Better The Devil You Know and an inspired rock version of Can't Get You Out Of My Head are met with immense cheers.
It was the less obvious song choices that were the most moving though - as I mentioned above, with the new freedom Kylie seemed to convey herself with, the concert is opened up to incorporate tracks like Confide In Me (a personal favourite of mine and re-done here in a fantastic dance mix) and If You Don't Love Me. A cover of the Prefab Sprout song and originally serving as Confide In Me's b-side back in 1994, it was a pure delight to see the song resurrected like this. Delivered as an incredibly touching, stripped back piano ballad, it stood as a defiant testament to anyone who still tries to criticise Kylie's vocals. Here, she was flawless, hitting every high note in a performance that was truly angelic.
In terms of pure visual spectacle, the finale must be mentioned, for it is this that stays with me as the pinnacle of the gig; the memory that will stay with me for years to come. Actual water fountains appeared on stage, shooting over ten feet into the air. They then proceeded to flick out into the specially designated 'splash zone', the audience members located there quickly donning blue ponchos to protect their clothes. That in its own right would be more than impressive, but Kylie is always one to go the extra mile. The fountains flashed through a rainbow spectrum of colours as she walked out to the end of the catwalk which had now transformed into a swimming pool. Dancers climbed into the water around her and all were lifted up on a tiered wedding-cake like construction, resulting in a faithful recreation of the mountain of scantily clad bodies from the All The Lovers video.
The concert also served to envision certain tracks in a new light - In My Arms, third single from the X album campaign, placed directly after Can't Get You Out Of My Head became reinvigorated; feeding off the energy generated by the previous track, and went down exceedingly well. Likewise, an inspired mash-up of Love At First Sight with Can't Beat That Feeling paired old and new Kylie effortlessly. It was great to see SAW number What Do I Gave To Do make an appearance too, a highlight from the brief era of what I like to call 'RaveKylie'. Then there was Slow, which transformed mid-way from a sultry jazz number to all-out club banger.
My overall impression of the gig was of it as a thoroughly professional and incredibly fun exercise in an artist that stands at the very height of popstardom. Kylie really is in a league of her own. She delivers on every single level. In many ways, a Kylie concert is a full-on stage musical - and in that respect you can quite easily see how she's able to sell out date after date of a venue like the O2 Arena. This is an 'event gig', a must see experience. When you to see Kylie, you get more than just music; you get the wonderous staging, the elegance of the immaclately choreographed dancer, but most of all, you get Kylie, the persona - the essence that has won the hearts of millions worldwide.