Kylie - Manchester MEN Arena

There is a moment, as there always is, during tonight’s encores when our very favourite pop star just stands and laughs. Laughs heartily at the wave of applause that threatens to engulf her and bats it self-consciously away as if to say “Oh, don’t be so ridiculous.” We are, of course, undeterred by the most obscure set of songs she’s ever taken on the road, applauding her for simply still being here : less a reaction to the health battles of late (though we probably can’t help but love her for dealing with that derailment with relative dignity) and more of an ongoing relief that the transition from toothy soap actress to crap pop star to rather excellent pop star still shows no sign of making us all look a bit daft. As she appears in close-up on the video screens, we remind ourselves that, as she hits 40, and we think we know her well enough by now, she really has carried herself remarkably well and stayed clear of most of the pitfalls (a dalliance with the Burslem oaf aside) of choice open to the careless superstar; we level not one jot of cynicism at the tears she appears to be holding back as the wave of applause rises and continues unabated.

This latest triumphant pummeling of the UK’s enormodomes hit Manchester, allegedly her favourite crowd. With five nights already sold out, the addition of this sixth date is almost a stretch too far; the top tier is empty and curtained off. The Dog and Ferret, it’s fair to say, is probably some way off yet but empty seats are a surprise until you remind yourself of her almost constant presence of late. Remember, this is her third large-scale UK jaunt in is many years and seeing as her two previous visits (2005’s ‘Showgirl’ and 2007’s revised ‘Showgirl Homecoming’, set up primarily to cover the cancelled Australia leg and then extended to add a still-hungry UK) were easy to swallow Greatest Hits shows, her currency is not waning yet. That said, tonight’s crowd takes a bit of warming up; while gigs later in the week apparently see the roof raised, tonight sees Manchester take a bit of time to slip from Politely Enthused into Mad For It.

The set, rumoured beforehand to be ‘difficult’, is challenging to the casual fan but not such a stretch. Roughly, it’s a third ‘X’ (her latest album coming to life with the blood of a live band colouring in the programming and bleeps), a third oddities and obscurities, and a third hits. It’s actually worth noting that just about all of ‘X’ is played tonight. On first listening it’s a cold and un-involving affair but most of it really does shine tonight. Three of its songs figure in the encores and work beautifully. Thankfully, spoilt and hand-fed by those two previous tours, Manchester seems to say ‘Okay, we can go with this.’ The staging makes Bowie’s ‘Glass Spider’ tour look restrained. William Baker, long-time stylist, is clearly still Manga-obsessed; there’s a futuristic cyber-Japanese urban thang (isn’t there always ?), a trip aboard an ocean liner, a jaunt back to Louis XiV’s court and a frankly very creepy massive skull. (Christ knows what they knock back when they’re planning this stuff.)

Highlights : the ballad section where it’s just cocktail dress, minimal backing and a devastating performance of new song ‘Flower’. ‘Your Disco Needs You’, set in a monochrome ballroom, sends the place bonkers. ‘Loveboat’, from ‘Light Years’, is dusted off (but no ‘Kookachoo’ – boo !) ‘2 Hearts’ is a glorious Steinway stomp to close the first half. After ‘Love at First Sight’ and ‘I Should be so Lucky’ fire up the encores, she closes with a delicate ‘The One’ and, after rushed chat with the band, an acoustic version of ‘All I See’. To close on such a quiet note could kill the dynamics of any pop concert that knows what it’s doing but we stick with her, rapt. For the first time in an age I take notes : there’s a lot to miss. Sifting through the scribble, there are plaudits for the band, few in number for something so large scale but deft and dynamic. The sound is really quite awesome; the bass rips through, the vocals are properly upfront and, even from half way back, the old ears feel it the next morning. And back to the vocals, Kylie is in tremendous voice. On the numbers where it matters, where she’s really exposed, you take note of what a marvellous singer she’s become.

All in all, the Minogue live experience remains as dizzying, smart, enervating, witty and plain out there as ever it was. Someone next to me, as we file out out, talks about getting tickets for another show just to “get into it.” And note this : she takes the stage at 8.15pm and exits, with a 15 minute break, at 11.05pm. ‘Trooper’ doesn’t really cover it. Over the course of two and a half hours, Pop Concert loses a little of its meaning. Kudos for not playing it safe. After all, if this time around she’s asking us to indulge her, who are we to argue ?



Act 1: Xlectro Static
* Speakerphone
* Boombox/Can't Get You Out Of My Head
* Ruffle My Feathers
* In Your Eyes

Act 2: Cheer Squad
* Heart Beat Rock
* Wow
* Shocked

Act 3: Beach Party
* Loveboat
* Copacabana
* Spinning Around

Act 4: Xposed
* Like a Drug
* Slow
* 2 Hearts

Break

Act 5: Naughty Manga Girl
* Sometime Samurai (Video Projection)
* Come Into My World (Fischerspooner Mix)
* Nu-di-ty
* Sensitized

Act 6: Starry Nights
* Flower
* I Believe in You (Ballad Version)

Act 7: Black versus White
* On a Night Like This
* Your Disco Needs You
* Kids
* Step Back In Time
* In My Arms

Encore
* No More Rain
* Love at First Sight
* I Should Be So Lucky
* The One (Freemasons Mix)
* All I See

Last updated: 18/04/2018 22:47:37

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Category Gig Review

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