[B]WILL the real KYLIE MINOGUE please stand up? VICTORIA SEGAL gets dizzy trying to count them all...
An unmistakeable pair of eyes flicker from the screen onstage in huge close-up. The audience stare back adoringly, but it’s hard to tell what they’re seeing – the come-to-bed smoulder of a sex object; the teasing of the kitsch princess; the defiance of the super trouper; the gaze of the divine diva. Yet it’s easy to guess what’s in Kylie’s line of vision: a grid of faces, flashing red computer data and a heat-seeking radar target. This woman is the pop Terminator: drop her in the liquid nitrogen of a cool critical response and she reassembles as the sultry disco goddess. Plunge her into a vat of media opprobrium and she springs back up as the perfect postmodern gay icon. The only force that can destroy her is her fans’ lack of interest, and given the A-bomb hysteria mushrooming over the audience tonight, that isn’t going to happen.
It’s as much her problem as her strength. Ask all those shameful, should-know-better svengalis aiming to be her Phil Spector and ending up like Jonathan King – Bobby Gillespie, the Manics, Nick Cave, a whole flux of stylists, producers and musicians who salivated over the idea of a dopily vacant cipher who’d shape-shift at their will. Actually, just ask Kylie, appearing from behind a silk screen in tight black satin and a pair of heels so sharp she could shave her legs with them, strutting down the staircase – yes, of course there’s a staircase – for a dreary triumvirate of T’Pau-alike songs. It’s not her improbable shoes hobbling her, but the awful muso backing from men who seem normal but mask psychic mullets, slithering away in a sink of rock clichi.
Include James Dean Bradfield’s ‘Some Kind Of Bliss’ here. Just when it’s ringing so hollow it would be no surprise if Kevin Costner was the backstage security, Kylie vanishes for a costume change. Reappearing in a spangled circus-pony leotard she leans on a giant K at the top of the stairs, and as a lounge piano blows smoke-rings across the stage, she opens her mouth and sighs, [I]”In my imagination… there is no hesitation…”[/I] This is ‘I Should Be So Lucky’ in the style of Peggy Lee, and its casual control and insouciant self-awareness would scare Stock Aitken and Waterman more than a whole flock of Godzillas. The audience howls, two beautiful boy dancers appear in pink tail-feathers and sequinned shorts to pump and thrust while Kylie sings ‘Dancing Queen’; the stage becomes a fondant fancy and Shepherd’s Bush mutates into San Francisco.
Sure, it’s obvious, but she knows exactly what she’s doing. There’s a rhinestone cowgirl routine for ‘Step Back In Time’ (dancers in a furry chaps and satin thong combination never endorsed by Jack Palance), a drum majorette twirl for the storming ‘Shocked’ (dancers in what might inappropriately be described as straightjackets) and a saloon girl shimmy for a delirious ‘Better The Devil You Know’, an arch eyebrow in the direction of Natalie, Shaznay and companions (dancers in white fringed trousers and pneumatic frenzy).
There are moments of boredom – indistinguishable balladry that’s not so much torch-song drama as fluorescent-tube flash; the stupendously ill-judged cover of ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go’ – yet Kylie loves this, she lives for it, and she damns all those svengalis with one twist of her knife-edge heels. With foolish sentiment, the famous are often lauded just for surviving the myth of the tragic trouper – the streaked mascara, the dressing-room pills, the bouquet-throwing tantrums. Yet as the glitter-clouds explode around her, Kylie is not only surviving but flourishing. Sneer all you want. She’ll be back.