Kylie Minogue: Wembley Arena, London; Wednesday, January 3

The Princess Of Pop makes an emotional comeback from illness with an array of guises – all of them spectacular

“National treasure’, according to Wikipedia, is a “shared cultural asset, which may or may not have monetary value, such as a skilled banjo player”. We’re pretty sure that she can’t play the official instrument of inbreeding and cultural dribbling as seen in Deliverance but Kylie Minogue is only a collector’s plate away from being a national treasure. In fact, more than that she has, through her recent comeback from cancer, entered the untouchable phase. She’s the Gloria Gaynor Survivor Machine flying high above criticism. The tasteful Madonna with a cheesy wink instead of a diamante-studded leather whip.

But was it always thus? Two years ago, the Showgirl Tour was the last exclamation mark drawn in the cartoon font of Kylie’s career. Sidestepping the awkward, outré pop moment of her last album, ‘Body Language’ – one leftfield step too many, with the drippy sales to prove it – she slid right back into the comforting glitter corset and feather boa for Showgirl: The Greatest Hits Tour. It was the explosive ‘ta-dah’ on her pop life as she straddled the neon line between light entertainment, bedsit edginess and daft, chat show couch campness. And now, after a triumphant New Year’s Eve return, she’s become even bigger than that.

It’s clear tonight is nothing less than a ‘Show!’. Opening with mock ‘credits’ where Minogue is not performing but ‘starring’ in an MGM musical event with a cast of thousands. Opener ‘Better The Devil You Know’ sets the tone and sees Kylie, flanked by go-go boys and carnival girls, parade in a head-dress that looks like it may engorge her before the night is over. Hit follows hit, but this audience are just happy to see their heroine healthy again. It is the first gig NME has been to where they give a standing ovation before the show.

Tonight we get to see every Kylie incarnation that has shimmered past our retinas during the last 20 years. From Charlene-from-Neighbours to Super-Trooper Kylie to MDMA-zing Minogue (yes, we’ve got news for you, Shitdisco, if you think you’re the hottest kids in Fluoroville). It’s self-referencing gone hyper, sure, but tonight’s all about the past and this is comforting.

There is, however, a sense that, it is not within the moments of fuzzy nostalgia that Kylie really resides, but in the snatches of oddness that spraypaint themselves across the set, such as new song ‘White Diamond’, an out-there, clattering Human League spectacular, with a car crash chorus and harmonies beamed from Abba-ville. Then there’s the confused, fucked-up songs from her confused, fucked-up ‘Impossible Princess’ album – ‘Cowboy Style’ (Kylie does Princess Leia does Kate Bush) and ‘Too Far’ – a Lycra-clad piano falling down the stairs in slow motion. These are the explosions at the heart of the glitter ball where the real Kylie resides.

Not that this is the guise the crowd have come to see. They are overjoyed to see her of course, but a long time ago Kylie Minogue realised that being a national treasure involved being entertaining for entertainment’s sake, and tonight, she is gloriously that.

Priya Elan