' Cinema Romantico: A Digression: Night Three of Ecstasy

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Digression: Night Three of Ecstasy

Never have I beheld something like a Kylie Minogue show. It's "Doctor Zhivago" - which is to say it's a lavish spectacle - with more costume changes and way more laser beams. There is so much happening at any given moment it is all difficult to grasp. I'm used to concerts where the band walks onstage, picks up their instruments and then plays their songs.

A Kylie concert, on the other hand, opens with Ms. Minogue herself descending to the stage from the ceiling perched aboard a metallic skull. To clarify, that's a metallic skull. And, well, here's the thing, in my life when people ask me how happy I am about a particular event I often reply "I was going crazy like I was at a Kylie Minogue show!" At this moment what was I supposed to say? I finally was going crazy at an actual Kylie Minogue show! She's there! Right there! I see her! With my own eyes! That's Kylie! She's real! And she's singing "Light Years" (her name is Kylie, she'll be our purser) on top of a METALLIC SKULL while these dudes in costumes that make them look like a cross between storm troopers and Robocop boogie below her.

Not for nothing does the "Star Wars" fanfare play right before she takes the stage. You really are going to a galaxy far, far away, and you're going there for two hours. She wears fur coats and sailer caps and feathered head gear and graceful white dresses too cool for even the Oscars and exotic thigh high boots that merely reinforce the fact she is the sexiest woman in existence (sorry, Sienna, it's true) and she sings the first verse of "2 Hearts" held aloft while doing the splits. She turned one excerpt of the show into extravagantly produced dinner theater, having a wordless back and forth with some sort of man servant while she lounged around on a plush couch and sang "White Diamond" and then "Confide In Me" (which rocks in ways I can't explain live - the bass thumps like Sly Stone) and then a slightly altered "I Believe In You". (If after those last two songs you still don't think Kylie mops the floor with any American pop starlet - real or wannabe - it's your opinion and that's fine but it's one I will simply never comprehend.)

Even her infamous "Locomotion", a tune I've never much cared for, from my least favorite Kylie era, was reworked into straight-up awesomeness, styling it like 40's swing in some posh New Orleans dance hall with Kylie going on all Rita Hayworth. (My concertgoing companion Trish termed it a "saucy" version. Oh yeah. Most saucy.)

Here is a Google photo giving you the gist of her costuming.

Another Google photo - this was the splits at the start of "2 Hearts".

When she finally broke into "Love At First Sight" I had to take a picture to commemorate the moment. At the exact instant I snapped the photo this enormous white flash of light erupted from the stage so you can't see anything. Yet, it's rather appropriate. It represents how I felt when it started. This means that I have now heard every song from my personal book of hymns except for Neko Case's "Thrice All American". So, Neko, if you're reading, please take this under advisement.

My brand new Kylie Minogue tee shirt meaning that, yes, I spent $35 on a tee shirt I can never ever, under any circumstances, wear outside my own home. Don't look at me like that. It's how she affects me and there is simply nothing I can do about it.

I know there might be people who view all these theatrics as ego but that's off base. During "The One" there is a part in the refrain where she croons "Love me, love me, love me" over and over except last Wednesday she interrupted it by telling us "But you already know I love you!" She thanked us again and again. She took time to indulge a young woman down front clamoring for a photo with the songstress up on the stage. I know it's impossible to tell from 75 feet away but she seems so genuine. I mean you would never catch her releasing an album called "The Emancipation Of Kylie". Her problems, and I'm sure she has them, have never been ours. Like she sings in "Light Years", she's "here to take good care of (us)." That's always been her only mission.

It's why I would like to take this opportunity to implore (beg) that she return to America again, and soon. This is her first proper tour (albeit only six cities) stateside and so now that we have been able to get that initial we're-just-flabbergasted-to-see-you phase out of our systems we can appropriately immerse ourselves in her dazzling display next time. An Arcade Fire show is nowhere near the Kylie experience but the first time I saw them, at Lollapalooza '05, you couldn't help but focus your attention on band members using motorcycle helmets as drums and doing The Robot. It was all so tough to digest. The next time I saw them, once I had my bearings, I felt its wholeness and there are definitely days when I think it was the greatest concert I have ever seen. I, we, all of us, need that second go-around with Kylie.

Will she return? I don't know. A pop critic once wrote that Kylie's music is "too gay for the U.S." and that sentiment could be true. I'm a straight male but one reference to my Kylie obsession and you know what people - in America, that is - think. (Last Wednesday Timeout Chicago wrote the following about her: "Straight British dudes I know seem to think of her as a sex symbol who also makes music they unabashedly love as much as they enjoy footie and lager." Damn right. Great music is great music. Maybe I should move to London.) Some of our country's music critics who have seen the shows thus far also seem a little suspect. (Chicago's critics were mostly positive.) They all try to compare her show - whether favorably or unfavorably - to Madonna. Many have written that she "can't dance."

Of course, I don't remember anyone deciding Kylie was supposed to be Ginger-f---ing-Rogers. You know who she dances like? Me dancing to Kylie Minogue - okay, she's actually quite better than that, but you get my point. She dances like a real person, saying "I don't care what you think of me, I'm gettin' down." She prefers to focus on, you know, singing herself. No lip synching. None. It's all her. All her. American critics have also derided her voice but, again, knowing she is not, say, Sarah Brightman has already been accepted. Her voice is fine. It might be smaller than most but it's small like "Once" is a small movie. In fact, the Chicago show brought explicit proof in one of those Happy Accident Moments, one which I will cherish forever and ever, one which, yet again, reaffirms there is a God even if I so often feel like I want to punch Him in the face.

Late in the show Kylie's bass player's instrument turned problematic and so she had to leave the stage to tend to it. Not part of the itinerary. So there was Kylie alone onstage, bantering, trying to figure out how to pass these suddenly awkward moments, when a section of the crowd near the stage started chanting for "Your Disco Needs You". Finally, Kylie, in that infectious Australian accent, declared, "All right. I'll sing it just so you stop shouting at me." And she did. All by her lonesome. Acapella. No help from anyone or anything. (Well, the audience sang along during the chorus, but of course they did.) She even did the part at the end where she wordlessly coos and then takes it up another notch and then another notch. And she nailed it. Cue the ultimate realization!

This two hour spectacular was not about seeing the giant video boards or the laser beams or the smoke shooting off at various intervals or the confetti or the gyrating backup dancers or the costume changes or even the metallic skull. It was about seeing her. One woman. Five feet tall but towering.

Bruce Springsteen is still my hero. But Kylie Minogue might just be the coolest person on the planet. Even if she can't dance.

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