It's been a long time in coming, but our date with Kylie Minogue finally arrived last Wednesday night at the Verizon Theater in Grand Prairie, TX. It's not the farthest I've traveled to see a concert - that honor goes to the Madonna's Confessions Tour in Las Vegas - but it's definitely the farthest I've ever driven to see a concert. The fact that Kylie pretty much skipped the Midwest was what caused us to resort to such measures. It was a long way to drive for a concert and the real question is - was it worth it?
In a word, YES.
For the American leg of the tour, Kylie had to tone the tour down a bit. Gone are the fountains and the flying dancers from the European dates . But even without them, the stage was amazing and the costumes as over the top as you would expect. Cher's tour may have been the Cherest show on Earth, but Heidi summed it up well when she tweeted half way through the concert, "this is seriously the gayest, most fabulous show on earth." My friend Steve who had seen the show a couple weeks prior warned me it would be the gayest night of my life and he was right.
This is the first concert I've gone to where the men so vastly outnumbered the women it wasn't even funny. There were probably 9 men there for every one woman. For probably the first time in recorded history, there was a line for the men's restroom but not the women's. And I think there were about 300 gay men there for every one straight man. But really, it stands to reason. Kylie's following among gay men is no secret and I can think of no better people with whom to see a Kylie show. The energy in the theater (which was surprisingly small - 6000-some seats) was amazing and really, the best of any live show I've ever seen. Even Madonna, but more on that later.
Kylie was fashionably late at 8:45 PM but once she started, she didn't stop once. Emerging from a clam shell at center stage like the Venus de Milo, she rolled through a solid two hours of classic hits, album cuts and pretty much all of the Aphrodite album. Only "Closer" and "Too Much" were not performed. What was most pleasant is that, despite the very obvious presence of a backing track, it was also two hours of live singing that I didn't have to apologize for the quality or cringe through the off key parts. Like Madonna, but more on that later.
But like any good artist who's been around for 20+ years, she sang a lot of crowd pleasers as well. The usual suspects like "Can't Get You Out of My Head", "Spinning Around", and "Confide In Me" got their time in the spotlight, but lesser known album cuts also showed up. One of my favorites was "In My Arms" from X, which featured a many tentacled Kylie on the projection screens behind her. Some familiar songs were reinterpreted. "Slow" became a flashy cabaret number until finally becoming the thumping club anthem it always should have been. "Love At First Sight" was mashed up with "Can't Beat The Feeling" and really, it didn't work for me. Both songs were worthy of being performed individually, the mash-up felt forced and in the end, it seemed to me like both songs got the shaft. They deserved better, especially "Love At First Sight" which is a huge crowd pleaser. Clearly, Kylie was not afraid to dig into her back catalog. Unlike Madonna, but more on that later.
Our seats were about 33 rows back, but really, there wasn't a bad seat in the house. Because of the size of the theater and the quality of our seats, I managed to get some excellent photos. The best of the best are below. Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook can see the rest there.
This concert had the distinction of being Anna's first real concert - sorry, the Wiggles don't count. We brought cotton for her ears as I knew it would be loud. Truth be told, I used cotton too. I have walked out of too many concerts in my life with my ears ringing so bad that I could literally feel the hair cells dying. I'm not interested in losing any more hearing than I already have and it doesn't diminish one's enjoyment of the show one bit. Call me old, but hey, at least I'll be able to hear in 25 years. Even with cotton, the show was too loud for Anna. One of the ushers found real silicone ear plugs for her and then she was set. She danced in the aisle. She sang along. She's a lot more familiar with the Aphrodite stuff than she is with Kylie's immense back catalog, but she had a good time. I hope she remembers it and it doesn't become a blur to her. Concerts always seem like a dream to me when I'm in them. The fact that I got good pictures of the concert will help it seem more real when it inevitably feels dreamlike.
It's impossible to go to a show like this and not think of the queen of this kind of show - Madonna. No one puts on as elaborate of a show as she does. For American audiences, Kylie doesn't have near the back catalog or immediate name recognition as Madonna. And Madonna never never NEVER does a tour half-assed. I've enjoyed every Madonna show I've seen, but I couldn't help but notice the big differences between the two. The most obvious one was pointed out by my friend Robbie (aka ChartRigger) at the end of the show. There are just absolutely no diva airs about Kylie at all. She's always so "oh, I'm so glad you like it!" She interacted with the audience, taking a request which ended up being "Your Disco Needs You" which she NAILED. This is a far cry from Madonna whose shows are so intricately choreographed that there is no room for spontaneity at all. Madonna shows are in a league all their own, but sometimes the lack or spontaneity really shows, especially compared to a show like Kylie's which was just as tightly choreographed. For some reason, it was different.
The other thing that made it better than a Madonna show was Kylie's willingness to dig into her back catalog. Madonna always seems to do so a bit begrudgingly, as if someone is holding her at gunpoint. Stevie Nicks points out that when people come see you live, they don't want to hear new songs. Rather, they want to hear the stuff they know. While I don't think I'd go as far as to say that, you do have to have a liberal sprinkling of well known songs to please the non diehards that attend concerts. This applies less to Kylie as I don't know that there is such a thing as a non-diehard Kylie fan in the U.S. But with Madonna, there are many casual fans that may not know her most recent work. I will always feel bad for the casual fans that went to The Drowned World Tour in 2001 expecting a hit parade and instead, got a bunch of album tracks and two 80s hits.
And finally, it cannot be overstated that Kylie can actually sing the songs that she records. I always make a big deal about how being able to appreciate Madonna's live vocals is what separates the men from the boys as far as Madonna fans go. But let's be honest, she's had some moments that are positively cringeworthy. I usually chalk that up to nerves and the fact that her voice is mostly just passable. I also sometimes think that Madonna tries to sing things that are out of her league vocally and the studio magic can wipe away most of the blemishes. Not so in a live show. Why else would the DVDs of her concerts feature so obviously sweetened vocals?
But there's room enough for all the divas in my life. Seriously, how could I go on without them? I'm so glad that I got to see Kylie live. If the Rapture really had come the following Saturday, I would have gone into the tribulation a happy man. I've been to many concerts in my day, but hers will always stand out. It was worth the trip to Texas. When I was debating buying tickets and spending the money on the trip, my friend Matt said something along the lines of "I highly doubt you'll look back and say 'damn, I wish I hadn't gone to Kylie.'" As it turns out, he was right. And I would go again in a second.
(thanks to xolondon for the inspiration behind the title of this post)