Minogue, Kylie

Kylie has all the tricks, but no magic

April 18 2011 at 01:50pm
By David Bennun


You’ll forgive a chap for repeating himself, I hope, but after watching Kylie Minogue on auto-repeat for the evening, it seems apt.

A couple of years back I wrote of Kylie in this column: “Her greatest and perhaps only significant talent is to command the fascination of those who can decorate and animate her.” I can reveal to a doubtless shocked world that she hasn’t acquired any new gifts since. What she continues to do is stretch that talent further than ever seemed plausible in her soap-star-to-pop-star days.

Would-be Svengalis come and go, confecting records, videos and performances with a Kylie-shaped hole in the middle, which she duly occupies. I would say “fills” but that’s not the case. There’s a hollow centre in everything Kylie does.

This isn’t necessarily a complaint. Plenty of great pop has nothing at the core. But an entire show’s worth is going it a bit.

It’s quite a show on the face of it. This side of Theatreland, you won’t see an ensemble song-and-dance display assembled and designed with greater craft and professionalism or sleeker production values than this tour, dubbed Aphrodite Les Folies. If complex stage business, fancy costumes and slo-mo writhing are your goblet of nectar, you get value even for the eye-watering admission price.

The trouble is, everything good about Aphrodite Les Folies is on the face of it. It’s all gloss, all surface, a thin layer of gilt buffed to simulate a rich, opulent sheen. The principal difference between this show and a perfume advert is that the show is longer.

It opens in grand style. The set is a fabulous muddle of plastic classical references into which Kylie rises like an effusion of baroque atop a golden clamshell. Wow, you think. This is going to be a heroic exercise in high camp, at the very least.

The O2’s often muddy sound mix is for once pleasantly clear - almost as if much of the music weren’t rendered live. While that’s doubtless not so, I wouldn’t mind if it were. That’s hardly the point of the event.

The point is a tastefully erotic revue equitably divided between KylieÕs gay and straight fanbase. If only the divide between the tasteful and the erotic were so even-handed. To be titillated, let alone aroused, by this you would need to have spent the winter marooned in a lifeboat. Kylie works her cotton socks off, but there’s only so much carnality that swaying and waving your arms can convey.

The returns diminish, song by song - the most exuberant and alive of which are still the brassy tunes she recorded with Stock Aitken Waterman two decades ago.

Slow, rendered as a torpid bump-n-grind number, it highlights the problem. Kylie’s no Shirley Bassey, let alone Eartha Kitt. She’s neither lynx nor sphinx; minx is as naughty as she gets. And as a songbird, she’s always been more sparrow than nightingale. The choreography says orgy; the temperature says coffee morning. There’s oodles of shimmer but precious little sizzle.

As the troupe undulates hither, thither and hither again, the night begins to feel like a lengthy build-up to a magic trick that will never be completed. Kylie, smiling and gesturing, takes the role of Lovely Assistant. She indicates the box, gestures at the top hat. But the conjuror remains in the wings. There’s no rabbit, no dove; your card is not revealed.

Thus a show devised to transcend the limitations of its star serves to underline them. To stamp your presence on such an extravaganza demands an extravagant personality and surely even Kylie’s most ardent fans wouldn’t claim that for her. You could remove her from the proceedings and scarcely tell the difference. It would be the same bland, lavish masque either way.

But that, I reckon, is the key to Kylie’s enduring appeal. When nobody is sure exactly who you are or what you do, you can be or do anything; or have anything done around you. - Mail on Sunday