Monday, May 2
Better than: Wearing sweatpants and sitting on the couch.
Let’s get this out of the way: The Hammerstein Ballroom is a great room for spectacles. Some of the best shows I’ve seen in New York have been there, and all of them–Pulp, Kraftwerk, the Flaming Lips–have had a level of showmanship about them that has been heightened by the room’s deceptive intimacy and good sound. The vibes inside are for the most part posi, too, which is a feat given that the lengthy security line, when I initially arrived at 7:45, stretched all the way down 34th Street and bent onto 9th Avenue.
Kylie Minogue, however, blew those acts (and pretty much everyone touring arenas right now) away last night, the first of her Aphrodite tour’s three-evening New York run. Within the first six songs, she had made three grand entrances, arriving on a giant seashell, a pegasus, and a chariot pulled by two gladiators and trailed by a person tasked with fanning her. (Later, she would ascend from the stage’s nether regions on a bust… of herself.) A few songs were accompanied by aerialists, who at some points interlocked with one another in such a way that I wondered if The Aerialist Kama Sutra was available at the merch tables. The dancers were plentiful and they were all fantastic, resplendent in their high-concept outfits, waving feathers around like veteran burlesque performers.
But at the center of it all was Kylie, who was by turns bashful and jokingly chiding and absolutely in command, changing dresses as quickly as some people change their mind, flirting with the audience through performances of “The Loco-Motion” (how refreshing it is to see someone so confident in her self that she’ll embrace what lesser artists would try to disown as early-career kitsch!) and “Slow.” She might be a bit of a cult popstar in the U.S., but she radiated at maximum wattage throughout the evening, making me believe that she could have exited the room and seized the Hot 100’s No. 1 spot from Katy Perry with just the cock of an eyebrow.
Much of the set was taken from her 2010 album Aphrodite, but there were a few surprises. At one point she covered Eurythmics’ hymnlike “There Must Be An Angel”–it should probably be noted that this transpired shortly after three winged angels appeared onstage–and the room’s energy shot through the roof, almost as high as the improbable vocal runs first laid down by Annie Lennox all those years ago. (Kylie got the assist from her very capable backup singers/dancers on that one, but, you know, who among us wouldn’t?) Her reworking of the sultry 2001 hit “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” turned up the song’s volume all the way, giving it a makeover seemingly inspired by the crunch of Janet Jackson’s “Black Cat.” (During this song the dancers paired off into male/female duos and engaged in what could only be referred to as grappling–I half-expected a referee to emerge.) There was also a mashup of the giddy “Love At First Sight” and the Aphrodite track “Can’t Beat The Feeling,” which was somewhat ingenious in a self-saluting kind of way.
The show ended with the gorgeous Aphrodite standout “All The Lovers,” an ode to ecstasy that blooms and stretches like a person realizing how to respond to touch after a too-lengthy period of solitude. The dancers recreated a miniaturized version of the song’s humans-in-ecstasy-sculpture video while Kylie presided over them. It all ended too soon, though and as the song’s coda played and Kylie exited the stage, glitter cannons went off, filling the air with sparkle and giving the audience a little bit of fabulousness to take home with them.
Critical bias: The Bamboozle was fun, but oh, was it nice to attend a show that directly counterbalanced the overwhelmingly masculine energy that drowned me this weekend. Also, I probably should have ranked “All The Lovers” way higher on my 2010 singles list.
Overheard: “Would you look at that dress??”
Random notebook dump: I really hope the guy in the front of the audience excitedly waving his crutch around and attempting to offer it to Kylie is feeling OK today, because that just seems like a recipe for longer-term pain.
Intro / Aphrodite
I Believe In You
Get Outta My Way
What Do I Have to Do?
Everything is Beautiful
Confide In Me
Can’t Get You Out Of My Head
In My Arms
Looking For An Angel
There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart)
Love At First Sight / Can’t Beat The Feeling
If You Don’t Love Me
Better The Devil You Know
Better Than Today
Put Your Hands Up (If You Feel Love)
On A Night Like This
All The Lovers