"Blunder from Down Under"
by Josh Rotter
If you're like me then you spend much of your time wishin' and hopin' and thinkin' and yes, prayin' that your favorite band or artist that you've never seen live will dust off the old vocal chords and grace you with their stage presence.
Sadly, I'm let down a lot when bands don't tour or break up or artists die. I have had to make my peace with the fact that I will never see Kate Bush "Running Up That Hill" or trip out to a Pink Floyd show, or most devastating of all, will never see Nirvana rock out on stage. True, I did manage to hear their last U.S. tour in 1993 when my hip hop home girl, bored out of her mind, phoned me from a payphone at the show to let me hear portions of the set. But it just wasn't the same.
To be fair I also discovered that dreams do come true, at least part of the time, when I caught Soft Cell, Jody Watley, and Yazoo on the road, after long absences from the stage.
As a longtime Kylie Minogue fan, I had similar hopes of seeing the Aussie pop diva stateside. A regular on the international tour circuit, Minogue hasn't thrown her American fans a bone with a U.S. tour, until just last week when the singer hit Oakland's Fox Theatre for two nights on Sep. 30 and Oct. 1.
Needless to say the anticipation was maddening as the DJ warmed the primarily gay male crowd up with a dance pop set before the songstress -- who's blessed us with such unforgettable dance burners as the number three hit "The Loco-Motion," "I Should Be So Lucky," "Better the Devil You Know," the top 10 favorite "Can't Get You Out of My Head," "Love at First Sight," the Grammy-winning "Come Into My World" and "Slow" - took the stage.
And what an entrance it was, with Minogue lowered onto the stage atop a giant red-lit skull in a glitzed up showgirl outfit topped off with a pink fur coat for the electro-pop opener "Light Years."
But the skull, a gothic take on Madonna's disco ball from a previous tour, seemed to portend the death of dance pop as we know it, as the show seemed to drag on. Yes, I said it, "dragged on," through countless costume changes - military caps, slit-up-the-front dresses, head dresses, tights and lace up boots - which seemed a ruse to distract from the blunder-from-down-under show.
"Well, good evening, "Minogue said after three songs. "It's taken me a little while to get here. Finally... all this anticipation on my part."
But unfortunately even the strobe lights, acid visuals, and homoerotic choreography among the muscled up backup dancers in Speedos didn't make this "all sizzle no steak"affair worth the wait.
Sure, the singer's voice was adequate through a set list which included "Come Into My World" "Can't Get You Out of My Head," fan-favorite "In My Arms" and an encore of "Better the Devil You Know," and "Love at First Sight" among other lesser-known, totally generic dance tracks. Her footwork, however, which consisted mainly of strutting and cat-walking, left much to be desired. There was no show there.
Minogue was most at home in one of the night's most innovative moments: a sultry, stripped down version of "The Loco-Motion," which did much to contemporize the kitschy 60's classic.
Also debuting a soon-to-be-released track from her next album, a soulful departure from some of her more disposable pop, Minogue offered another brief respite from some of her dull, soulless dance music.
But scanning the concert-goers, who never broke from dancing, I knew that mine was definitely the minority opinion.
Noting the frenetic energy in the audience, Minogue offered, "There's a lot of effort in the audience tonight. I love that."
But this crowd would have settled for anything Minogue through their way. The gays love Kylie, so they'd have been equally enthusiastic if the singer had been reading a book or sleeping on a stage prop.
So when I found myself twittering my boredom to my gay friends, who would have given their right arms and middle legs to be there -- which reminded me of that Nirvana show that my friend begrudgingly watched and I resentfully listened to back in 1993 -- I wasn't totally shocked when they chastised me for my ungratefulness.
They hated me. After all, it was Kylie Minogue, one of our biggest icons, who won our hearts in the late 80's when she went from crayons to perfume, set the soundtrack to our dancing days when Rick Astley, Bananarama and Senita actually meant something, who we supported through awful acting turns in films like "Street Fighter" (1994) and "Bio-dome" (1996) and breakups with Michael Hutchence, Lenny Kravitz and Olivier Martinez, who courageously beat breast cancer, and has never wavered in her support of the gay community.
There are definite parallels here with Madonna, leading some critics to surmise that Minogue's less than stellar track record stateside might be due to critical claims that she's a mere Madonna wannabe. With this I take issue. Minogue may borrow from Madonna, as Lady Ga Ga has borrowed from her, but her sound, look, and persona are singularly her own.
I prefer to argue that much of her music, excepting a handful of hits, which I love to this day, is a type of trash pop that just doesn't sit well on this side of the Atlantic as poor sales of her last two albums "Body Language" (2003) and "X" (2007) in this country has demonstrated. Or maybe her sound is just no longer interesting.
But make no mistake. I love the singer; I just hated the show.
Kylie Minogue 2009 Tour:
10/7/2009 The Congress Theater, Chicago, IL
10/11/2009 Hammerstein Ballroom, NYC, NY
10/12/2009 Hammerstein Ballroom, NYC, NY
10/13/2009 Hammerstein Ballroom, NYC, NY
Photos: EMI, AMAZON.COM