Friday, October 2, 2009

Concert Review: Kylie! (at Fox Theater in Oakland)

I've always been a bit baffled by why Australian pop star Kylie Minogue isn't bigger in the US. She's HUGE in Europe. She's basically the Madonna of the Commonwealth countries. Wednesday at the Fox Theater in Oakland was not just the opening night of her North American tour, it was her first North American tour ever! And she's been making singing for over twenty years! I guess these things all come down to marketing. Maybe with this tour she'll get more exposure state-side?

Experiencing the show, though, you would never guess that this is someone most Americans have never heard of. This was a stadium-sized show packed into a theater-sized venue. I counted no less than 7 giant, brilliantly-lit screens, most of them moving on rails between songs. I won't spoil her grand entrance, but she was constantly surrounded by dancers in outlandish outfits, wearing riot gear masks or wings. Her own costumes seemed crazy elaborate, too. I was surprised to find via the production video diary that the costumer was still stitching them together the day before the show! I liked her unusual boots in the leather fetish segment of the show.

I'm actually only familiar with a few of her bigger hits. I must admit some of her songs sound like generic dance pop, but the best ones are great dance pop. The amazing Michel Gondry-directed video for "Come into My World" made me a fan, and "Can't Get You out of My Head" is quite self-descriptive, especially the mash-up with "Blue Monday". Perhaps my favorite performance of the night, though, was her latest rendition of her first hit single way back in 1987: a cover of "Loco-Motion". Rather than singing it in the original upbeat bubblegum pop tone, she chose a sexy, jazzy style that reminded me of "Minnie the Moocher".[bxA]

Gentle Readers, this is a good time for your Pop Lecher-at-Large to point out his other favorite moment of the evening: While the brass section played, Kylie said that their music made her "want to SHAKE!" And she proceeded to vibrate her booty. Yowza. (This, in turn, might be a good time to point out her Agent Provocateur commercial [possibly nsfw] from several years ago.) Kylie doesn't dance as much as other pop stars, but when she does move, she sure knows what she's doing!

And yet, these talents were perhaps fully appreciated by only a minority of the attendees. You see, some of the greatest applause came when the visuals featured men in Speedos taking a shower. This from an audience that was over 90% male.

It must be said that Kylie knows her audience! And she pandered to it in multiple ways: I really enjoyed how the background showed the Golden Gate Bridge during one of the more down-tempo segments.

Gotta love that gaudy fainting couch, too. (It tops the one in last week's "Mad Men"!) I wonder if the background will change for each stop in her tour?

This show certainly featured the most enthusiastic audience I've seen. The roar of the crowd deafened me each time Kylie appeared in a new outfit. The audience wasn't quite as dancy as I expected, but I wonder how much of that was due to the sound quality? The audio at the Fox thist time was better than it was during the Yeah Yeah Yeahs show, but it still could have used more dynamic range. Perhaps I was just standing too close to the stage?

Kylie ended her encore with an ebullient performance of "Love at First Sight". Perhaps some Americans will feel that way about her after this tour.

P.S.: And if you're not familiar with it, check out the "Come into My World" video, and be sure to watch at least till the 1'10" mark.

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