Is Britain’s favourite pop star having a mid-life crisis? The blonde in jeans and a nice top looked more like she was going out to dinner rather than headlining the O2.
Kylie Minogue turned 50 this year, and she wants you to know that she’s grown up, thank you very much. And while it might be rather taxing to still be hailed as a sex kitten at 50, Dolly Parton – whose influence is all over her pointedly titled and very safe new album Golden – is 72, which gives Minogue a good 20 years’ more dancing.
Indeed, Kylie’s opening night at the O2 felt like trying to carve out a new character that she is not quite ready to embrace. It was a patchwork of story, opening with a kitschy Barbara Cartland-and-her-cowboys look for Golden’s title track, before a succession of sensible outfits that made you weep for the sensations of her 2005 Showgirl tour.
To her credit, Kylie has never shied away from singing the hits that gave her early success. “Traditionally, you guys sing this to me,” she said on Better The Devil You Know. Especially For You may not have had a Jason Donovan cameo, as her recent Hyde Park set did, but the sight of the O2 lit up by phone torches was magical.
No fan favourite was left untouched: she nodded to her Nineties indie phase with Confide in Me, here given a driving rock beat, and by handing a rose to a fan and singing a verse of her Nick Cave duet, Where the Wild Roses Grow.
Developed over 30 years, Kylie’s voice filled the arena with soaring, growling ease. What it never did was let go. In a set filled with euphoric numbers from that extraordinary back catalogue, her performance felt like a dress rehearsal for another concert. “You got this one?” she asked the audience before I Believe in You, like a cheery aerobics instructor on autopilot.
The dance hits that gave her mega-fame were given muddy MOR makeovers. Can’t Get You Out of My Head was sent to an early grave; a pared-back version of All The Lovers fared better. As her dancers morphed from cowboys into biker characters it all went slightly Kylie-does-am-dram, with flashbacks to the flop Blondie jukebox musical Desperately Seeking Susan.
When she stopped trying to be Dolly, and embraced the glitter and joy of her dance years, Kylie came alive. Delivered in a haze of sparkly capes and edgy dance moves, Locomotion and Spinning Around were thrilling. The entire cast suddenly looked about 20 years younger, and the audience breathed a sigh of relief because there she was at last, glitter cannons and all.
The greatest divas know exactly who they are, and thrive on it. Kylie might have a confused relationship with her dance past, but it’s there that she is truly a star. Those sensible jeans aren’t for her just yet.