Filed under: album, review | Tags: kylie minogue, live in new york, martyn clayton
Live In New York •••
Kylie live shows, like all big pop spectaculars, are visual as much as audio affairs. In a scrum of people and gaggle of crowd noise, it’s often what you see rather than what you hear that lives on in the memory. With stunning dance routines, ridiculous props, stratospherically glamorous outfits – lots of them – and knowing nods aplenty, they provide a feast for all the senses, taking the recorded glory of her mighty pop canon from the past two and a bit decades and turning it into a glitzy communal celebration. So Kylie releasing a visual-free, download-only live recording from October’s short run at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom is either a brave decision or a cynical cash-in. As sacrilegious as it may be to question the motives of Saint Kylie herself, it might make you wonder what calculations were being made by members of her clergy. That is until you consider that in all her years of hit making and dance move prompting she had never previously toured North America. Not once.
Despite making considerable dents in the dance charts, Brand Kylie has always remained a cult interest in the USA. A passionate one, but hardly mainstream in a land that tends to like its pop stars to play it uncomplicatedly straight. What makes her so broadly loved in Europe has always played against her in the US. She doesn’t compete with the likes of Britney, Whitney or Mariah. October’s debut mini-tour, however, was showered in critical praise and inspired scenes of mass devotion from those on the inside of the American Kylie tribe. It’s probably only right that this momentous event in her career should be recorded for posterity, if only for the glee it will undoubtedly prompt in the people who can say, “I was there”.
In production partnership with her long-term collaborator Steve Anderson, the crowd noise isn’t turned down and the backing vocals are not turned up, making it feel that you are somewhere in the throng yourself. And it’s not too difficult to grasp what’s happening onstage. Beginning with a drum roll and an old-school movie fanfare that gives way to overtures of Oz and the Von Trapps, a cyber-Kylie countdown builds to a chugging futuristic rendition of 2000 album track ‘Light Years’. From then on in it’s a case of fasten your seatbelts and enjoy the relentless ride through a couple of decades’ worth of hits. If you’re not dancing around the living room by the time the ‘Everything Taboo Medley’ kicks in with a breathless ‘Shocked’ that gives way to ‘What Do I Have To Do’ and ‘Spinning Around’, you officially have no feet or rhythm or sense of fun. It ends with a rip-roaring nod to Black Box’s ‘Ride On Time’, taking us back to 1990 disco heaven in nine pure-pop minutes.
Joy is unbounded as a brief snatch of ‘Boombox’ segues into ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’ laced with New Order’s ‘Blue Monday’, before pop seduction in the form of ‘Slow’ precedes some off-the-cuff crowd banter and genuine bemused surprise at the intensity of the reception. ‘Red Blooded Woman’ is another highlight, breaking into the dark folk motifs of ‘Where The Wild Roses Grow’ halfway through. It’s a timely little reminder of the breadth of her musical interests and the people who have sought out her collaboration. Indeed, there are wider pop references throughout, from Eminem to Madonna, the latter given an appreciative nod in the shape of a fairly loyal rendition of ‘Vogue’. It feels a bit unnecessary, though; Kylie’s star has always been on a different trajectory to the Ciccone comet. As dizzy and overblown as her sets and outfits may be, Ms Minogue has always retained a happy approachability as a mark of her charm.
The Deconstruction days of ‘Confide In Me’ are still as much of a noticeable gearshift from the Stock Aitken & Waterman years as they were at the time, and the piano showtune version of ‘I Believe In You’ as different again from her indie incarnation. She’s gone through as many chameleon like reinventions as the ‘Material Girl’, but presented here almost in full they sound less contrived, the many parts making up an intelligent and always fun whole. ‘Locomotion’ and ‘I Should Be So Lucky’ are given a sassy lounge-jazz makeover a long way removed from their PWL hit machine conception, while the ‘Love At First Sight Conclusion’ finds audience and artiste declaring their mutual ardour.
Kylie’s first bite of the Big Apple sounds like a sweet affair, breathless and probably quite sweaty, muddied only in parts by mid-career mediocrity. You might not be able to see the mighty cohort of dancers or the Jean Paul Gaultier outfits, but even stripped of visuals Live In New York is a worthy release. If you already own 2007’s Showgirl Homecoming Live the degree of duplication might mean you’ll want to give this a miss. If you don’t or you’re an unapologetic Kylie completist then you probably need no further invitation to indulge yourself.
UK release date: 14/12/09; www.myspace.com/kylieminogue
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