I &heart; Kylie"/>
Show business can be a cruel and demanding mistress. And when she decides to team up with Father Time . . . well, there hasn't been an uglier couple since the Lockhorns.
Last week, my semifamous boyfriend turned 40. And at his birthday party, I performed "I Go to Rio," by Liza Minnelli's first not-so-butch husband, Peter Allen. It wasn't an over-the-top production number, just a hot pink and electric blue mambo shirt, a blond wig, a pair of maracas, some simple choreography, and me singing very loudly. But at the end of my three minutes in the spotlight, I was panting like a collie in August.
Fortunately, not all performers lose their steam when they hit their mid-30s. For proof, check out Kylie Minogue: Live in Sydney, the new DVD (Rhino Home Video, in stores July 16) from the petite Aussie superstar who's been burning up the charts with "Can't Get You Out of My Head." Not only does the 34-year-old entertainer plow through 15 years of songs in a show featuring half a dozen fabulous costume changes, but she does so surrounded by dancers and backdrops that make Showgirls look like a grade-school talent contest.
Although I'm a longtime Kylie fan, I've always been skeptical about the notion of her as a concert artist. After all, she began her career as a prot駩 of Stock Aitken Waterman, the same assembly-line production team responsible for hits like Dead or Alive's "You Spin Me Round." The kind of records that sound great on a dance floor—like Kylie's previous U.S. top-10 hit, a 1988 reworking of Little Eva's "Locomotion"—don't always lend themselves to live performance. And since she's never enjoyed enough popularity in America to warrant bringing her show here, my doubts have persisted. Until now.
A couple months ago, just as "Can't Get You Out of My Head" was beginning to take off in the States, I was lucky enough to interview Minogue in London, and I asked the singer/dancer/actress what she considers her greatest strength. "That I am an all-rounder," she answered. "If I was to choose any one element of what I do, I don't know if I would excel at any one of them. But put all of them together, and I know what I'm doing." Live in Sydney leaves little doubt.
The show opens with a rendition of "Love Boat," from her 2000 release Light Years, that serves as a not-so-subtle reminder that Australia is the continent that gave us both The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert and the aforementioned Mr. Allen. It's as camp as Christmas with Paul Lynde. Boys in sailor suits and girls in modified Carmen Miranda outfits cavort around Kylie as she shimmies and coos, then suddenly the damn thing erupts into a giant go-go party for the infectious "Koocachoo." Vocally, Miss Minogue may not be costing Patti LaBelle any sleep, but she works the stage with the ferocity of a young Ann-Margret. And since the DVD was shot during the biggest tour ever by a solo female Australian artist, Kylie gives a little twist of the knife to Olivia Newton-John with a steamy cover of "Physical," featuring a jungle gym that looks like it was purchased at the estate sale of Plato's Retreat.
But the biggest surprise is how smartly she incorporates older material. Sure, she cheats at one point and crams five early U.K. hits into a medley, but elsewhere she completely reinvents numbers that have been in her repertoire since she was a teenage soap star. Minogue turns "I Should Be So Lucky" into a ballad, performed in white top hat and tux atop a piano, leading into a classic MGM musical- style staging of "Better the Devil You Know," complete with ostrich feather fans.
I did have one initial reservation about the DVD. Every time they cut to a crowd shot, the cameras singled out girls who looked like extras from Muriel's Wedding. Hello? Kylie is one of the planet's biggest gay icons. Where were all the fags? But all was quickly forgiven when her half-naked male dancers hit the stage for "Butterfly"—wearing what looked like scraps from Mad Max topped with that creepy fisherman's hood from I Know What You Did Last Summer—and started dry-humping everything in reach . . . including each other. Whew!
By the time the main program concludes with her big comeback hit, "Spinning Around," Kylie and company have hoofed it through 19 numbers, dodged flame jets, and been showered with sparks and doused in glitter. And the woman's barely broken a sweat. I don't know how she does it, but you can bet I'm watching that DVD a time or two before I pick up my maracas again.