120 min • Hammersmith Apollo • April 3, 2012
I have a love/hate relationship with Kylie! I think she is incredibly underrated, in that she has the capacity to write very interesting, edgy pop music. Unfortunately, people don’t seem to want to hear it, and I tend to find the music she releases is a bit lacklustre as a result. For years I’ve regarded Kylie as a b-sides artist. The tracks that don’t make it onto her albums are usually more interesting than the ones that do, and her b-sides get played on my iPod more than her singles. Infact, since her 1997 “indie” album Impossible Princess unfairly almost ruined her pop career (I still think its her strongest album) she’s played it very safe, sticking to a formula that has hundreds of thousands of men jumping around gay club dance floors all over the world. For this reason I don’t consider myself to be a Kylie “fan”. I didn’t like ‘All The Lovers’. I don’t want to hear her sing ‘Spinning Around’. I could definately never hear ‘Wow’ again as long as I live without any worry, and don’t even get me started on G-A-Y floor filler ‘Your Disco Needs You!’ Not that any of these are bad songs, my problem is that better material is always dumped for them. I feel like Kylie has dumbed herself down for the masses – trotting her feather boa’d showgirl alter ego out to an adoring public who love her for who she is, not for what she performs – as long as it was a hit. So, when she announced she was doing a tour of b-sides, rarities and demo’s, with no set and no dancers, I almost thought it was too good to be true. The minimalist poster artwork (her name in a small, simple font over a picture of her naked but for a pair of killer heels, wrapped in a very large piece of material saying ANTI TOUR) screamed “interesting” and “edgy”. I started imagining in my mind what this “Anti-tour” would consist of; for every album she releases, there is at least an albums worth of material that doesn’t make the cut, and ends up as b-sides or pirated online (in some cases, more than one album) and so the most pressing question for me was – what are her favourite rarities, the ones she would she choose to do?
Opening the show with ‘Magnetic Electric’, one of the brilliant electro pop offcuts off album X, known amongst fans as the X-Sides, Kylie looked truly happy. Dressed in a long ripped t-shirt and denim hot pants, she sexily sold us the b-side like it had been a number one hit – and that was a good indication of things to come. Over the next two hours she made her way through fan favourite ‘Cherry Bomb’ (another X-Side) the sublime ‘Tightrope’, from the Fever sessions, the beautiful acoustic guitar b-side off ‘Spinning Around’, ‘Paper Dolls’ – and the list goes on. Kylie herself was in fine voice, sounding delectable on lullaby-like ballad ‘Bittersweet Goodbye’, the one stripped down moment from her dance pop album Light Years. Elsewhere she sung the Michael Hutchens inspired ‘You’re The One’ written with long time collaborator Steve Anderson (who was present in the audience), the Jake Shears co-penned heavy electro ‘Too Much’ an album track from her Stuart Price produced album Aphrodite, and the Xenomania produced bonus track from the same album, ‘Might Rivers’. All were performed with more confidence and effortless style than I have seen Kylie exude in years, seeming most comfortable and at home in her civvies and behind a microphone stand.
What suprised me the most though, in all this, was at a concert for “diehard fans” very few people seemed to know the songs in the set. Even when the auditorium was bathed in lasers for the stunningly frantic ‘Drunk’ from her deconstruction album Impossible Princess, the audience stayed surprisingly inert. Kylie, undeterred, also performed ‘Say Hey’ from the same album, a song that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Bjork’s album Debut. Hearing these songs live for the fist time in 14 years, made me realise just how good her “indie” period actually was. It’s also a testament to her as an artist that she has such songs in her back catalogue – the songs from that era performed here still seemed too heavy for her current audience, even 15 years after their release, and whilst my friend and I euphorically screamed every word and danced for all we were worth, the majority of the people around us looked slightly bemused – and this proves my early statement.
I don’t consider myself a Kylie fan because, if I knew she was delivering a concert that only consisted of hits, I wouldn’t pay £80 and queue for 2 hours to see it. If I didn’t really love the song she’d just performed, I wouldn’t scream and cheer. I appreciate her as an artist, a label many people wouldn’t even give her credit for, so I don’t just want to hear ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My head’. The hundreds of fans that queued for several hours and piled into Hammersmith Apollo last night seemed less concerned with the music itself, and just with the fact Kylie was in front of them on stage singing it. If that’s what it is to be a “Kylie fan”, I’m glad I am not one. I like Kylie, but I suppose, to a certain extent, I’m actually more of a die hard Kylie fan than I realise. Out of two hours of rare material, I knew about 80% of it, which was more than most of the people around me.
The mixed crowd did perk up when her PWL album tracks got an airing, and I have to admit that hearing her do ‘One Boy Girl’, ‘It’s No Secret’, ‘Give Me Just A Little More Time’ and ‘Got To Be Certain’ did make me grin like a child, and brought back memories of playing Rhythm Of Love on cassette and then a year later totally overplaying Let’s Get To It, one of my first cd’s. My relationship with Kylie started from a very young age, and last night was proof that it hasn’t ended just yet.
I hope that the slightly muted response to a lot of the material on display doesn’t stop Kylie from doing another Anti-Tour in the future, as it was one of the best things I’ve seen her do in years. Stripped down, not pandering to her public image, and showing herself for the artist she is. Until then, I have put Impossible Princess back onto my iPod, and I will wait with baited breath to see what move she makes next – but I for one am glad the showgirl stayed at home last night.