Brace yourselves, Kylie is coming to a stage near you soon.
Expect her to arrive in a golden chariot pulled by leather-bound slaves and dance through a phalanx of half-naked Spartans. It’s an extravagant way to stage a singalong to some electro-disco pop tunes.
Kylie Minogue’s (as she used to be known) “Aphrodite: Les Folies” is a spectacle hard to beat. The stage is created by WET Design, known for the Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas. Taking its cue from “Aphrodite,” her most recent album, it resembles an ancient Greek temple, with integrated video screens. Tiers of her body-beautiful dancers elegantly splash fans in the front rows.
Kylie’s website quotes a budget of $25 million for staging a 63-date tour visiting 23 countries. Her five shows at London’s O2 continue tonight and tomorrow. Then she’s off to Japan, Canada, Mexico and the U.S., returning to her native Australia in June.
The Greek theme allows Kylie, 42, to indulge her core fanbase. There are lashings of homoerotic imagery. Videos pay as much homage to Robert Mapplethorpe’s more risque photography as is possible in a family show. Toned male dancers cavort in nothing more than a strategic sliver of gold lame.
Designers Dolce & Gabbana dress Kylie more modestly. She wears a succession of spuriously Hellenic outfits, mostly in white, gold and silver. She looks as immaculate as her publicity photographs at all times. Not even a bead of sweat disturbs her pristine complexion. Kylie remains sanitized throughout.
The music is just as flawless, with a four-piece band and two backing singers. Kylie’s voice is proficient if limited.
She has sold more than 60 million records. While the U.S. might not quite get her, for the rest of the world she’s a match for Madonna, with Ms. Ciccione’s hard New York ambition replaced with home-town girl charm and a giggly sense of glamour.
The set spans Kylie’s career. She started as a soap-opera actress, singing cheap and cheerful electronic pop. Her first hit, “I Should Be So Lucky” in 1987, is a musical nadir of the 1980s and now is poignantly done a capella. From then on, she co-opts dance music and cherrypicks some of the best pop.
“Confide in Me” soars with vulnerable confidence. “Slow” is played in a jazz style and is sultry. “All the Lovers” is climactic. “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” is turned into a disappointing rocker.
There are also fillers. Too many songs sound thin in front of the relentless onstage opulence. Kylie struggles to assert her presence amid the visual onslaught. The crowd is left gaping rather than dancing, singing and having fun.
“Les Folies” lacks soul, a show that ate its star.
Kylie’s “Aphrodite: Les Folies Tour 2011” has been playing across Europe since February, with its final dates at the O2 tonight and tomorrow.
Her “Aphrodite: Live 2011” show starts in Japan, moving to Canada, Mexico and the U.S. The New York shows are May 2-4 at the Hammerstein Ballroom. The Les Folies tour resumes in June in Brisbane, also playing Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.
Kylie’s CD is on EMI/ Parlophone, priced from $12.98 in the U.S. and 8.99 pounds in the U.K. Download fees vary across services.
What the Stars Mean: **** Excellent *** Good ** Average * Poor (No stars) Worthless
(Robert Heller is a music critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)