"You're everything I've dreamt of for 20 years," said Australian dance-pop princess Kylie Minogue to the lucky crowd that witnessed the Oakland opening-night performance on her first-ever North American tour. As a platform for a singer who only briefly tasted mainstream U.S. fame with her 1988 cover version of "The Loco-Motion" and her 2001 breakthrough "Can't Get You out of My Head," the show provided everything her patient cult would want — except a satisfying sound mix. Minogue doesn't possess vocal power, but like Diana Ross, her precise yet joyous phrasing sets her apart from lesser, more self-conscious upstarts. Yet throughout a set that mixed tracks from her last three albums, import singles and unreleased material, her band and blankets of reverb often overwhelmed Minogue's pop-perfect sighs. Several songs early in the evening were rendered almost unrecognizable.
Introduced with an entrance during "Light Years" atop a descending metallic skull, Minogue's spectacle never relented once. Her silver space vixen costume recalled vintage Labelle and Barbarella outfits with a headpiece featuring a solar system of planets dangling around her extraordinary face. She spread her arms, and the crowd cheered as if visited by a long-awaited visitor from a distant planet. Eight helmeted dancers followed her in tight formation for "Speakerphone" as video screens flashed projections that varied throughout the evening from surreal films featuring the photogenic star to the billboard-friendly artwork of her numerous singles.
When necessary, Minogue can toss her tiny frame around with the agility of a professional dancer. Yet more remarkable was her poise: She made no unnecessary or ungainly movements, and at times seemed to be traveling at a speed slightly slower than gravity would ordinarily allow. At 41, she is infinitely more sexy than she was in her 20s. Her grace is improbable, yet all the more compelling for its mystery.
As befitting her overseas superstar status, Minogue's show was high on flash and costume changes. She strutted during "In Your Eyes" in a plush and fluffy coral-colored coat that came off for a lengthy medley that began with "Shocked" as video screens spoofed the U.K. style magazine i-D; her all-Kylie version renamed the publication k-M. "I know it's taken me a little long to get here, so I thought I'd give you guys a first," she explained before launching into a strutting new tune, "Better Than Today." Three female dancers laid on the floor to hold microphone stands belonging to Minogue and her backing singers. These two women boasted the evening's most striking fashion innovation — neon pink wigs worn as shoulder pads.
For the sequence that began with "Like a Drug," Minogue reappeared as a jaunty sailor — if sailors actually wore cutaway evening gowns. Chanting from the crowd boosted the vocal melody of "Can't Get You out of My Head" while Minogue held a California license plate that read, "♥s KYLIE." Musicians playing sax, trumpet and trombone joined her four-piece band to transform "2 Hearts" into sassy big-band swing. During "Red Blooded Woman," she straddled a gymnast's pommel horse, then crawled over it and arched her back over the pommels in a simple but astoundingly sensuous display.
As made overt during a medley of Minogue's "Burning Up" and Madonna's "Vogue," much of Minogue's show picked up where Madge left off at her Blonde Ambition peak, a task attempted but not quite fulfilled by countless well-funded sirens. The difference is that Minogue radiates a bliss that can't be bought. Even in the midst of painstaking choreography, her sense of ecstasy is utterly of the moment. When a throng of exceptionally organized fans sent a wave of Mylar pillows unexpectedly bouncing toward the stage during "Wow," she registered astonishment but without missing a beat grabbed a pillow and twirled around the stage as if she'd just been handed a tremendous present. It takes a special kind of star to accommodate and make the most of an unplanned special effect, and Minogue is effortlessly, exactly that.
"Come into My World"
"In Your Eyes"
"Shocked"/"What Do I Have to Do?"/"Step Back in Time"/"Spinning Around"
"Better Than Today"
"Like A Drug"/ "Boombox"/ "Can't Get You out of My Head"
"Red Blooded Woman"
"Heart Beat Rock"
"Confide In Me"
"I Believe In You"
"Burning Up"/ "Vogue"
"In My Arms"
"Better The Devil You Know"
"Love At First Sight"