Kylie Minogue: North American Tour

Programme Notes, September 2009. Co-authored with Neil Rees.

Kylie Minogue: North American Tour

It is September 30th 2009, and Kylie Minogue is about to become the first solo artist ever to have played a concert on six of the world’s continents in less than fourteen months. This has only ever been achieved before by rock groups U2 and The Rolling Stones, both famous for their often gruelling tour schedules. This not only puts into context this amazing feat, but also highlights how it has been achieved by an artist who has never toured these shores before, despite being a global force in pop music for more than two decades. This is the For You, For Me tour, a chance for Kylie to reward her fans in North America for their patience and, more specifically, to say thank you.

Occasional success from single and album releases have brought brief visits to the States, alongside movie roles, but Kylie has never toured the country before now, even though she has toured the rest of the globe for the last 20 years, gaining a reputation for staging a live spectacle every time; her shows have awarded her numerous accolades and even inspired prominent US artists. For this tour, however, and as a taster to what local fans have so far missed, Kylie has decided to put the brakes on her “bigger and better” attitude and instead incorporates many elements from some of her previous shows.

Although Kylie’s main markets have always been her home territories of Australia and the UK, she picked neither for her very first live performance. Instead she chose a one-off appearance at Canton in Hong Kong during a promotional trip in 1988, witnessed only by a select few. It was enough, however, to encourage Kylie to take her first tentative steps into performing live – and just twelve months later, she stepped into the full live spotlight for four shows in Japan. The pinnacle of the Disco In Dreams tour was a sold-out night at Tokyo’s Dome stadium in front of a staggering 40,000 fans. Ten dates in the UK quickly followed. The same set list was used, but the show performed in theatres, supported by a number of acts from the same production stable of PWL, and with tickets given away free in the press and on radio. The dates were a runaway success, always chaotic, and more often than not having more fans waiting outside the venues to catch a glimpse of Kylie than were allowed inside to see the show.

The success these gigs sent out a clear message to Kylie and her team; to set the wheels in motion for the development of her first full-scale tour, and dates were pencilled in for just a few months later. Much of this tour’s set-list would be based on material from Kylie’s first two albums, alongside most of her singles and more than competent covers of some of her own favourite songs. Backed by a full band, the Enjoy Yourself tour was launched in early 1990, and gave Kylie the opportunity to quench her increasing thirst to show what she felt capable of as a live performer.

By February of the following year, since much of her time had, by then, been spent absent from Australia, she felt that the subsequent Rhythm of Love tour should be for all the fans that had remained so loyal since the start of her career. Armed with a brand-new set-list, an updated line-up of musicians, and joyously eccentric stage-wear, she was back on the road playing a string of concerts in all of Australia’s main cities. As expected, public demand to take the tour overseas quickly mounted, and although additional dates were added in Asia, with her fourth album waiting to be recorded and other pressing commitments, the UK and Europe had to wait. Rather than disappoint, however, a continuation of the tour later that same year was promised, and the Let’s Get To It tour, updated to accompany the new album of the same name, would take Kylie’s confidence on stage to the next level.

Despite the public’s supportive response to the show, this would be Kylie’s last full-scale tour for almost seven years. Her outlet for live performance turned instead to a variety of experimental and unexpected one-off shows dotted throughout the majority of the 1990s.

On the back of the more adult sound of her then latest album Impossible Princess, her lowest selling but most critically acclaimed, 1998’s Intimate and Live tour revitalised her love of performing her own songs to a live audience. Australia had taken the album to its heart and made it a huge hit, the only territory to truly do so, and whilst using a live show once again to thank the many loyal fans in her home country, she also took the opportunity to throw herself head-first into putting on a spectacular evening’s entertainment. Demand for tickets became such that at one point it looked like Kylie could comfortably continue the tour indefinitely!

Despite initial plans not to take the show outside of Australia, pressure from UK fans, forced Kylie to relent and bring the show to London in the form of three scaled-down shows at the Shepherds Bush Empire. The shows received the same euphoric reaction as back home, and with audiences on their feet throughout, press reports predicted her return to the top of the charts. The experience, and subsequent feedback, reiterated to Kylie the certainty to which direction her new ‘showgirl’ incarnation would now take her.

With a change in record labels to the world famous Parlophone, and with confidence at a high, Kylie was quick to re-ignite the faith of her UK audience with Light Years, an album full of some of the most perfect pop songs she had ever recorded. Released in 2000, she suddenly found herself dominating the UK and international charts once again, and was keen to reinterpret the album as a live show; but not before she would take centre stage for one of the most witnessed events in television history.

Event organisers of the Olympic Games 2000 in Sydney had put together the most astonishing and theatrical closing ceremony in the competition’s history, with Kylie as the keystone to the proceedings. As the appointed ‘queen’ of Sydney’s Mardi Gras, she had been their first choice for a ceremony of such high camp. Her performance, reprising the Intimate and Live showgirl persona, and again performing Abba’s Dancing Queen, provided Kylie with her largest audience ever, with a reported four billion TV viewers tuning in around the world that night.

Having hit the headlines around the globe for the sheer scale of the event, and having subsequently performed again at the opening ceremony of Sydney’s Para-Olympics soon after, Kylie seized the opportunity to announce details of her new tour. On A Night Like This became the fastest-selling tour of her career when tickets went on sale that November, and with dozens of sell-out shows kicking off in March 2001, she had succeeded in establishing herself as one of the most in-demand live entertainers in the business. Labelled by many as a greatest hits tour of sorts, Kylie revisited her back catalogue alongside new material. One particular new song, which had been recorded immediately before the start of the tour, was performed without fuss by Kylie and her band, and passed with little comment, the crowds unaware of what this new song was about to become.

Can’t Get You Out Of My Head became the lead single from her then forthcoming album, Fever, and has since gone on to become of the most famous pop songs of all time. The Fever tour that followed in 2002 soon became regarded as a show of true pop phenomenon. With its unprecedented and ambitious stage sets and technological wizardry it broke Kylie’s own box office records with fifty sold out nights across the UK, Europe and Australia.

The Fever tour is seen by many fans as a turning point in Kylie’s career, the point where it became apparent that she had something very special to offer in a live arena, something perhaps not seen or fully appreciated before. Alongside her creative director and collaborator William Baker, and favoured musical producer Steve Anderson, along with other key players in her live team, this was the start of Kylie creating and performing set-lists enhanced with themed segments and myriad cultural references that have forcibly widened perceptions of her as an artist ever since.

Widening these perceptions further was her next live outing. Money Can’t Buy was a show with her usual high production standards but performed for one night only. With tickets given away free to fans, the show was televised on prime-time terrestrial UK television and used to promote the release of her 2003 album Body Language.

Next time around fans were treated to a full tour, this time in conjunction with the release of Ultimate Kylie in 2004, the star’s second official greatest hits compilation. Showgirl – The Greatest Hits Tour again exceeded expectations with a staggering number of songs, themed set-pieces and costume changes. After performing the European batch of shows and travelling to Australia to begin dates there, however, Kylie’s world collapsed. Diagnosed with early stage breast cancer, all remaining dates were postponed as Kylie began immediate medical treatment. Throughout this time, at the back of her mind her aim was always to get to a point where she would be able to finish what she had started, and complete the tour. And she did.

Just eighteen months after her diagnosis, Kylie relaunched Showgirl – The Homecoming Tour with an emotional opening gig in Sydney. Less energetic dance routines, slower costume changes and longer breaks in between segments of the show were brought in to conserve her strength, but this did nothing to dampen the atmosphere, with the show described in the press as an “extravaganza” and “nothing less than a triumph”. While Kylie, at times, struggled with the pace of such a show, it was rarely apparent, and her wish to bring the Showgirl tour to its natural conclusion was granted.

With the emotionally charged nature, and subsequent extension, of Showgirl, it was clear from the very earliest plans that Kylie’s next tour would take her in a completely new direction. Fresh ideas, a new band, and a different take on things were the order of the day for KylieX2008, Kylie’s most recent and far and away most ambitious tour to date. Gone were the complex sets of previous shows, and in came a minimal stage made almost entirely of video screens, encorporating the very floor Kylie would be standing on. Utterly different to what had gone before, but equally ground-breaking, this new backdrop for the show allowed imaginations to run wild as almost any idea could be realised digitally and broadcast on these immense screens, with only a handful of additional physical props.

The tour kicked off in Paris in November 2008, before visiting 21 countries throughout Europe, South America, Asia, Australia and even Africa. The show was split into 7 themed segments, as well as an encore, with the show evolving as the tour progressed; songs were added or omitted, and regular changes were made to the running order, costumes, and styling. With this being Kylie’s longest tour to date she was keen to keep things fresh, even performing acapella renditions of songs not included in the main setlist during interludes.

Today, Kylie is one of the world’s most successful female artists with over 40 million albums sold, 50 hit singles, including the U.S. Billboard dance-chart toppers Can’t Get You Our of My Head, Love At First Sight, Slow, and the Grammy-Award winning Come Into My World, ten studio albums, two greatest hits compilations, two live CDs, eight live concert DVD’s, multiple video packages and eight world tours, she has now reached the most long-awaited of all her goals – to play America. And she couldn’t be more excited. ‘I’ve wanted to tour in America and Canada for years and knowing that fans have been waiting a long time for this, I’m thrilled that the opportunity has finally arrived, for you, for me.’