When Britain’s favourite pop princess storms into London for an intimate show, it’s a flirt fest for the city’s gays.
One week into another London spring ‘heatwave’ and it’s over. Rain has returned to the city, and so has a sweeping chill. Crouching under the Hammersmith freeway flyover west of central are thousands of gay men, sporting vintage Vivienne Westwood jeans and proudly sticking two fingers up at the back-to-normal weather by cladding themselves in tight T-shirts emblazoned with taglines stating ‘Your Disco Needs You’ and ‘Get Outta My Way.'
It can mean only one thing: Kylie’s back in town, and she’s celebrating 25 years in the biz.
Yes, she may be Australian by birth and just wowed her 'down under gays' with two live shows, but she’s now firmly back on British soil and relishing in her spiritual home star status. In contrast to last year’s Aphrodite: Les Follies world tour, which reportedly grossed more than $50 million, tonight’s show is billed as an intimate ‘Anti-Tour,' taking in smaller venues and aimed at über-fans. None of Ms. Minogue’s chart or radio hits are to be performed; instead, a selection of B-sides and rarities will boom out over London.
The crowd is mainly 30 or 40-something gay men—Kylie’s ground-level fanbase—who should be old enough to know better but instead revel in the twinkly treble and pop perversion of '80s and '90s classics. With a capacity of just over 5,000, London’s Hammersmith Apollo is a garden shed compared with the venue of Kylie’s 2011 London shows at The O2, which squeezes in 23,000.
“I used to dream of doing a tour that was full of hits,” she says, halfway through the set. “I never dreamed I'd do a tour that was not full of hits.”
The songs are obscure to say the least. There’s a bonus track, "Magnetic Heart," which was only available on the Asian version of her album X; and "Made in Heaven," the B-side to Kylie’s 1988 hit "Je Ne Sais Pas Pourquoi"—separating the Kylie Men from the Non-Kylie Boys with a select few mouthing the lyrics and revealing their stalker-like fandom. Madonna had a similar idea around 10 years ago, playing at London’s Brixton Academy in 2000 as part of her Don’t Tell Me Promo Tour to a crowd of just 2,800 (although the show was streamed via MSN to a worldwide audience of more than nine million).
So, do we enjoy our pop queens stripped back to streetwear, drummer, guitarist, keyboardist, backup singers and minimal stage and lighting design, as opposed to the big budget glamour and frivolity of their usual tours? The resounding answer seems to be yes.
Rather than being seen as creating a poor man’s version of Kylie’s stadium tour, the predominantly gay men in the audience appear to be sucked in by the vulnerability of such a performance—"It’s just her, in denim shorts and a T-shirt! We’re seeing the real thing! It’s like watching her practicing in front of her mirror in her bedroom, learning the lyrics!" were all overheard.
Studies into why gay men idolize certain female figures have concluded that the making of a gay icon is based on a mix of her glamour and vulnerability. So perhaps a reason why so many gay men lay with fingers poised on that ‘BUY TICKETS’ button when they went on sale was the chance to see the glitz and glamor icon in a state of realness. And, of course, Kylie’s songs were top of many a DJ’s playlist in gay bars in the 1990s, so judging on the average age of the audience, a certain nostalgia for a lost era contributed to the gig’s appeal. Either way, the concert proved another lucrative pick-up joint for many—stories of ungodly acts occurring in the restroom cubicles circulated soon after the opening number filtered from the speakers.
As the woman herself sings,
‘So let’s dance through all our fears
War is over for a bit, the whole world should be moving to your heart
You're a lonely heart
Your disco, your disco, your disco needs you!’