Kylie Minogue
Credit: Tony Avelar/AP Images

When I spoke to Kylie Minogue earlier this year about her upcoming US tour—the first in her 20-year career—she warned her usual arena-size stage show would have to be scaled down to fit the smaller venues she’d be playing over here. But she also made a promise: “There’ll still be the razzle-dazzle, don’t you worry. It’s not going to be me with a banjo.”

She wasn’t kidding.

Last night’s show at NYC’s Hammerstein Ballroom was a two-hour post-disco fantasia of strobe, bass, and glitter—an all-out spectacle worthy of her American fans’ pent-up adoration. Barreling through her sizable songbook, Kylie stepped into a cast of personae—a wind-up space princess, a stomping glam rocker, a pouting screen siren—each with its own over-the-top costume and set decor. Seven jumbo screens pulsed background images for each number. Hits old (“Better the Devil You Know”), new (“Wow”), and soon-to-be (the upcoming single “Better Than Today”) whipped the audience into a sustained frenzy, while rose petals and confetti showered the stage at key moments.

But despite the glitz, this was no exercise in Spears-ian auto-pilot pop. The size of the venue demanded audience interaction, and Kylie happily chatted with the crowd throughout, taking requests for songs and dance moves from audience members who had queued up as early as 2am that morning to be front and center for the show. She lavished attention on her band, including a three piece horn section and two unfeasibly gorgeous backup singers. Fan-favorite ballads like “Confide in Me” and a stripped-down “I Believe in You” became a showcase her voice, a surprisingly solid soprano that usually gets glazed under thick layers of processing on her recordings.

And one thing was clear from the get-go: Minogue knows exactly whom she’s singing for. The opening number began with a brief instrumental medley of tunes from West Side Story, The Wizard of Oz, and The Sound of Music, and then segued into the lesser-known 2000 album track “Light Years,” at which point the singer, dressed in a Mars Attack- style minidress and feather wrap, was lowered onto the stage atop a giant, metallic skull. The crowd—some still wearing pins from that morning’s National Equality March in Washington, DC—roared their approval, a warm NYC welcome twenty years in the making. It would be a shame to make them wait that long again.

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