Welcome ashore! Test tour pays off for Kylie Minogue

Categories: Chicago Sun-Times

CONCERT REVIEW | Aussie icon finally makes her debut here after 22 years

BY MARK GUARINO | Chicago Sun-Times

The Cuban embargo aside, the United States has evidently had strained trade relations with Australia considering the 22-year absence of pop star Kylie Minogue on these shores.

Minogue was a teenager in 1987 when she had her first hit single, with dozens to come over the next two decades, yet despite her success, Minogue waited until now to tour North America, making her Chicago debut Wednesday at the UIC Pavilion.

She has her reasons. Despite her global success, Minogue has remained somewhat of a cult artist in the United States. Minogue, responsible for selling 40 million albums across the world, has had more difficulty here: Billboard reports that her 2004 album “Body Language” sold 171,000 copies in the United States, its follow-up, “X,” sold just 36,000 three years later.

Which means her North American debut is more of an experiment, arriving in just six cities.

With lasers, multiple video screens, props and a giant skull that lowered Minogue for her entrance, the show played to both requisite spectacle and Minogue’s subdued stage charms. She has roots as an actress, which means she did not spend much time yanked into complicated choreography. Instead, her eight dancers moved around her as she mostly played to the center stage.

Minogue’s costume shifts have less subtext with the music and are more about dressing up in something new because it’s fun. Following suit, her material spanned 1980s retro pop (“Shocked”) to pulsing techno (“Speakerphone”) to Brazilian-flavored R&B (“2 Hearts”). Her band, featuring two backup singers and a three-piece horn section, kept the music from ever getting mechanical; instead, they swung on choruses so indelibly catchy, it presented the question why they failed to catch on here.

In treading new waters, Minogue made the safe choice to play directly to her fans. Which meant plenty of time focused on beefcake dancers who, in one segment, simulated showering together when they weren’t going for a group grope.

A similarly tedious segment involving a chaise lounge and symphonic balladry — plus a revisiting of that first hit, “The Loco-Motion,” redone as stripper kitsch, did not fare as well for the singer who, you could tell, looked more comfortable cheering on everyone who made it there, including herself.

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