Kylie Minogue, Wembley Arena, London

Return of the Showgirl - grown-up Charlene Mitchell blazes brightly
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The Independent Culture

"I am surprised to spend New Year's Eve with you," admitted Kylie to her loving masses. Same here. Do you think I am going to knock Kylie's comeback? On New Year's Eve? And after recovering from breast cancer? Are you unhinged?

Like the Eels sang, Kylie "is a sweet little thing". And the most inoffensive pop star in gold hot-pants there has ever been. Darn it, this is Charlene Mitchell from Neighbours, the one with big frizzy hair, a gorgeous smile, the wedding and so on. A tiny, really tiny, monument to Kylie should be mounted in Hyde Park and the reception tonight is suitably enormous. Adoration is back.

She strutted on stage with a mammoth pink fluffy Mohican type of hair and belts out her first really "adult" single, "Better the Devil You Know". She was surrounded by a plethora of almost entirely naked men, sporting blue feathers and sparkly underwear. Clearly, this was not going to be a restrained gig. There was a gamut of fake feathers, and pecs. And "Better the Devil You Know" is a suitably rousing start.

The song was released about the time Michael Hutchence was gleefully "corrupting" her. He even wrote "Suicide Blonde" for her. He also prompted Nick Cave to say the song contained one of "pop music's violent and distressing lyrics".

Six years later, the dark song led to Kylie's greatest collaboration on the grisly "Where The Wild Roses Grow", which tonight is sung with Kylie wearing a leopard skin outfit and writhing on gymnasium equipment. It is quite a sight for the hardcore fans who have stumped up over £60 and sacrificed their New Year's Eve for a night out in stormy North London for this burlesque and extremely camp show - which imitates her new hero, Bette Midler.

It is hard to imagine that there was a period in the early 90's when Kylie couldn't sell out the Dog and Duck, but her writhing reinvention on the sumptuous "Spinning Around" perked the nation's perception. Middle-aged men with receding hairlines embraced her and the pocket-sized popster became OK to fancy. Her knee even got groped by pervy Parky, but unlike Meg Ryan, she didn't flinch. Kylie has always been keen to impress her peers.

The music critic, Chris True, once commented that her "cuteness makes those rather vapid tracks bearable". He was referring to the pretty execrable Stock Aitken and Waterman period. Usually, I cannot listen to "Locomotion" or "I Should Be So Lucky" without coming out in a rash but tonight, both tracks, which are played back to back, work rather well. And it hardly matters that her voice has always been rather thin tonight because there is so much appreciation. The gig comes to a close with a large roar of "LaLaLa LaLaLaLaLa", her most infectious and overplayed hit, "I Can't Get You Out of My Head", a pop song of some considerable genius from the Fever album and which was memorably described by Rolling Stone magazine, "Campy as a tent full of Boy Scouts". Ultimately, this is a perfectly choreographed and rather lovely return of Charlene Mitchell.

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