Kylie, SECC, Glasgow<br />Black Kids, Concorde 2, Brighton

Her songs, those perfect, radio-friendly hit singles, span decades &ndash; and now Minogue reinvents herself as the ultimate 21st-century girl
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The Independent Culture

People ask the silliest questions. For example, why is a grown man of 40 wasting his intellect writing about something as trivial as pop music? The answer I always give is that pop is the highest of the arts, because it encompasses all the others.

As well as music (obviously), pop draws on cinema (the videos), theatre (the stage shows), dance (live choreography), poetry (the lyrics), visual art (the sleeves), high fashion (the costumes), even rhetoric (the interviews).

And, in 2008, a grown woman of 40 is the ultimate practitioner of this ultimate discipline. Well, smirk at the "grown" if you wish, and maybe cross out the "rhetoric". But on the issue of her supremacy, I won't give an inch.

There was a time when the dominant attitude towards Kylie Minogue was that she was a puppet. As the years have passed, the supposed puppetmasters have changed, the only common element from era to era being the alleged puppet herself, surely forcing all but the most stubborn rockist to acknowledge that Kylie is actually a pop genius.

The X 2008 tour concentrates on Minogue's third-millennium works – apart from a superb "Shocked", a version of "Step Back in Time" which begins with some stunning close-harmony a capella singing, and a roof-raising "I Should Be So Lucky", putting clear blue water between now and the greatest-hits Showgirl tour.

In this year's X, Kylie has made the album of her life, and its finest extracts tonight – the staccato snap of "In My Arms", the piano-house euphoria of "Wow", the body-pop minimalism of "Heart Beat Rock", the Goldfrapp/ Manson glam noir of "2 Hearts", the Gainsbourg-sampling "Sensitised" – aren't merely show highlights, but career highlights.

The show itself, too, is utterly 21st-century. From the moment the stage fills with dry ice and Kylie appears suspended in a green spider's web, adored from below by dancers who look like demonic Dr Who baddies, this sets a new standard for state-of-the-art mise-en-scène.

Even the floor of the stage is a giant screen, and when the red-and-white stripes of the American flag scroll by at high speed underfoot, it's disorienting. We see Minogue manacled, emerging from an origami pyramid in a shower of petals, doing a Viennese waltz in full rock-me-Amadeus costume, and dolled up as the world's sauciest bus conductor.

It's Kylie's mortality, her humanity, which elevates her above, say, Madonna. As she accepts flowers from the big boys and kisses from the little girls, she exudes easy charm. And as if to emphasise the fact that she isn't a robot, during "Your Disco Needs You" she stumbles on her stack heels and almost falls flat.

One interlude which does fall flat is the concession to camp in the form of the oiled-up sailor boys who precede "Loveboat", and the subsequent cover of Manilow's "Copacabana". Sure, Minogue owes a lot to gay culture, but this blatant, Route One stuff I can take or leave.

There's one song, however, that I cannot live without: "Can't Get You Out of My Head", tossed nonchalantly into the opening minutes. When Kylie's big white teeth bite into the la-la-la refrain, it's a moment of jouissance: popgasm, soulgasm, braingasm, ectoplasm.

We're all living in a post-"CGYOOMH" world. Even Kylie. (Maybe especially Kylie, because she must know that nothing she's done, or will ever do, can quite outshine that one paradigm-changing moment). It's one of those rare songs which inspires a Damascene revelation: wow, you can do that with pop music?

If Kylie has been valiantly keeping the flame of pure pop burning these past few years, help is at hand. Something's definitely in the air this year: autonomous, independent but proudly pop acts from Britain, continental Europe and the US, all seem-ingly sharing a belief in the uplifting power of the great radio-friendly single. The three prime examples of this pop wave are Alphabeat's "Fascination", The Ting Tings' "That's Not My Name", and Black Kids' "I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You".

Black Kids, who can just about get away with a mildly provocative name (on the grounds that their two central members, singer-guitarist Reggie Youngblood and his keyboard-playing sister, Ali, actually fit the description), are an amiably slackadaisical quintet from Jacksonville, Florida, who escaped strict religious backgrounds for the joys of pop.

And what joy they bring to it. "I'm Not Gonna Teach ..." is a classic tale of bitchery and spite which comes on like an indie-boy answer to Kelis' "Milkshake" with added shoutalong "1! 2! 3!" hooks.

Reggie's wayward wail shamelessly channels Robert Smith, and The Cure are a major touchstone for Black Kids, along with New Order and other alt-pop acts of the mid-Eighties. In the flesh, they bring their brilliantly titled debut album Partie Traumatic vibrantly to life, and new single "Hurricane Jane", whose "Friday night and I ain't got nobody" is all over the airwaves and, before long, your brainwaves too, is almost as addictive as its predecessor.

They've got the crucial girly-crush factor too. When Reggie – he of the lanky frame and wild afro – responds to a declaration of love with a Barry White-ishly deep "I love you too", the shrieks are so intense you can almost taste the hormones.

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