You couldn’t accuse A Kylie Christmas at the Royal Albert Hall of not showcasing its intentions from the outset. A massive, multi-coloured neon Christmas tree towers over the stage. A 22-strong choir is dressed as Christmas puddings. Backing dancers arrive with huge tinsel pompons attached to them. An orchestra plays a medley of festive hits. And all this before the main attraction has even been carried onstage and revealed in her Christmas tutu to sing It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.
The Ramones’ Merry Christmas (I Don't Want To Fight Tonight) this is not. No, this is Christmas Kylie Minogue-style, the sort of high-camp, unashamedly kitsch, knowingly OTT extravaganza that only Kylie, as the nation’s adopted sweetheart, could dare pull off on such a scale.
Recognising that to bah humbuggers this will sound like hell itself, the pop equivalent of being forced to dance to Slade at your office Christmas party with colleagues you can barely tolerate, A Kylie Christmas hits the spot because it knows exactly what it is, and who it’s for (every seat is seasonally laid out with a Santa hat). For two and a half hours, Kylie treats us to a relentless festive assault on the senses: as well as songs from her recent A Kylie Christmas album, aided by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, we get numerous vivid Christmas-themed costume changes from both Kylie and her dancers, snow drifting from the roof, balloons falling from the sky and a giant disco ball thrown in for good measure.
It is unremittingly overblown, but undeniable fun. Kylie, a polished if restrained performer, keeps the show grounded in her role as suggestive Christmas fairy. Her banter is sweet, and a largely failed attempt to get the crowd through the 12 Days of Christmas turns the Albert Hall into a family front room.
Such was the spectacle, at times the songs were secondary. The album itself is a mixed bag of standards like Santa Baby and Let it Snow, new material (Coldplay’s Chris Martin pens one track) and frankly bizarre collaborations: the posthumous duet with Frank Sinatra Santa Claus Is Coming to Town is obviously missing Ol’ Blue Eyes tonight, while we are thankfully spared James Corden for the beautiful take on Yazoo’s Only You.
Chrissie Hynde does turn up to duet The Pretenders’ underrated Christmas gem 2000 Miles, turned tonight into a delicate, twinkling ballad. Danni Minogue is also here, and the joy the sisters radiate as they stomp the stage during 100 Degrees is genuinely uplifting.
Knowing an entire night of Christmas tunes would be wearisome, Kylie reels out the hits: a disco section of On a Night Like This, Spinning Around and Your Disco Needs You lifts the tempo and shows Kylie at her dance-poppet finest, though best of all is the sparse, reworked I Believe in You.
“Shall we do this every year?” she asks before closing with Wizzard’s I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday. That’s pushing it, but for one night Kylie brought Christmas to life as only Kylie can.
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