Why hadn't I gone before? There are two main reasons.
1) I don't like big crowds.
2) I really dislike the whole 'festival' concept – queuing for toilets for hours, crowds – see above, being soaked by rain, covered in mud, losing your friends, etc.
I'd heard lots of great things about Kylie concerts. I'd seen a few when they came round to being televised. I even watched one of her tour DVDs when we were in Australia on Kangaroo Island. When in Rome, we reasoned…And I'd been told Kylie 'put on a good show' so it's so much more than just hearing the songs you've heard so many times, only live. A friend went, with his boyfriend – he was gay, is that a surprise - to the O2 to see in the New Year at a Kylie concert. All I heard from January to March of the new year was how amazing it was and how much me and my BF had missed out.
So basically, this is my long-winded way of saying I decided we'd make it happen.
A bit of research revealed Kylie had two remaining tour dates left in the UK: Hyde Park, London and Newmarket race course, Suffolk. Since it's much closer we went for Hyde Park, London.
Kylie wasn't 'on' until 20.30 but we arrived at 13.00, meeting friends, eating, getting our bearings of the enormous site in Hyde Park. It had, at last count, 4 stages.
The sun shining, having eaten some nachos and put on sun cream, I commented how I thought I'd be find with the crowd since it wasn't too busy.
My friend pointed out it was early yet, and it was going to get much much busier.
My previous calm was replaced with a small inner feeling of panic in the pit of my stomach. But I resolved to not let this show and to go with the flow and enjoy it all. I told myself if it all became too much I could retreat to the back of the park by the barriers and still hear Kylie.
Years & Years – new to me, a young bleached blond guy sang to electo music, while wearing an Umbro top and then a loose vest top. They showed Kylie dancing back stage to their music, which was great in its randomness and informality. <3 it.
Chic and Nile Rodgers – We Are Family, Good Times, Everybody Dance. Perfect feel-good disco music. Nile Rodgers said he'd been cancer-free for 4 ½ years and the crowd cheered.
Grace Jones – wore a corset, covering her stomach and bottom half, her bare breasts exposed and covered, along with her body, with African tribal paints. She changed head dress / outfit for every song. I think it's fair to say she was bat sh*t crazy. Pull Up To The Bumper, Slave To The Rhythm – while hula hooping obs.
Kylie. I don't know why gay men like Kylie so much, but I'm going to have a go at working it out ;-) The songs were each about 3 mins long, so you had time to get into each one, have a good dance, before getting bored and wishing it gone, and soon another song came along. She sang, properly sang. No lip syncing for Kylie. It was definitely live as it was slightly different from the album versions, she put her own little spin on it, she was Spinning Around…
There was a troop of very buff, very talented, very brightly coloured mainly male dancers accompanying her. There were female dancers and backing singers, but front and centre stage were the male dancers. Kylie knows her audience.
She performed a great mix of old and new songs, some from her latest Kiss Me Once album, some going as far back as The Locomotion. She sang, Better The Devil You Know, Wow, Can't Get You Out Of My Head, Slow among others. It was a broad spread. She sang Bette Davis Eyes too; as you can imagine, with that crowd, it went down well. If you want a very gay Kylie music video, check out Slow. Just saying...
She was carried off the stage and walked in a fenced off wedge of space between the two closest audience sections at the front. At one point Kylie was really only 4 yards from little old me.
The audience was 65% gay men, but what struck me was the variety of different gay men there. I was expecting them to be all a bit swishy, a bit sparkly, a bit, well like me, and how I'd imagined a typical Kylie fan would be. Oh no. There were bushy bearded base ball capped, vest and baggy shorts wearing gays – sharing a smile and a nod with me as we danced. There were shaved headed, smooth faced middle aged gays in Kylie T shirts and jeans. There were big-muscled bulging tight vest wearing gays. There were smart-shirted, brogue-wearing, smart-jeans wearing trimmed bearded, looked like they worked in an office, gays. And there were large groups of gay men in all variations in between, polo shirts, glittery T shirts, leather jackets, sportswear, anything and everything. There were loads of couples, holding hands, kissing, dancing together; it felt like a gay pride festival, which was great as we're not doing London pride this year.
So my 'stereotypical Kylie fan' did not exist. Which I was pleased about. It was wonderful how all the different types of gays were there together, with plenty of room to dance together. There was no attitude between anyone, just a shared love of Kylie and her music. It was beautiful.
But the best bit was how wonderfully happy, friendly and inclusive everyone was. When the enormous glittery disco balls were lowered from the top of the stage to the middle and while Kylie sang about The Locomotion as pictures of buff men and red disembodied lips flashed on the screens behind her, a woman dancing next to me said, 'It's so gay isn't it?' She shook her head.
I replied, 'I wonder why the gays love her so much!' I shrugged.
She put her hand on my shoulder, clearly anxious to clarify she wasn't being dismissive of Kylie, gays or anything really, and said, 'I love Kylie. Love the gayness, love the songs. Everything.' And then she returned to dancing, with a smile, next to me.
And it so was.
I got caught up with a jumping dancing row of people during the chorus of Get Outta My Way became too much to resist.
Among the singing there were some moments of magic: the audience sang the theme tune to Neighbours to Kylie, she joined in and laughed; she asked us to do a Mexican wave 'the wave' for Americans out there – from the front to the back of the park; she introduced some of the dancers to us; she was carried right into the audience, then walked back to the stage surrounded by a sea of hands and smart phones.
Throughout I said to the BF I wondered if she'd do one of my favourites, All The Lovers from her best recent album, Aphrodite. I'd seen her close a concert at the O2 with an amazing performance of this song, about love equality, a screen of stars and male, female signs intertwined. At 21.50 she said she was going to close with a song to thank all of us who were here, sharing our love, and the intro bars to All The Lovers started.
I nearly exploded.
A screen of stars and moons. The globe of the world. Male and female signs intertwined. She had it all going on.
Is there any better feeling, without artificial enhancement, than singing to a favourite song with 50,000 other people who know the lyrics too? I don't think so. At the chorus I was dancing like nobody was watching.
My first Kylie concert was everything I'd hoped, and so much more. It also gave me some ideas for my next gay romance story. But more of that's definitely not for here. You'll have to wait. I'm going to crack open the post it notes and do some plotting for it today.
Liam Livings xx