“It’s mistakes that can make all the difference”
ONCE DISMISSEDDI AS A SOAP STAR WHOSE MUSIC CAREERC WAS A FLUKE, KYLIE MINOGUE LOOKS BACKB OVER 25 YEARS ONSTAGE, WRITES C CAMERON ADAMS
“I didn’t really know what I was doing and just ran back and forth across the stage”
When Kylie Minogue began the process of tracking down 25 years of costumes and memorabilia fo for an exhibition on her (literally) glitte glittering stage career, she had one crucia crucial call to make.
“There were a few items the parentals were minding,” laughs Minogue. “I, too, do the same th thing as everyone else: ‘Mum, Dad, can you just hold onto a few things forfo me?’ It’s just lucky they weren’t turfedtu out from under their watchful eye.”
Kylie On StageStag is the singer’s latest collaboration withw her beloved hometown’s Ar Arts Centre Melbourne. She’s previousl previously donated a swarm of outfits to the v venue, going all the way back to the overallsove she wore as tomboy mechanic Cha Charlene on Neighbours.
This new – anda free – exhibition rounds up outfi outfits starting from her first-ever live performances on 1989’s Disco in Dream tour. Still aged just 21 and dismissed by some as a soap star who fluked a singing career, Minogue found herself playing to 38,000 fans in Tokyo, where her early hits “I Should Be So Lucky”, “The Loco-motion”, “Got To Be Certain” and “Hand On Your Heart” had made her a superstar.
“From memory, I was overexcited and didn’t really know what I was doing. I just ran back and forth across the stage,” says Minogue of her debut tour.
Disco in Dream also premiered what would become a Kylie fashion staple: hotpants. “Those ones were more like micro shorts, not quite hotpants, but they started it,” she admits. “There were also quite a few bicycle pants being worn around that time, too, I’m afraid.”
That first tour stands out for one other reason: Minogue officially started dating INXS’S Michael Hutchence at some point during the Asian leg.
“I had met Michael previously in Australia, but he was living in Hong Kong [at the time] and I met him again there. The tour went on to Japan and he definitely came to visit me in Japan.”
Fast-forward from Minogue’s very first tour to her most recent, 2015’s Kiss Me Once, and the singer performed a cover of INXS’S “Need You Tonight”. She remembers first hearing the song as a teenager. “I don’t think I really knew what sexy was back then,” notes Minogue. “But that’s a sexy song.”
Before the Kiss Me Once tour kicked off, the Minogue/hutchence romance had been documented in the hit TV mini-series Never Tear Us Apart: The Untold
Story Of INXS. Minogue said then it felt like Michael was her “archangel” during the tour – “I feel like he’s with me.”
Her “Need You Tonight” costume was also deliberately chosen to reflect what Minogue used to wear when she was dating the rockstar. “It was a black PVC trench coat and hat,” she says. “I loved that. It just made so much sense for the connection to Michael. I literally used to wear that exact same kind of thing, except it was leather, not PVC.”
By 1990, Minogue’s confidence had grown, something she’s partially attributed to Hutchence’s influence. Before her first Australian solo tour, she performed a secret club show billed as The Singing Budgies – reclaiming the derisive nickname the media had bestowed on her. It would be the first time her success silenced those who saw her as an easy target. Next year marks her 30th anniversary in pop; longevity that hasn’t happened by accident.
MINOGUE’S CAREER ACCELERATED so quickly that by 1991 she was on her fourth album in as many years and outgrowing her producers, Stock Aitken Waterman, who wanted to freezeframe her in a safe, clean-cut image.
On 1991’s Let’s Get To It tour of the UK, Minogue welcomed onboard her first major fashion designer – John Galliano. He dressed her in fishnets, G-strings and corsets; the British press said she was trying too hard and imitating Madonna at her most sexed-up.
“Of course those comparisons were made, and rightly so. Madonna was a big influence on me,” says Minogue. “She helped create the template of what a pop show is, or what we came to know it as, by dividing it up into segments. And if you’re going to have any costume changes, that’s inevitable.
“I was finding my way. I don’t think we got it right in some ways, but if I look back over my career, sometimes it’s the mistakes that make all the difference. They allow you to really look at where you’re going. I’m fond of all those things now. There was a time when I wasn’t.
“Now I look back at the picturesp of the fishnets and G-strings I was wearing... Maybe the audience udience members absolutely loved it, maybe be they were going through the journey with me of growing up and discovering yourself and your sexuality and where youou fit in the world.”
As the ’90s s progressed, Minogue started experimenting rimenting with the outer limits of being ng a pop star, working with everyone ne from uber-cool dance producers to indie rocker Nick Cave.
Her 1998 Intimate ntimate And Live tour cemented her r place as the one thing nobody had ever ver predicted: a regular, global touringg act. Released the year prior, her Impossiblepossible Princess album had garnered a credibility edibility she’d never before enjoyed. But more credibility equalled fewer record sales.
The tour was cautiously placed in theatres, ratherather than arenas. Yet word-of-mouthth led to more dates being added – she wound up playing seven nights in both Melbourne and Sydney, and tacking on a UK leg. All received rave reviews.
The productionction was low-key and DIY: Minogue e and longtime friend and stylist William Baker were hands-on backstage ckstage bedazzling the costumes themselves. emselves. The tour’s camp, Vegas-style showgirlhowgirl – complete with corset and headdress eaddress – soon became a signature Kylie look, but it was also one they stumbled mbled across.
“I rememberber the exact moment: the male dancerscers had pink, fringed chaps and wings ings – we’d really gone for it. I was singing inging [ABBA’S] “Dancing Queen”.een”. I did a little prance e across the stage and d the audience went nt wild.
“I don’t think I reallyy knew what sexy was back then. But that [INXS’SXS’S “Need You Tonight”] iss a sexy song”
I thought, ‘What is happening?’ That definitely started something.”
Then came the “Spinning Around” hotpants. Minogue couldn’t wear the same gold pair from the music video during her 2001 On A Night Like This tour – they were too fragile – but another pair offered solid back-up.
“That was peak hotpant period,” says Minogue. “Hotpants for days.”
After the robotic-themed Fever 2002 tour (featuring a “Kyborg” look by Dolce & Gabbana), 2005’s Showgirl tour was Minogue’s long-overdue greatest hits celebration.
Following a massive UK and European run, her planned Australian victory lap was derailed by her breast-cancer diagnosis that May. Remarkably, by November 2006, Minogue was back onstage in Sydney for the rebooted Showgirl: The Homecoming tour.
“I look at that now and I’m honestly taken aback,” she admits. “It was so fast – months and months of those 18 months were in treatment.”
Minogue now reveals her health issues meant she had to adjust some of the Showgirl outfits: “I was concerned about the weight of the corset and being able to support it. I was quite insecure about my body, which had changed. For a few years after that I really felt like I wasn’t in my own body – with the medication I was on, there was this other layer.
“We had to make a number of adjustments,” she adds. “I had different shoes to feel more sturdy... It was pretty soon to be back onstage. But I think it was good for me.”
The singer’s gruelling performances involved dancing and singing in corsets, as well as ultra-high heels and headdresses that weighed several kilos.
“A proper corset, like the Showgirl tour one, is like a shoe,” she explains. “It’s very stiff when you first put it on. By the end of the tour it was way more comfortable. The fact it made it quite hard to breathe didn’t seem to bother anyone except for me. But it was absolutely worth it. I felt grand in it.
“It took a while to learn how to walk in the blue Showgirl dress,” she continues. “I had cuts on my arms from the stars that were sticking out on pieces of wire. You’re so limited in what you can do. You can’t bend your head to find your way down the stairs.
“Whether it was the Showgirl costume or the hotpants, or the big silver dress from the Aphrodite tour [in 2011] that was just ginormous, they all present their own challenges of how you’re going to move and how you’re going to do the choreography. There are times the costume can do that [figuring out] for me; other times I really have to wrestle with it to do what I need to do.
“But you’re not meant to know about that,” she adds, “that’s an internal struggle.”
MINOGUE HAS SPENT much of 2016 happily off the radar, enjoying the company of fiancé Joshua Sasse, 28. She gets “gooey” talking about her future husband, whom she met last year when she was cast opposite him in the TV musical-comedy series Galavant. He proposed to Minogue last Christmas.
Just like the “secret Greek wedding” that was rumoured but never happened, reports of summer nuptials in Melbourne are also off the mark.
“I hate to let everyone down, but no,” she says. “People’s enthusiasm is lovely, we appreciate that, but there are no wedding plans as yet. I’m just enjoying feeling girly and being engaged.”
Minogue will be in Queensland next month filming the movie Flammable Children. The comedy, set in 1975, features her former Neighbours co-star Guy Pearce and is written and directed by Stephan Elliott ( The Adventures Of Priscilla: Queen Of The Desert).
“It’s Aussie-tastic,” laughs Minogue. And she is also planning a sneaky visit to check out her own exhibition when she’s back in Melbourne.
“I’ll probably try to move things around the exhibition,” she says. “And they’ll probably tell me off: ‘Who’s that child playing with the costumes?’” Kylie On Stage is at the Arts Centre Melbourne, September 21 to January 22.
“There are no wedding plans as yet. I’m just enjoying feeling girly and being engaged”