Some 14 years after cancer forced Kylie Minogue to pull out of her headline slot at Glastonbury she played a triumphant, emotional set. In an exclusive chat with TOM BRYANT she talks about the long road back
IT WAS one of the most emotional moments in Glastonbury history. In front of 100,000 revellers – and millions more watching on TV at home – Kylie Minogue wiped away tears on the Pyramid stage as she addressed the crowd.
“In 2005 I was meant to be here,” she said. “Circumstances meant that I did not make it. I wished things were different – but life is what it is. We’re all here in this moment.”
The fact that tears flowed on Sunday afternoon halfway through her electric set should come as little surprise. Fourteen years ago, the pop star was due to headline but a breast cancer diagnosis forced her to pull out. She would have been only the third female solo artist in history to headline the festival at the time.
“I really thought I missed my opportunity and as the years went by, I said to myself: ‘Well this just isn’t going to happen’,” she says.
Even now, she remembers vividly being back home in Melbourne, Australia, with mum Carol and dad Ron and watching the 2005 festival on television.
Despite being in the grip of an eight-month cycle of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, the injustice of having to cancel the show affected her deeply too.
“My memory’s so strong of so much around that time and while my focus had moved on from Glastonbury, I was watching from Australia and going, ‘I’m meant to be there’,” she says.
Aged just 36 at the time of her diagnosis, it was a tumultuous period in her life. After the hammer-blow of the illness, she retreated into a “dark” place and barely left her parents’ home. However Kylie also decided to make her condition public.
“I was meant to be on stage in two or three days so I needed an
explanation, and it just didn’t cross my mind not to say it,” she says. “I probably didn’t think about the ramifications of that, but I am not a very good liar.”
After finally being given the all-clear in January, 2006, following a partial mastectomy, she was then forced to take medication for five years.
“The lows, you hate them at the time but it is character building,” she says. “I kind of hate saying that, but it’s true, you know.”
One of the positive side-effects of Kylie going public was the surge in the numbers of women having mammograms. Dubbed the “Kylie effect”, screenings increased by a third.
“I have people come to me and tell me to my face, ‘Well I went to get checked and I’m now five years cancer free,’” she says.
“It’s a good feeling to know that you’ve raised awareness and helped some people.”
Sitting in front of Kylie at a corner table in a bar at Claridges Hotel, she is everything you’d expect and more.
Warm, charming and incredibly self-deprecating, she looks resplendent in minimal make-up and much younger than 51.
It’s easy to see why dashing GQ creative director Paul Solomons fell for her. The pair began dating over a year ago and he met her family including brother Brendon and pop star sister Dannii, for the first time, last Christmas.
Suddenly there was a smile on her face again after the heartache of splitting up with fiancé Joshua Sasse amid rumours he was unfaithful.
Kylie’s luminous blue eyes light up at Paul’s name. And she lets out an uproarious laugh upon mention of the soppy Instagram pictures the pair like to post.
“Who says you can’t be soppy and romantic later in life? Particularly when you find a good and true love,” she says. “It doesn’t matter how young or old you are. I feel even more thankful and lucky that I have this in my life now... I’m really being taken care of.”
Not that Kylie needs taking care of. Ever since she burst onto our screens as tomboy Charlene in Neighbours in the late 1980s, she has worked non-stop – amassing an estimated £50million fortune.
She has sold a staggering 80million records worldwide. Her last studio album – Golden – went straight to number one, she has a greatest hits album out and is currently on a UK tour, taking in dates including Manchester, Cornwall and Brighton.
She says the run of shows this year was “easy” – compared to her last set of dates, which saw her cancel concerts in Dublin and Belfast due to illness.
The singer said at the time how she was “so, so sorry” after picking up a vocal strain caused by a throat infection.
“The tour last year in Europe nearly finished me off,” she says. “I don’t actually have a cape, so it was physically really challenging for me.”
To survive – and thrive – over three decades is almost unheard of in a notoriously tough business. It suggests an inner steel underneath her cheery persona. Just ask her team on tour.
“I like to be the boss... if anyone does anything stupid, they get the look,” she laughs, although I suspect she’s serious.
She is not unlike her idol Dolly Parton in this respect, who five years ago also took to the Glastonbury stage to perform the Legends slot.
Kylie reveals the two of them met up earlier this year while Dolly was in the UK, the pair of them discussing the small matter of the Aussie’s date at Worthy Farm.
“Dolly said, ‘Oh you’re going to love Glastonbury. You know I did a new song for that called Mud because I thought there was going to be mud.’ I couldn’t believe I was having this conversation. She just told me to go out there and enjoy it.”
And she certainly did that...
New album Step Back in Time is out now. Kylie’s tour travels to Cornwall, Manchester, Lytham St Annes, Edinburgh, Scarborough, and Brighton Pride. For tickets, go to kylie.com
I should be so lucky: A smiling Kylie watches other acts on the Pyramid stage alongside her new man Paul Solomons
Kylie was joined at Glastonbury by fellow Australian Nick Cave for their duet, Where The Wild Roses Grow
The singer was visibly emotional at times during her Glastonbury set