Kylie at Glastonbury 2019 review – solid-gold set from a living legend

Pyramid stage
Belatedly making her debut at the festival, the star managed a seemingly impossible combination of sincerity and camp, pop perfection and pure emotion

The “legends” slot at Glastonbury is always a fount of audience goodwill. By mid-afternoon on Sunday, when morale is low, songs you know as intimately as your parents’ phone number, played by icons who are very often older than your parents, offer a particularly welcome kind of comfort. But with Kylie, it’s different. She was supposed to play Glastonbury in 2005, she reminds us, back when she was a regular icon, perhaps not yet a living legend. But then, she says, “circumstances” struck: she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to watch from her bed in Australia, moved by the sight of some bands covering her songs in tribute.

She cries as she tells this story, but doesn’t mention cancer explicitly – an omission that reflects how incongruous this dark moment was in her world. Kylie was about lightness, about transcending time’s limitations. Stock Aitken Waterman pop stars weren’t built to last, let alone evolve beautifully through decades’ worth of shifts in the fabric of pop and experience second, third, fourth heydays. That this was under threat in 2005 didn’t compute, to the degree that it felt like a national crisis in her adoptive home land.

Intimate embrace … Kylie and Nick Cave on stage at Glastonbury 2019.
Intimate embrace … Kylie and Nick Cave on stage at Glastonbury 2019. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

Thank god, she survived, and made it to Glastonbury 14 years after her initial appointment and to a hero’s welcome. One of the artists who covered her at the festival in 2005 was Coldplay, and she brings Chris Martin on to perform with her. Worryingly, he’s carrying an acoustic guitar, another thing that frankly has no place in Kylie’s gloriously ritzy world. They proceed to perform Can’t Get You Out of My Head – one of the 21st century’s most futuristic pop songs – in a stripped-back style. While tantamount to forsaking her official gay icon status, the goodwill and charm of the moment carries them through.

Fortunately, the rest of the set is solid gold unadulterated Kylie: that peerless mix of total sincerity and fierce camp that she’s been serving up for more than 30 years. Dancers in pastel trousers waggle 7ft-tall letters spelling out her name during I Should Be So Lucky, then she brings out a man dressed as Klaus Nomi, the German-via-New York performance artist who died of aids in 1983, and they dance tenderly on Je Ne Sais Pas Pourquoi and Hand on Your Heart. It’s all as silly – she adds a Chic-style “Choo-choo, beep beep” breakdown to The Locomotion – as it is sexy. During Slow, revamped as a bassy, throbbing club track fit for the festival’s queer haven NYC Downlow, she interpolates the lascivious riff from Bowie’s Fashion and grinds against the microphone in a manner that raises the already significant temperature. Nick Cave comes on for Where the Wild Roses Grow, and they share a similarly potent, intimate embrace.

The showmanship, the incredible run of hits – it is absolutely phenomenal. So much so that the crowd keep bursting into chants of “Kylie! Kylie!” and bringing her to tears. Never mind the legends slot; next stop, headliner.

Contributor

Laura Snapes

The GuardianTramp

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