Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire Touring until August 3
Going to Blenheim Palace this summer is like finding yourself in the middle of a Doctor Who Christmas special. In the park, there’s a pop-up replica of Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre from 1587.
In the house, as ever, you can see the room where Winston Churchill was born in 1874. And in the courtyard, Kylie Minogue is busy turning acres of stately gravel into a Nineties dancefloor.
This is Nocturne Live, the four-night midsummer mini-festival that is so posh the portable toilets are billed as lavatories. Kylie, held back for the final night, is the big draw. Shouldn’t every palace have a pop princess?
Kylie at Nocturne Live, the four-night midsummer mini-festival that is so posh the portable toilets are billed as lavatories. Kylie, held back for the final night, is the big draw
She’s warming up for Glastonbury, where she will be this afternoon, occupying the teatime legend slot made famous by Dolly Parton. Kylie doesn’t seem old enough, but at 51 she’s a veteran of sorts.
Introducing I Should Be So Lucky – tinny, but nice – she astonishes the crowd by observing that it came out 31 years ago. In the photo on the sleeve, she was wearing a bubble perm.
Her oeuvre is on the skimpy side, making it a surprise that she has just released a 42-track compilation – Step Back In Time: The Definitive Collection. On stage, though, she knows how to make up for a shortage of content: just lay on a surfeit of style.
IT’S A FACT
Kylie’s infectious Can’t Get You Out Of My Head was co-written by spangly-earring-wearing Rob Davis of Seventies rockers Mud.
Her outfits, by Stella McCartney and The Vampire’s Wife, are gorgeous, from a hot-pink ballgown to a red PVC jumpsuit that may be a homage to Niki Lauda. The stage design, by Rob Sinclair, is superb – all witty ideas and swift transitions, from a riot of pastel to a black-and-white psychodrama.
There are selfies to the left of me, selfies to the right. What on earth did Kylie’s fans do before Instagram?
She plays only a few songs to remember: a mash-up of Slow with Bowie’s Fashion, a gleeful Loco-Motion, a lovable Tears On My Pillow, a charming, crowd-led Can’t Get You Out Of My Head.
But the visuals are more than enough, and even a sceptic would be won over by Kylie’s personality, bubbly as that perm. It’s a beautiful show, and the only worry for Glastonbury is that it may be wasted on daylight.
O2 Apollo, Manchester Touring until Saturday
With Aretha Franklin gone, it feels all the more vital to see her surviving peers. Gladys Knight, now 75, is joking about being old. ‘I don’t remember all the songs,’ she deadpans. ‘If I miss a line, you sing it and I’ll catch it.’
Her Manchester fans do the honours, turning her show into one long singalong.
Gladys has lost The Pips, one of the great names in backing groups. But she still has her pipes, and she knows how to use them. Introducing Licence To Kill, she makes her distaste for James Bond clear, before lifting a middling song with the sheer power of her lower register.
Gladys has lost her backing group The Pips, but she still has her pipes. With Licence To Kill, she lifts a middling song with the sheer power of her lower register
She boils a 60-year career down to just 17 tracks, which can be frustrating, but the highlights are unforgettable. (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman is majestic, The Way We Were is touching, and Midnight Train To Georgia is both.