Kylie Minogue has eluded me over and over again this year. It started last Halloween when we were both at Club 57. Who knew she was the sad clown with Marc Jacobs and Cleo-Fergie? No one noticed her at Brooklyn Bowl in March when Dragonette was performing. I didn’t have 1,000 clams to shell out for the AMFAR event at the New York Public Library. I didn’t have the patience to hang out in uber-gross Splashbar to see her perform at 3 a.m., and I chose to see Gaga in New York rather than leave early for London to see Kylie perform at the infamous West End club, G-A-Y.
So when the opportunity surfaced to see her in an intimate concert in Southampton, I pounced. Kylie was Rufus Wainwright‘s special guest at a benefit concert for the Watermill Center, in the Hamptons. Seeing Rufus perform as well just sweetened the pot. He’s fantastic and one of my favorites. The proceeds from the event supported Watermill’s Fall and Spring Residency Program providing young and emerging artists with space and time to explore and further develop their work. Love programs that enable young artists to just do their thing.
Saturday, August 28, the Last Song of Summer concert turned out to be one of the BEST days of the summer bar none. The Watermill Center is a beautiful venue nestled in the middle of nowhere. We literally parked on the side of a road and walked through a path in the forest to get there. In a grassy area next to the main building, a small stage was set-up. I’d say no more than 500 people were there — just an early clue as to how special this afternoon an evening would be.
At 5 p.m. a young singer-songwriter named Krystle Warren took the stage. Like Kylie, big things come in small packages. Warren, a Kansas City, Mo. native (holler), has one of the most beautiful and unique voices I’ve heard in years. She reminded me of Tracy Chapman a bit, but much smoother. If you close your eyes, you might mistake her for a man. Truly exceptional. Krystle was admittedly nervous. “It’s not every day you open for Kylie Minogue and Rufus Wainwright,” she confessed. Rufus joined her on stage for a song or two, then she stuck around as a back-up singer for the rest of the night.
As Rufus started his set, chatter, subtle pointing and cameras shifted their attention to some action behind me. There she was, sitting at the door in a perfectly fitted leopard-print dress, matching leopard Louboutins, chunky necklace and her signature no-fuss blond locks. My heart dropped. She’s tiny. She’s so beautiful in person. She’s two years older than me! I love that. As Rufus performed one of her favorite songs by him, she danced by herself near her creative director, William Baker.
After two songs, Rufus invited Kylie to the stage. No roar — remember there’s only 500 people there, and we’re in the Hamptons — but it was a very warm reception for our favorite little Aussie. She opened with “Dance. It’s all I want to do,” and “All The Lovers” and then “Love at First Sight.” Before the show started, my friends and I figured the concert would mostly feature Rufus and Kylie would come out and sing no more than three songs, five if we were lucky. We were wrong.
Rufus, Kylie, Krystle and three other singers (including Rufus’s aunt Jane) would go on to sing a wide array of songs that weaved in an out of their own music catalogs, as well as a few random gems like “Southern Boys.” I have no idea if that’s the name of the song, but Kylie purring about a Southern boy’s drawl had me grinning from ear to ear. I loved Rufus and Kylie giving us their best Elton John and Kiki Dee on “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.” They sang an old Australian folk song together. Kylie sang “Try Your Wings” on her own and they performed a charming duet, “If I Loved You,” from the musical Carousel. In this song, Rufus commanded Kylie to collapse to the floor, and she did. She reached up, stretching as she sang, “I need sheet music!” she giggled. Once it was clear Kylie wasn’t going anywhere, I knew this was a once in a lifetime experience. Many of these songs never again to be performed together.
From the Rufus collection, they collaborated on “Grey Gardens” from his Poses album as they tipped their hats to their surroundings, and from Kylie’s collection, her signature song, “The Locomotion.” If anyone has seen Kylie perform this song in recent years, they know it’s not the ’80s synth version she conjures. It’s a sultry, sexy, jazzy version. Lucky for you, I captured about 90 seconds on video:
As the night wound down, three of the best performances of the evening were in store. The first was Rufus behind the piano singing the Leonard Cohen classic, “Hallelujah.” This is one of my all-time favorite songs. His version is one of the best, but when Kylie sang harmonies and took on a verse for herself, I teared up. Kylie Minogue singing “Hallelujah.” It doesn’t get much better than that. Stunning.
The final song with Kylie was her monster hit, “Can’t Get You Outta My Head,” which she sang with Rufus and the back-up singers. Everyone on the lawn, including a delightful Angelica Huston, were on their feet dancing and “la-la-la“-ing. As she left the stage, someone said, “it feels like we just attended a barbecue with Kylie.” I love that. After she left the stage, Rufus ended the night with a song to honor his mother, Kate McGarrigle, who sadly passed away in January of sarcoma. He sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” with his aunt Jane on piano. It was the perfect ending to a perfect evening, that capped off a perfect day in the Hamptons.
After the concert, my friends and I stuck around for a glass of champagne and to watch Rufus and Kylie mingle with the crowd. I’m typically not inclined to approach a celebrity and ask for anything, let alone their picture. I respect their space and don’t want to bother them. Not this time. When will this opportunity ever present itself again? She’s too wonderful not to say hello, and thank her for the joy and love she has given me and so many others. So I went for it. I actually met Kylie Minogue and got my photo taken with her! Granted, I look horrible, but she’s perfect.
That leads me to my conclusion, and a few words about Kylie Minogue. In a world of “flash-in-the-pan” celebrity and trend conformity to stay young and relevant, Kylie is one of a kind. I dare not compare her to anyone. She continues to deliver her brand of pop music, sticking to what she does best and staying true to herself. She’s grateful for her career longevity and gracious to her fans. She’s 41-years-old and she looks and acts every day, month and year of it. She’s mature yet young at heart. She’s sexy and flirty, but never vulgar. Rufus said it best, Kylie is short-hand for “joy.”
I think of Kylie as my contemporary in many ways. She’s a model for aging gracefully while always staying above the fray and living her life to the fullest. I suspect cancer gave her perspective, greater appreciation for life, and a wellspring for her ever-present youthful spirit. Thank you Rufus for a great evening. I will never forget it.