Jack Cullen

All the bummers: Kylie’s Aphrodite: Les Folies tour hits London

Notes from a gay boat trip to a Kylie concert

It’s 6:22pm at the London Eye boat dock we’re watching the last catamaran to the O2 arena disappear down the Thames. Shit, shittety, shit. If we get the Jubilee line now we’ll be really late, and the thought of being shoved up in a tube carriage wearing tiny satin shorts and a metallic laurel doesn’t appeal.

Luckily, about twenty-eight other gays and their girly gangs have missed the boat too. Like me, they’ve had to rush-change in their office toilets, out of their double-breasted suits and into their gold hot pants, and in some cases sprint down the Embankment in an Aphrodite toga with a briefcase. Kylie fans are the emblem of middle-aged pop commitment, it’s totally commendable.

And so we stand there gloomily in the cool evening sunshine looking like an outdoor theatre initiative at HM Wandworth wondering how on earth we’ll get to Kylie on time, until one muscle Mary steps forward, a self-elected leader, a spokesperson for all the lovers, all the lager louts and all the bummers. Remarkably, he negotiates with the boat ticket office that all of us are given a place on the 6.30pm departure otherwise we’ll cry, a lot, or even worse, devise a dance routine to Chocolate, or better still, console ourselves by slowly flapping our arms and singing a four-part rendition of Beautiful.

The tawdry dock attendant pokes her clipboard deeper into her armpit, looking me up and down with a stare – my jock strap showing on my midriff, twenty-something chest hairs glistening, a can of gold glitter spray clutched with deadly Spinning Around intent in one fist, it’s quite a sight. “Alright then, down you come lads” she sighs, and I can’t help feeling she did this last week for Peter Kay fans.

The boat is a 50/50 mix of commuters and Kylie punters. One businessman tries very hard to keep his eyes fixed on his copy of the Financial Times whilst Jamie and I do each other’s make-up. One woman compliments me somewhat coldly on my choice of eye-shadow, as if surprised to discover men actually invest in quality make-up brands, as if just because we’re camping up for a Kylie concert we wouldn’t be using MAC or Rimmel. Her mascara looks like something that came free with a kids wildlife magazine. I refrain from sharing this observation and instead wonder what she was doing in 1988 and I Should Be So Lucky came out. Coveting her sister’s Spirograph probably, or killing ants with a magnifying glass. Bitch.

So, zig-zagging in a catamaran drunkenly down the Thames is the only way to arrive at Kylie’s Aphrodite tour, swigging cans of Pimms, discussing Confide In Me, taking it in turns to shout “Who the fuck are Ultra Girls?” into the nautical winds, waving at various laypersons doing manly work on the shore with barrels and ropes, and all the time tweeting @kylieminogue our candid iPhone snaps – we’re coming into her world and it feels great.

The O2 is buzzing when we arrive. The toga-clad staff are all friendly, giggling school girls photograph themselves, Hand On Your Heart booms out through the toilets Tannoy and there’s a lovely polite ‘No, you first’ tone to everything. It’s hard to define but Kylie is somehow everywhere, it sounds so naff, but she really is in the air. That weird sense of the supernatural that White Diamond lingers everywhere.

To my ignorant surprise, it’s not just balding gays and their single-for-life girl pals here. There are grannies, young couples, students, bankers, beer-bellied Dads, even groups of young straight lads, all bound by the same religious text that is Kylie’s back sprawling catalogue, a sparkling spider web of hits that no one in western civilization has escaped untouched.

There really is fairy-like magic that sends a tingle through the heart, a feeling that is worth more than the £40 ticket price, and without realising it I find myself instinctively holding a boy’s hand.

The shows about to start and so I shall end my piece here. As we enter the splash zone, I wouldn’t want a water jet ruining my iPhone now would I. (But as not to leave you completely in the dark – the show is incredible).

More from Jack Cullen