Writing about music is fundamentally a solitary and frequently lonely way of earning a living. By and large, you'll listen to listen to promos when you have the place to yourself or maybe on your iPod when you realise that three days indoors isn't the best thing for your well-being.
The irony, of course, is that us scribes loathe the album playback. Absolutely hate it. Despite it being a social occasion where you can meet your fellow writers, PRs, and other industry bods while you're being wined and dined (on finger food) on the record company's dime, we hate having to listen to an album in an environment where we normally wouldn't and then be expected to pass comment on it after just one listen.
And so it was that I met Dan Lucas for the first time at a playback for Arcade Fire's exercise in tedium and over-indulgence that is Reflektor at some swank members club in Marylebone. We were sat on opposite sides of a dimly-lit room, occasionally getting up to help ourselves to the teriyaki chicken and prawns that were on offer with the free beer and wine. I couldn't help but notice that Dan grimaced at pretty much the same points that I did, which came as some source of comfort.
Around the halfway mark of the interminable playback, a record company person informed us that we'd be taking a short break. We both got up and stepped outside for a smoke. I offered Dan a light and, having taken a drag of our respective fags, we both said at exactly the same time, "It's shit, isn't it?"
And that's how I met Dan Lucas - tearing strips off Arcade Fire in between cigarette puffs. We'd meet up every now and then at playbacks and pretty much shared the same opinion of whatever it was we were listening to.
I'm glad that he kept his size-10s on his feet on that occasion and gave the album the kicking it so richly deserved. Consequently, every time I heard something from that album, it always raised - and will continue to raise - a chuckle as I remembered those first simultaneous words to each other.
Rest easy, Dan, and be sure to give those feet a rest.
Chic Chic and Nile Rodgers ['that’s more like it' – lawyers], eh? They stick a backflipping Bruno from Strictly Come Dancing, The Edge and that Sam Smith they have now on stage together for a rendition of Chic’s hit ‘Good Times’ (does this count as a cover?) and still they get out-gimmicked.
Poor Grace Jones, eh? Pushing 70, she can still turn up topless on stage, wearing naught but body paint and kick, scream and gyrate her way through a high-energy set of funk classics and post-punk covers, and still not grab the headlines.
Kylie on the other hand can turn up on stage wearing a crown and (presumably fake) ermine furs and, prompted by the crowd, lead an acapella rendition of the theme tune from a soap that last aired... bloody hell it’s still going? And everyone goes batshit mental for it.
There’s no way that the Sunday at BST Hyde Park could be described as anything but a glorious success – a sun-soaked celebration of pop music so big and shiny that it could be mistaken for Bruce Willis’s head. Kylie proves the perfect headliner for it, too: a fantastic booking that the organisers deserve credit for. It would take the most churlish, cold-hearted of DiS’s writers to even mention the negatives.
So her voice isn’t exactly the strongest. While the setlist opener, ‘Better the Devil You Know’, is a good enough – nay, great enough – song to cover for this, it’s a noticeable flaw when she follows this with a few hits that sit much lower in pop’s pantheon. After Chic’s (Nile Rodgers-featuring) run through of their own greatest hits and songs that Rodgers had worked on – ‘Let’s Dance’, ‘Get Lucky’, ‘Notorious’, ‘We are Family’ and ‘I’m Coming Out’ included – and that celebrity-infused finale, there was a real danger of the diminutive Aussie being outshone.
The person who deserves real credit here is your reviewer, for even being able to remember that. 'Act two' onwards is almost taking the piss: next week sees Taylor Swift in the headline slot and this is almost an act of cruelty towards her – a crushing reminder that she, along with most others, will never ever have an oeuvre that comes close to Kylie’s. ‘Step Back in Time’, ‘Spinning Around’, ‘Can’t Get You Out of my Head’, ‘I Should be so Lucky’, ‘The Loco-motion’ and ‘Kids’ all get an airing during the set's meatiest, middle portion. At this point she could probably have packed it in and sent the crowd home early, having got them drunk on glee (which is handy, given how galling it is to pay a fiver for a pint of Fosters).
It’s a neat move ahead of an ending surprisingly low-key for a show that featured (apparently) the world’s largest disco ball. ‘Love at First Sight’ – her best song? – is brought out for 'Act three' and paired with a rousing cover of Kool & the Gang’s ‘Celebration’, but those two are bookended by ‘Get Outta my Way’ and ‘All the Lovers’: cuts from 2009’s Aphrodite. It’s an album that was warmly received, but hardly bursting with favourites and these feel like odd tracks to throw in at the climax, as does the encore/closer, ‘Into the Blue’ from last year’s Kiss Me Once. No I didn’t know she did an album last year either.
Whether or not anyone knew the songs is, at this stage, beside the point though. I might have been a touch sceptical before the show, especially in light of a triumphant show from Blur the night before, but by the end doubt had given way to giddiness.