SYDNEY–Australian pop star Kylie Minogue returned to stage on Saturday for the first time since recovering from breast cancer, energetically belting out her trademark hits in front of a cheering, screaming crowd of thousands.
Dressed in feathers from head to toe, with an Australian cockatoo's plume on her head, she began her concert at the Sydney Entertainment Centre with an overture of her best-known songs before whipping into the single "Better the Devil You Know".
The near sell-out crowd of 10,000 included parents with their children, teenyboppers, bohemians in black berets as well as a large contingent of gay men in pink hot pants and pink boa feathers who over the years have adopted Minogue as an icon.
Many of the women in the audience were blonde-haired, but few had adopted Minogue's post-chemotherapy short-crop.
After the bout with cancer, the diminutive singer has renamed her concert tour the "Showgirl Homecoming Tour", and has been forced to scale back on her previously lavish, high-octane musical spectaculars.
"I actually can't do the same things," Minogue told reporters in Sydney this week when she launched her own perfume called "Darling".
"I can't wear the same costumes. How can I do that a year-and-a-half later and feel that I'm meant to be replicating what that was, when I'm not the same person?"
The 38-year-old Minogue was diagnosed with breast cancer only days before she was to perform in Australia last year. She immediately cancelled her "Showgirl" world tour and underwent successful surgery in Melbourne in May, 2005.
Minogue, a darling of the paparazzi, then underwent a course of chemotherapy in Paris where her boyfriend, French actor Olivier Martinez, has a home. During her recovery she penned a children's book, "The Showgirl Princess".
In recent months, the former soap opera actress turned international celebrity has made occasional appearances in public, including a television interview, a book signing in London and Dolce & Gabbana's catwalk show in Milan.
She also appeared on the cover of the Australian edition of fashion bible Vogue with her new short hairstyle.
Before Saturday's comeback concert, Minogue said she was excited about performing after the long lay-off.
"I'm just going to try and enjoy the moment, roll with the crowd and take a few more risks," she said.
And the 152 cm (5-ft) tall showgirl did not let her fans down, performing on a huge art-deco stage with 13 dancers, half a truck of feathers imported from the Lido theatre in Paris, and a A$10 million (7.7 million) video and laser show.
Minogue is to perform 20 concerts in Australia, six in her hometown of Melbourne, before taking her tour overseas. She is due to perform in Britain on January 2.
But the encounter with cancer has seen the dynamic Minogue contemplating a slower life when she finally decides to give up show business.
"I dream of that kind of thing. Sometimes I want to release that earthy Australian hippie ... get your tent, go out, learn how to catch a wave and walk through the rainforest ... be an Aussie chick," Minogue said at the perfume launch.
But for now the performer once ridiculed in her home country as a singing budgerigar, is back on stage to tumultuous applause. ($1=A$1.30)