Like the bum-bum drums that mark an EastEnders cliffhanger, it was with a sense of reassuring inevitability that the final show of Jason Donovan’s current tour climaxed with Especially For You – the song which, 20 years ago, cemented Donovan and Kylie Minogue as a real-life item in the minds of the British public. Donovan, of course, has long since become accustomed to seeing his bumpy career trajectory compared to that of his former on and off-screen lover. She became a pop icon but seemingly at the expense of a harmonious private life. He spent much of the 90s getting stoned, cleaning up, falling in love and completing a reality TV-abetted resurrection. “It’s about more than the career,” a seemingly contented Donovan recently told Q Magazine, “I have children and a life. And I was totally the blue-eyed blond pin-up of the mid-80s. You can’t f*** with that.”
Far from f***ing with that formula, the suited, floppy-haired Donovan that greeted his old fans was a remarkably well-preserved replica of his younger self. Fleshed out by a five-piece band that scarcely broke into a sweat to play them, the songs that acted as co-ordinates charting his rise from Neighbours to heart-throb – Hang On To Your Love, Too Many Broken Hearts – were replicated to sound as brash and cheap as they did the first time around.
This, of course, is exactly what was required of Donovan and, to his credit, he knew it. Like those Iceland adverts which see him eyeballing the dubious pastry “nibbles” offered to him by Kerry Katona, the mechanically-recovered parps and squelches of Nothing Can Divide Us owed more to his acting than singing abilities. But, perhaps because there isn’t much scope for self-expression in his singing persona, it all seemed to spill out in the bits between the songs. The amount of times he alluded to the events of his life “since coming out of the jungle” you’d think it was Vietnam he had been to, not I’m A Celebrity Get Out of Here.
His apparent gratitude that he still has an audience seemed to wrong-foot fans who came to idolize him rather than be idolized. And even though, Donovan’s wild years are behind him, that most quintessential of stoner traits – the ability to earnestly ramble on and on to anyone who will listen – seemed intact. Festive deely-boppers seemed to wilt as he talked about how much it means to him when he speaks to his father in Australia on the phone, more so when he proceeded to sing Halfway Home – a song he had written about all about those inter-generational tete-a-tetes.
By the encore – which saw him welcome chorus of children on stage (his own included) for Any Dream Will Do – we finally realised what Kylie had done 20 years previously. That, unless you’re in a relationship with him, Jason Donovan is no longer an appropriate object of lust. Over the course of 90 minutes, that was shift measurable by the palpable dip in glass-shattering screams.