This week I attended my first ever Madonna concert. I’d be lying if I told you I had a Madonna poster hanging in my bedroom or her latest album cover as the screen saver on my computer. But because Madonna is an important figure in both music and pop-cultural history, not to mention one of the last mega-pop-stars performing at a mega-pop-star level, I felt it was my duty to witness a live Madonna show before my concert-reviewing skills diminish or Madonna’s legs give out.
(left: Madonna rockin’ out on her “Sweet and Sticky” Tour.)
What better place to witness my first Madonna show than Madison Square Garden? Not only does she love New York (double check her Confessions On A Dance Floor album), but this is the city where the Material Girl became the Material Girl. Only in New York City could a dance-lovin’, guitar totin’ nobody, become the world’s greatest pop-music somebody.
With three huge video screens on stage, two huge video screens hanging next to the stage, and a spherical video screen that descended from the ceiling onto the catwalk, I knew I wasn’t about to see a concert, I was going to see a SHOW!
For Madonna’s intro, the collection of video screens followed the journey of a candy ball down many shoots and slides. With industrial thumps and booms providing the build-up music, I thought to myself, “Wow, that’s the toughest pink jawbreaker I’ve ever seen.” As the candy rolled, and the tension built, the video screens opened up, and there she was–MADONNA–sprawled out on a throne looking like she didn’t give a shit, while knowing damn well that everyone in attendance knew otherwise.
Because the last handful of concerts I’ve attended have been low-key, indie affairs, I didn’t know where to direct my attention. Amidst dancers in elaborate wardrobe, video screens, high-definition graphics, and laser lights, I decided to focus solely on Madonna (taking a peek at one of the video screens when I needed a closer look).
From the get-go, Madonna went full-throttle. I’m sure many fans in attendance were impressed by her costume designs and dance choreography, but I was most amazed by her athleticism. How does a 50-year old mother of three have so much freakin’ energy! When Madonna wasn’t dancing, she was jump roping (double-dutch no less), and never slipped up once. After she jump-roped, she decided to jump-rope some more, even throwing in some Rocky Balboa crossovers. I was getting sore just watching.
I was certain there would be lengthy stop-downs for Madonna to catch her breath, but even when she did leave the stage to change wardrobe it didn’t seem like she was gone for long. Ladies and gentleman, the show did not stop!
Biggest Surprise of the Night:
Because I’m not part of the Madonna Fan Club (sorry Iconers), I expected myself to crave the big Madonna hits instead of new material from Hard Candy. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself enjoying the more recent stuff like “Beat Goes On,” “She’s Not Me,” and “Miles Away.” If MTV still ruled the world like it did back in Madonna’s heyday, I feel like all of these would be considerable mainstream hits.
One of the Perks of Being Madonna:
When you have a deep catalog of hits like Madonna does, you can use it at your disposal for various transitional elements. Though she didn’t perform the songs live, “Die Another Day” and “Rain” were used as interludes during the show, and at the end of the night, “Holiday” was played over the P.A. system as everyone left the building singing along to the song.
What can I say, I’m a sucker for short track shorts and knee-high party socks.
Madonna getting her Twisted Sister on with a pair of shoulder-pads and a frizzy wig with bangs. Why look like Dee Snider, when you already look like Madonna?
Best Line of Stage Banter:
Madonna didn’t banter that often, but at one point in the show she told the crowd that everyone was at her dance party, continuing with, “You know who’s not invited? Sarah fuckin’ Palin! I love her soul, but she’s got to stop winking. It’s freakin’ me out.”
Politics, Politics, Politics
There was a mini-controversy–at least on the internet–about one of Madonna’s video montages that featured both Hitler and John McCain. After seeing it live, I didn’t find it very offensive at all, considering the montage was broken up into three different sections: 1.) All-time, bad-guy hate mongers, 2.) Current political “bad boys,” and 3.) Visionaries of hope. Honestly, I was more offended that Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey were in the same montage as Mother Theresa. No diss on Bill or Oprah, but Mother Theresa never had a billion-dollar budget to work with. I was also a little miffed that Barack Obama received a louder ovation than Martin Luther King, Jr. did.
Most Beautiful-Looking Part of the Show:
I’m sure many may say that Madonna’s block of Latin American styled songs (with brightly colored Latin American-inspired wardrobe), which included Evita’s, “You Must Love Me,” was the prettiest part of the show, but I would argue that her performance on top of a grand piano during, “Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You,” was the best-looking moment of the night. Dressed in a black cloak, Madonna performed the tune while being engulfed by the spherical video screen featuring a sequence of splashing water.
Highlight of the Show:
Late in Madonna’s set she performed her most recent hit “4 Minutes,” followed by raved-up, bass-pounding versions of “Like A Prayer” and “Ray Of Light.” This 3-song dance party sent me into another dimension. I felt like I was at a rave, trading off power-moves with Troy “Smooth” Mouer (circa 1996)!
Not So Highlight of the Night:
A few times during the show, Madonna would take center stage with a guitar. Though she wasn’t doing any serious riffing, she did strum some power-chords while reworking a couple of her hits. The guitar-treatment worked best with the punked-out, big-rock interpretation of “Borderline” and didn’t seem to interfere with “Ray of Light.” However, it didn’t translate so well on the rock makeover of “Hung Up” (let’s face it, that little Abba sample drives the song).
Because “Hung Up” is one of my favorite dance tracks of the last few years, I’d much rather see Madonna shake her thang than play bar-chords. Fortunately, the party picked back up when Madonna closed with “Give It 2 Me.”
Sticky & Sweet Set-List:
Beat Goes Onâ€¨
Video Interlude – Die Another Dayâ€¨
Into The Grooveâ€¨
She’s Not Meâ€¨
Video Interlude – Rain/Here Comes The Rain Againâ€¨
Devil Wouldn’t Recognize Youâ€¨
La Isla Bonita/Lela Pala Tuteâ€¨Doli Doli (Live interlude – Romanian folk song)â€¨
You Must Love Me
Video Interlude – Get Stupid â€¨
Like A Prayerâ€¨
Ray Of Lightâ€¨
Give It 2 Me (Finale)