There comes a time in our lives, if we're lucky, when we find peace with who we are and what we have to give to the world. It's an unapologetic life stage wherein we stop trying to prove ourselves and follow our own hearts, giving fewer and fewer fucks about others' approval or opinion.
One might think Madonna, who has always challenged norms and pushed boundaries both as an artist and a woman, has been this way since day one. But as anyone who saw last night's Rebel Heart Tour stop at the Forum could surely tell, she's living her new album title and making it her truth more than ever before. In the past, she always came out fighting (and usually won). But these days she's having fun in a whole new way that shows she's only just begun to inhabit this older, wiser phase of her career. She's basking in it like never before and it's a beautiful thing to watch.
OK, so it would have been nice if she had considered, before starting the show an hour late, that it was a weeknight and many of us (who are older ourselves, and lack Madge's renowned stamina) had to work the next day. But all was forgiven when Madonna kicked off her set in typically brash fashion, descending from an elevated cage as dancers dressed as Mongolian warriors and brandishing Crusaders' crosses marched about the stage, which extended out into the floor seats with a runway that ended in a heart shape.
The de rigueur religious iconography we expect from Madonna was limited mostly to the first part of the show, but that doesn't mean it was insignificant, and she definitely didn't go for anything old hat. Madonna may not be as shocking as she once was, but she still knows how to make blasphemy eye-popping and artful. At this point in her career, truly nothing is sacred. We're talking nuns on cross-shaped stripper poles and an orgylike spectacle atop the Last Supper dinner table.
And that was really just a warmup for the grand-scale visuals that were to come during the two-hour-plus show, which included lots of video, set changes, acrobats suspended in the air and a weird slanted wall across which her dancers glided against projected visuals. More than any of her more recent tours, Rebel Heart was packed with Las Vegas glitz and production. At times it was actually like watching a Cirque du Soleil show, which was both good and bad. When you think of Celine Dion, Cher or, more recently, Britney Spears in Vegas, it's sort of more about the spectacle than the artist. There were moments when this was the case last night.
In fact, there were several segments when Madonna wasn't onstage at all. Video and dancer performances are always utilized to fill in time for costume changes, but it felt excessive last night, making one wonder if she needed the breaks. Yes, mentioning Madonna's age is relevant — she's 57 — if only because of her superhuman ability to sing, dance and captivate in such a vigorous way for two hours. On her last two tours, Sticky Sweet and MDNA, she danced pretty much nonstop; she also jumped rope, pole-danced, line-danced, had major fight sequences, tightrope walked, baton twirled, flipped while tied up and thrashed out on guitar.
She did her share of moving last night, but it was nowhere near the physicality of the past. She even alluded to being tired a couple of times, sharing that it felt good to sit before a ballad moment.
But Madonna still blows away most live performers of any age or sex. Taylor or Miley? Please. Gaga or J-Lo? Don't think so. Justin or Katy? Nope. (I did enjoy the playful exchange between Perry and Madge after the "Firework" singer was called up onstage for a toast to the tour and "unapologetic bitches" … out of a banana flask. Perry gave Miss M major bows before leaving the stage, as she should.) Only Beyonce comes to mind as a stage star who comes close to matching Madonna's energy level.
Madonna has absolutely nothing to prove at this point, which means she can simply have a good time with her music now. And she did, especially with inventive mash-up arrangements: "Holy Water" into "Vogue" during the nun/Last Supper thing; a mesh of "HeartBreakCity" and "Love Don't Live Here Anymore" set atop a spiral staircase; and my favorite, a trio of '80s faves: "Dress You Up" with "Into the Groove" and "Lucky Star." She sounded great, by the way, and though she had backing vocal help, she did actually sing, which is not the case with a lot of her younger contemporaries.
Back when the above tracks were hits, part of their appeal lay in the visual images that went with them. Madonna's videos were aspirational, especially when it came to her alluring fashion and style. Underwear as outerwear was both provocative and punk rock, a combination that scared the hell out of parents and made young girls (and guys) love it all the more. Sexy getups are her thing and she still wears them well. Despite pop music's — and the culture in general's — obsession with youth, it would go against Madonna's very essence not to be alluring, or to age "gracefully" (whatever that means).
Still, her bodacious swirl of costumes was a bit more modest last night, something she mentioned during the set's Spanish-flavored numbers. "I've never been so covered up," she said of the long floral frock she wore. That seemed more a thematic choice than a conservative one, though. There were lots of backdrop aesthetics and themes to dress for, including honky-tonk, Asiana, 1920s swing and jazz, and flamenco. Madonna pulled off blending and bending them all throughout the entire night. Some of the more theatrical stuff came off a bit cheesy, but the light and giddy vibe was contagious regardless. Unlike MDNA and even Sticky Sweet, which had political undercurrents or at the very least social statements to make, Rebel Heart was about love of life and love of self, which has its own significance.
"Nobody fucks with the queen," she said before going into my favorite part of the show, a joyful, no-frills version of "Like a Virgin." It almost felt like a rebirth, for the song and for the star.
She's the queen of pop, yes, but more than that, Madonna is an inspirational figure: a profound badass, sex-positive feminist and gay-rights trailblazer, who did it all long before we had the Internet to call out slut-shaming, homophobia and ageism in the way we can today. She's still hot, too, but it's not about that. She continues to do what she wants, wear what she wants, work with whomever she wants (hot young beat-makers if she fancies, just 'cause it's cool), and kiss whomever she wants (whether that be Britney or Drake), regardless of the judgment she gets for it. Her age continues to be irrelevant to her, as it hopefully will be one day for all of us. Sometimes she'll fall, as she did at the Brit Awards, but she'll get right back up. The message of Rebel Heart is, we all can.
"Nobody fucks with the Queen! Learn that, motherfuckers!"
Perhaps not the most eloquent way to put it, especially for a family-friendly newspaper and website such as the Las Vegas Sun (hence the hyphens), but if critics have entertained the notion that superstar Madonna is past her prime and irrelevant, think again.
As a live performer, Madonna is Queen, as she reminded with the above remarks after performing "Like a Virgin." Madonna is the performer by which all others should be judged, and her only contemporaries in this decade (and the previous decade, really) are Justin Timberlake (in stamina) and Beyonce (in fierceness).
Madonna Louise Ciccone, 57, of Bay City, Mich., brought her "Rebel Heart Tour" to MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday night, and it was a 135-minute master class of art, music, dance and performance, putting to shame fellow artists who lip sync (Madonna certainly had backing tracks Saturday night, but she also certainly sang for most of the concert) or rely heavily on technology over substance and skill.
Saturday's notes and highlights:
Madonna descended from a cage for the show-opener "Iconic," and to say that there was religious sub context and Asian inspiration would be an understatement. The costumes — samurai at the start and Old Hollywood glamor (think bedazzled flapper dress) toward the end — and choreography were standouts, and Madonna herself was still dancing and standing two hours into her concert.
The evening's most shocking moment — this is a Madonna concert, after all — were barely dressed nuns (stripper nuns, actually) on cross-shaped stripper poles during a mashup of "Holy Water" and "Vogue." Let your imagination run wild of what Holy Water is equated to during the song, and we'll leave it at that.
The moving, slanted stage within the main stage a la Cirque du Soleil's "Ka," coincidentally also at MGM Grand, was used to great effect for choreography and imagery; the staircase on the floor for the "Heartbreak City" and "Love Don't Live Here Anymore" mashup also was effective in its simplicity; and her dancers perched on really flexible, bendable poles during "Illuminati" rightfully drew "oohs" and "aahs" from the arena audience.
Madonna showed her sense of humor throughout the evening. Before "True Blue," she chastised an audience member dressed as ex-boyfriend Warren Beatty in a yellow suit from their film "Dick Tracy." "I want to sing about love, not regret," she quipped. After "Material Girl," she told 21-year-old audience member Darian from New Orleans about the three rings of marriage: the engagement ring, wedding ring and … suffering.
Unlike previous "Rebel Heart Tour" setlists, Madonna added stripped-down, acoustic versions of "Secret" and "GhostTown" two-thirds into the concert. Her performances of "Like a Virgin" and "Material Girl" — reimagined, inventive, strong and just downright fun — were surprise standouts of the night, as was her acoustic rendition of Edith Piaf's "La Vie En Rose" in French.
One other thing that seemed different Saturday night from previous concerts: Madonna laughed, smiled and joked a lot — she looked like she was having fun onstage some 40 years into her career, and the audience was having fun with her, too.
DJ Lunice served as the opening act before Madonna hit the MGM Grand Garden Arena stage exactly at 9:30 p.m. Madonna, Lunice, her dancers et al made their way to Marquee in the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas post-concert to host an after-party, with Lunice DJ'ing, of course.
Saturday night's more than two dozen song setlist: "Iconic" (featuring boxing legend and Las Vegas resident Mike Tyson in the accompanying video), "Bitch I'm Madonna," "Burning Up" (in which she plays the guitar), mashup of "Holy Water" and "Vogue," "Devil Pray," "Messiah" (video interlude), "Body Shop," "True Blue," "Deeper and Deeper," mashup of "Heartbreak City" and "Love Don't Live Here Anymore," "Like a Virgin" and mashup of "S.E.X." and "Justify My Love" (video).
Also: "Living for Love" (remix), "La Isla Bonita," Spanish medley of "Dress You Up," "Into the Groove" and "Lucky Star," "Secret," "GhostTown," "Rebel Heart," "Illuminati" (video), mashup of "Music" and "Candy Shop," "Material Girl," "La Vie En Rose," "Unapologetic Bitch" and, for her encore, "Holiday" dressed in red, white and blue patriotic costume with white stars and draped in an American flag.
Thanks to Mikayla Whitmore of the Las Vegas Sun and contributing photographer Erik Kabik for their photo galleries.
The five Madonna concerts I've seen — 2001's "Drowned World Tour," 2004's "Re-Invention World Tour," 2006's "Confessions Tour," 2012's "The MDNA Tour" and this and next year's "Rebel Heart Tour" — have all been provocative, different, creative and exemplary. Madonna, without doubt, knows how to reinvent herself.
It's a shame that "Rebel Heart" is one of Madonna's least-successful albums commercially because she remains at the top of her game in concert. Even with many of my favorite Madonna songs absent from the setlist — I mean nothing from my all-time-fave album, the Grammy Award-winning "Ray of Light"?! — "Rebel Heart" was still a concert that I'll remember (from "With Honors," natch) for a long time.
Final four words about Madonna's "Rebel Heart Tour" stop Saturday night: Concert of the year. It is indeed very good for Madonna to be Queen of Pop.
It's been a minute or two since "Like a Virgin," but at 57 Madonna can still be counted on to deliver the goods, getting into the groove while still pushing the cultural buttons that rocked the PTA.
Pole-dancing nuns rocking ruffled white panties and black leather bras on a song that asks Madonna's lover "Don't it taste like holy water?" Well, you wouldn't expect her to lie on a Last Supper table straight outta Gomorrah and spread her legs while a dancer who may have been Jesus drops to his knees without a little foreplay, would you?
She's been pop music's quintessential Catholic girl gone wild since Lady Gaga was, if anything, a glimmer in her mother's eye. And yes, it's been a minute — maybe two — since "Like a Prayer" became a pop-cultural lightning rod on the strength of a classic taboo-tweaking video that effortlessly blurred the lines between the sacred and profane. But she still knows where all the buttons are and how to push them. In the unlikely event that the pole-dancing nuns weren't scandalous enough? Their poles were topped by giant holy crosses.
She's Madonna. That's just how she rolls.
She's 57 now, an age that may mean more in her case than it would in Joni Mitchell's case because so much of the musical answer to "Who's That Girl?" when it comes to Madonna has come to revolve around sex and the selling thereof, with Madonna empowering and objectifying herself in the same provocative breath and/or gyration. And you know what? She still pulls it off. Like one more article of clothing.
And the fans who turned out to pay homage to their favorite icon Thursday night in Glendale at Gila River Arena saw a show that more than lived up to her legacy. It offered all the pageantry and spectacle of prime Madonna served with throbbing dance beats, dirty dancing, countless costume changes, simulated sex acts and the same mix of the sacred and profane that got her into hot, if holy, water in her youth. The choreography was great, as were the awe-inspiring feats of acrobatics. And Madonna got into the groove with conviction while leaving the fancier dance moves and/or acrobatics to the small army of dancing boys and girls that rarely left her side. She played guitar and ukulele, too — guitar on several songs, including a rocking rendition of "Burning Up," ukulele on two or three songs, perhaps most memorably a charming cover of the Edith Piaf classic "La Vie en Rose" sung in French.
After setting the tone for the show with the self-referential "Iconic" and "Bitch I'm Madonna," both from this year's "Rebel Heart," she dipped into the catalog for "Burning Up." But she returned immediately to her latest effort for a string of new songs that provided a musical backdrop to her onstage exploration of religious themes (as "Holy Water" turned to "Devil Pray" and a video interlude of "Messiah").
She dropped a verse or two of "Vogue" into the midst of "Holy Water" but resisted the temptation to add "Like a Prayer," the greatest of her greatest hits, to the religious mix. Before the set was through, she'd made her way through nearly every track on "Rebel Heart," from "Body Shop" (set in a body shop) to "HeartBreak City" (which featured a beautiful snippet of "Love Don't Live Here Anymore"), "Living for Love," the title track and "Unapologetic Bitch," for which she plucked a beefy male fan from the crowd to get on stage and leave a lot of people wondering where he may be dancing next.
It was a bold move, really, putting that much focus on her latest album. But the crowd was clearly in her corner through it all. And she did get around to a few of the songs that made her so iconic in the first place — an acoustic "True Blue," an edgy, re-imagined "Like a Virgin" (which truly felt shiny and new), "La Isla Bonita," an acoustic "Who's That Girl," "Material Girl" and a medley of "Dress You Up," "Into the Groove" and "Lucky Star." And she reached back to her first chart-topping dance hit, "Holiday," for a triumphant one-song encore that ended with the singer being flown offstage like Peter Pan.
She did keep the audience waiting far too long for her to take the stage. But from the time the fancy curtain fell at 10:09 p.m. until the final notes of "Holiday" rang out a little after midnight, Madonna delivered. It helps that she has an amazing rapport with her fans, or as she called them more than once, her "bitches." And she's funnier than one might think (if one were in the business of dismissing her act without actually seeing it), even joking about the response to her joking. "See? You guys aren't laughing at my jokes," she said at one point, "and I'm starting to feel low self-esteem again."
And as hard as it is to imagine the same Madonna who opened the show with "Iconic" and "Bitch I'm Madonna" struggling with her self-esteem, by the end of the night, she somehow felt more human. In a good way.
It's really hard to determine exactly which part of Madonna's Rebel Heart Tour, which hit San Jose's SAP Center on Monday night, was the best.
Was it when she emerged in a cage, lowered from the ceiling, then pranced with dancers carrying big crosses and dressed like medieval Mongolian warriors, to open the show with "Iconic"?
Was it when she and her female dancers, attired like nuns from the head up, and below, wearing black bras and white panties with ruffles on their bums, slithered like strippers on poles on "Holy Water"? (The number also had an awesome, "Last Supper"-like banquet.)
Was it when she soloed on "Like a Virgin," accompanied only by percussion, on a runway in the center of the arena, doing loose and soulful dance moves reminiscent of Michael Jackson?
Was it when she did a Spanish section, in toreador garb, with rallying bulls on "Living for Love," followed by "La Isla Bonita," then continued the theme (after a costume change into a long, flowing dress), with Latin-infused takes on "Dress You Up," "Into the Groove" and "Lucky Star"?
Was it when she pushed her tuxedoed, top-hatted dancers down a slanted platform during "Material Girl"?
Was it when she strummed a guitar during "Rebel Heart" as numerous amazing drawn and painted images of her created by artists were projected onto huge screens at the back of the stage?
Or was it when she sang the line "Do you know the way to San Jose" and told the capacity multi-generational crowd, "It's so good so see my old friends and my young friends" and "You're the best audience in the world"?
The nearly two-and-a-half hour show, which started late at 10:15 p.m., was a visual and aural feast from start to finish.
At 57, the true blue (she did a breezy version of "True Blue" amid stacked tires under a crescent moon on a set that looked like a service station, and a whole car was pulled out for "Body Shop"), icon shows no signs of slowing down.
After 30-plus years in the business and holding the Guinness World Record for best-selling female artist of all time, she sounds and looks fantastic, from her gorgeous flowing mane to the high heels on which she moved with nary a misstep.
As always, she was wonderfully in control, provoking with wild images addressing big themes: sex, religion, power and violence, and commanding her fans to lead, not follow.
This time, she tacked on happiness, and even smiled.
She's not above having a good time, either. Decked out in stars and stripes, she encored with the anthemic "Holiday," and exited the stage not unlike the way she entered, via a trapeze bar.
More than 14,000 fans got into the groove, vogued, and expressed themselves during Our Lady of Pop's inaugural visit to Edmonton.
Sunday's dancetastic celebration of love, nakedness and religion was the first of two at Rexall Place — and the only two Alberta dates on her Rebel Heart Tour, which has already grossed $20 million US from just 10 concerts.
Highlights: Uh, her mere presence? Madonna released her very first album in 1983 — and we've had to wait 32 years for the controversial dance-pop diva to find the E-spot.
She's not nearly as shocking as she was in the '80s or '90s, but the 57-year-old mother of four still proved to be a rebel at Sunday's show.
She pole-danced with strippers "dressed" as nuns as she sang Holy Water — a throbbing number from her 13th and latest album, Rebel Heart — which ended with a bunch of her dancers re-enacting the Last Supper.
She strummed a ukulele, while sitting on a pile of tires, as she sang True Blue. She pushed one of her male dancers from the top of a spiral staircase during HeartBreakCity, a maudlin love-gone-wrong number, also from Rebel Heart.
Low note: Her opening felt a bit lacklustre, especially for an icon of her stature. At 9:45 p.m. the lights went out in Rexall. Then her Rebel Heart curtain fell to the stage, with nary a musical, pyro or lighting cue to accompany it.
In fact, there were a few seconds of awkward silence as fans waited for her dancers, dressed as ancient Chinese soldiers, and a video of Iconic, featuring Mike Tyson and Chance the Rapper, to start the proceedings.
In the crowd: Mostly fortysomething (and older) women and men who grew up during the Walkman era of the '80s.
(Surprisingly, very few brought their offspring — there was a noticeable lack of fans younger than 20 years old, perhaps due to Madonna's steep ticket prices.)
Hundreds of women wore Madge-inspired outfits, from Like A Virgin wedding dresses to tutus to bullfighter's suits.
She twirled around a stripper's pole. She palled around with the rest of her male and female dancers during Deeper and Deeper. She strutted across the catwalk during Holiday, the last song of her 135-minute set.
Quip of the night: "As the evening goes on, you'll be required to undress," she said before her seventh song, True Blue.
True to her word, she intermittently singled out fans in the crowd and demanded they take off their tops. "Edmonton is going to be naked!" she gushed, as she collected one man's "Italians Do It Better" T-shirt.
Later on, she pulled one woman on stage and made her wear a novelty hat with a turkey protruding from the top of it. "I've had a penis on my head, too," Madonna joked.
Material girl: Her costumes ranged from ornate Chinese robes to '50s greaser to revealing dresses with fishnet stockings.
Unapologetic bitch: It's the title of one of her songs from Rebel Heart, and it suits her to perfection. She didn't bother tailoring her set list to appease long-suffering Edmonton fans — they got the same songs as every other city on her current tour. Which meant 13 (of the 19) tracks from the deluxe version of Rebel Heart, which is far from her best effort.
While she performed a handful of her older hits, including Like A Virgin, Holiday, La Isla Bonita, Material Girl and Music, other classics only made cameos. She sang a snippet of Vogue, for example, during Holy Water, and a teasing morsel of Love Don't Live Here Anymore during HeartBreakCity.
Perhaps even more sacrilegious, Madonna completely ignored Like A Prayer, Live To Tell, Hung Up and her entire 1998 album, Ray of Light. Do we have to wait another 32 years before she performs those in Edmonton? Or maybe she'll do a few of them during her second show on Monday night?
Review: The pop diva had plenty of spice but was easier to like than in her 2012 Xcel tour stop.
It's easy to admire Madonna and not necessarily easy to like her.
Respect her as an inspirational visionary, a hard-driven original, a tough-as-nails survivor, a single mother (of four) and a singular artist. Dislike her because she's a demanding, narcissistic, self-aware, self-absorbed, perfectionist diva. There's good reason that she titled a song "Unapologetic Bitch" on her latest album.
It was a lot easier to like Madonna on Thursday night at Xcel Energy Center than it was in 2012 there. Her MDNA Tour was disturbingly dark and violent. This year's Rebel Heart Tour found a kinder, gentler and happier Madonna.
The takeaway from her 130-minute show was that she was more playful than provocative, with more heart than hedonism and more smiles than scowls. At first, though, it didn't quite seem that way. The 57-year-old godmother of pop seemed short on energy, hoarse of voice and wanting more from her 13,000 fans.
"Did the cat get your tongue, St. Paul?" she asked a half-hour into the show. "Or have you had too many beers? Or not enough beers?"
Ah, Madonna still knows how to push buttons. In other words, it was Madonna being Madonna.
Apparently the crowd didn't get riled up when she co-mingled religion and sex on "Holy Water" (which spilled into a bit of her 1990 classic "Vogue"), in which dancers dressed as nuns pole-danced with Madonna, and "Devil Pray," which urges to ditch drugs and find spirituality by, um, having an orgy on a Last Supper-like table.
Of course, Madonna didn't need religious settings to make her points. Set in a 1950s garage, the double entendre "Body Shop" was both auto and erotic. But, as she has proved throughout her 30-some-year career, Madonna can change faster than a chameleon. She seamlessly sat atop a pile of tires in the body shop and offered a doo-wop treatment of 1986's "True Blue," accompanied by ukuleles.
Like Bruce Springsteen and U2, Madonna doesn't want to be an oldies act in concert, so she offered nine tunes from her "Rebel Heart" album. Of course, she dressed them up, first with Asian costumes (think Samurai warriors), then Spanish outfits (matadors aplenty) and finally something with French flair (welcome to the cabaret, 1920s style).
Those outfits — or variations thereof — also worked for mixing in oldies re-imagined. "Dress You Up" became a Mexican street scene, mashed up in the middle seamlessly by the Latin-tinged electronica of "Lucky Star."
"It's hot under here," she said, removing her bolero hat after the dance-happy medley. "I've never worn so many clothes. Whose idea was it? Not yours."
There were 450 outfits for the 20 dancers, two backup singers, four musicians and the one and only Madonna. When she exited to change costumes, her dancers took over the stage with some of the most thrilling and imaginative filler in arena concert history — including prancing atop cross-shaped bendable poles.
Although Madonna gained energy throughout the evening, she explained that she woke up with a fever Thursday morning. And that prompted her to break into an a cappella version of the classic "Fever." Yes, Madonna can be in the moment and she can sing live (though she was lip syncing during dance numbers). She dedicated the Edith Piaf signature "La Vie En Rose" to Prince. And she crooned her 1987 hit "Who's That Girl?"
She'd spent most of the night trying to explain that. Actually, she's still evolving — and that's why we keep paying attention.
"Are you guys my bitches?"
Madonna's question to the Toronto crowd midway through her first of two Rebel Heart arena shows may have been rhetorical, but the joke revealed the legend's detachment from the reality of her current place in the pop firmament.
We surely were once, Madonna, but based on the reception to your latest album "Rebel Heart," we are no longer. At least not enough to be convinced that your new songs meet the standards of your old songs -- or those of your single-named descendants like Rihanna and Miley.
Yet in a case of misguided confidence -- or perhaps simply an example of her rebel heart -- the pop star seems to think that the crowd came for the new material as opposed to the Material Girl.
This was my first Madonna concert and, having grown up on her music, I was very excited. Of course, I was also very excited to go see "The Matrix Reloaded." Its an apt comparison as the ingredients were all there in both cases, but the recipes just didn't quite come together in the later work.
Yet Madonna still gave most of the concert at the Air Canada Centre over to her new songs. Unlike, say, Taylor Swift's 1989 tour -- which also did a two-night stand in the larger Rogers Centre last weekend -- not many seemed to have developed a strong connection to the new album, even the better tunes like "Living For Love" or "Illuminati."
During the concert's supposed climactic moment, as Madonna played acoustic guitar and sang "Rebel Heart" (the tune the album and tour are named after), I saw only one person nearby singing along.
This is a problem because concerts are communal experiences, and the intimacy lost in an arena show is largely made up for by the audience and artist singing together as one. That's not easy when only one, if that, of the first half-dozen songs (1983's semi-obscure "Burning Up") is something the fans might have a personal relationship with.
That difference was felt when she finally got past the new tunes to "True Blue," and the early 80s classic was done as an adorable ukulele-led campfire singalong. It was great, and our first glimpse of a series of interesting rearrangements that breathed new life into her old songs. I loved them, but they weren't quite able to help her bridge the unfamiliarity gap of the new songs because the different music left people struggling to singalong, even to "Like A Virgin" which they've probably known the words since they themselves were one.
Madonna is a legacy artist who clearly wants to be a current artist. But being a legacy artist doesn't mean she has to settle into a rote Rolling Stones-style golden oldies set list. Madonna's 80s-era peers Prince and Bruce Springsteen both similarly release new material before hitting the road, but they seem to be able to synthesize the new and old into their set lists more effectively. Maybe that's partly due to their virtuosic guitar skills, which can wow crowds even if the newer tunes can't compete songwriting-wise.
But Madonna is a pop star, and so she's reliant on the bells and whistles if the hooks aren't there. So, at least the show had plenty of those.
Madonna is a rebel at heart and always will be.
No matter she's now a middle-aged, twice-divorced single mother of four.
The 57-year-old Material Girl, promoting her 2015 Rebel Heart album with yet another big production touring show of the same name, proved she still has the power to provoke, mingling sexuality and religion - as has long been her way - when she arrived at the Air Canada Centre on Monday night for the first of two back-to-back shows.
Would you believe white lace panty-wearing nuns on stripper poles for the song, Holy Water, which eventually morphed into her old dance hit, Vogue, featuring the rest of her dancers acting out a Last Supper scene?
Madonna followed that up by straddling a priest during Devil Pray.
And that was just the first half-hour of a two-hour-and-10-minute show that featured a surprise appearance by a short-haired Nelly Furtado towards the end of the night on Unapologetic Bitch before the encore number Holiday.
Performing in front of a sold out crowd of 13,500, Madge's eye-popping stage included an enormous red lit catwalk in the shape of a cross, arrow and heart that took over almost the entire arena floor.
The show began with striking visuals on a huge video screen - Mike Tyson naked inside a cage while Madonna writhed around in a white sequined dress evoking the Material Girl of old.
Then the real Madge descended in a cage decked out in Asian-inspired glorious red and black flowing robes while as many as 20 dancers marched around carrying crosses and danced alongside her for the show opening number Iconic.
"Hello Toronto! Are you with me?'" yelled Madonna, who was backed by a seven piece band.
The answer appeared to be a full-throated yes.
Another Rebel Heart song, Bitch I'm Madonna - featuring Nicki Minaj rapping on the video screen - followed before she broke out her first oldie but goodie, Burning Up, while playing electric guitar, sometimes on her knees on that catwalk.
"Come on Toronto," she said, seeming a little bit impatient. "Let's start to heat things up. Are you shy?"
She and her dancers certainly were not as they dug right into the S&M inspired Body Shop whose background of cars, tires and chains, evoked an auto shop-meets-dungeon.
"Goodness gracious! Have you ever seen so many gorgeous people in your life?" said Madonna.
In a word, no.
Madge sure can pickup 'em when it comes to dancers as the tall, thin and graceful Flamenco dudes more than proved during the Spanish-flavoured standout segment of Living For Love, La Isla Bonita, Dress You Up/Into The Groove/Lucky Star while she wore both a bullfighters outfit and a beautiful dress with black shawl and black hat.
This Madonna is a smiling, more laid back version of her former perfectionist self and it really suits her.
"I love my job," she said at one point.
And when she played acoustic guitar for Who's That Girl she said afterward: "I'm still not sure."
Also good was the title track for Rebel Heart, and the final segment set in a '20s Parisian jazz club consisting of Music (which ended with her walking down the catwalk in a bridal veil and carrying a white bouquet which she eventually threw into the crowd at a male couple), Candy Shop, and Material Girl, before going acoustic one last time and singing La vie en rose while playing a ukulele.
You couldn't have told me that would have happened at a Madonna concert 20 years ago.
Madonna looks back, but on her own terms. And she also leans heavily, rightfully so, on her latest album, "Rebel Heart."
"Are you here to take risks?" Madonna posed this question to a packed crowd at her concert Saturday Night (October 3), noting that they were, after all, in Atlantic City (the show took place at Boardwalk Hall). Whether or not the audience were feeling risky—and many of them surely were not—Madonna certainly was.
At this point in her career, she could play to that crowd, and do it in her sleep: it would be the easiest thing in the world for her to do a greatest hits show, and add a perfunctory song or four from her latest album, throw in a few dance routines, and let the money roll in.
But bitch, she's Madonna.
Her new album Rebel Heart is more than just a centerpiece around which she builds a tour and marketing campaign. Her new album is her artistic statement of the moment. Any older songs that happen to make the setlist, make it because they fit in to the narrative she's building around her album. It almost feels like her classics have to audition for the show, along with her dancers and backing band. Nothing's there unless it fits.
She's been categorized, of course, as a pop artist, which is understandable because she's logged an insane amount of top 40 hits over her career. But when it comes to the way she structures her show, she's more like Bruce Springsteen or U2. It's about the message of the moment, not about fulfilling the fans wishes. There's no song she "has to" play.
And, in fact, you could argue that she's a bit more daring than her rock peers: when she plays a classic, it's generally in a totally different arrangement from the original. So, "Burning Up" becomes a hard rock jam featuring a face melting guitar solo by Madonna herself. "True Blue" is almost doo-wop, driven by Madonna's ukelele playing. Then there's a Latin take on "Dress You Up" (which dove into "Into the Groove" and "Lucky Star"). "Who's That Girl" on the other hand, was done acoustic duo-style. Some of these performances serve as reminders that Madonna could have taken any number of artistic paths and crushed it. If, say, she had wanted to front a rock band, she would have been classic rock radio fixture by now. Had she gone the acoustic route, she'd be an NPR perennial.
This was, as it happens, my first Madonna concert. Madonna's always struck me as someone who is notoriously not nostalgic, which makes sense: she always seems ready to conquer the world, and the pop charts, every time she unleashes a new record. And the pop charts are about singles, not box sets. But last night, she seemed to enjoy playing her hits, probably because it was strictly on her own terms. No matter the song, you never felt like she was playing anything in a perfunctory way.
And as seamlessly as she slips in and out of eras and genres, she does the same with visual themes that ranged from Asian to Latin to very American: a car repair shop circa Grease and a Cotton Club era nightspot. It was an amazing spectacle to experience. The dancers also killed it in different styles, occasionally veering into Cirque du Soleil turf. The show was visually stunning; like U2, each song had it's own visual design and concept. (When U2's longtime manager retired, they signed with Madonna's manager Oseary, which makes total sense; clearly he's a guy who can handle insanely ambitious clients; those two tours have raised the bar for production spectacles that feel intimate and have heart.)
I've seen, and reviewed, a number of concerts by legends with decade-spanning careers. And so it's worth mentioning that very few of them are able to lean on a new album in concert as heavily as Madonna did last night; in fact, five of the six first songs are from Rebel Heart. And while some of her fans from her early '80s era may have felt alienated during some of those songs with their EDM-centric production by the likes of Diplo and Avicii, much of the audience knew every word to every song, regardless of era. Anthems like "Bitch I'm Madonna" and "Unapologetic Bitch" felt like new rallying cries for much of the crowd (and that's regardless of gender, by the way: lots of men were wearing their new "Bitch I'm Madonna" t-shirts, including a fan that was invited onstage during "Unapologetic Bitch").
Other songs from the album that provided highlights included the power ballad "Ghosttown," "Heartbreak City" (which saw Madonna and one of her dancers on a spiral staircase, almost connecting but just missing, mirroring the lyrics) and the album's acoustic guitar-propelled title track. On the later, when she sang "Never look back, it's a waste of time/I said, 'Oh yeah, this is me/And I'm right here where I wanna be,'" it felt like a bit of a mantra for herself and her show. Although maybe those lyrics aren't completely accurate: last night, it felt like she actually did enjoy looking back, since it was on her own terms.
But the crowd ate up every lyric she sang, roared for every word she said to them, and cheered for every last dance move and every last gesture, So the second part of that lyric rang especially true: there's no doubt that playing to huge crowds is surely right where she wants to be. Hopefully she wants to do it for a long time to come: I'm already looking forward to seeing what she does on her next tour.
As a storm descended upon Atlantic City Saturday October 3rd night, Madonna's wrath was descending into Atlantic City with her Rebel Heart Tour!
Bitch, There is only one Madonna; The 57-Year-Old Queen of Pop made that abundantly evident during a more then two hour stage spectacular last night at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, NJ on The Rebel Heart Tour. The Rebel Heart Tour is in support of Madonna's thirteenth studio album, Rebel Heart release via Interscope Records on March 6th, 2015.
As the Rebel Heart curtain dropped revealing a quite lengthy video introduction; Madonna then took the crucifix-shaped stage ending with a heart at the tip at 9:30 p.m. the crowd erupted into screams, Descending from a cage of daggers in a red & black Game Of Thrones themed dress, she launched the show with Rebel Heart's "Iconic" as knights in armor march down the stage and around her, then going into "Bitch I'm Madonna," showing off an Asian-infused dance routine.
The concert then kicking into high-gear as she strapped on her heavy metal guitar and brought the entire crowd to their feet with 1983's "Burning Up." The stage then quickly changed back to her unique traits of mixing spiritual and sexual, with Madonna and her dancers slithering on poles in racy nun habits and reenacting the Last Supper with an S&M twist during Kayne West Produced "Holy Water," then "Devil Pray" and "Messiah."
The show hits its second section, set in a 50's themed garage where Madonna and the dancers prance to Body Shop with a car hood with a twirled M imprinted on it as a she gets into some gasoline nozzle fun with her dancers, then giving a shoutout to The Motor City from which she hails. After a quick ride on a stack of tires to the center of the stage she sat upon the pile of tires for a ukulele singalong to "True Blue" in which she shows her often underestimated vocals which shine during this acoustic version of "True Blue" which is the first time she's performed the song on tour in concert since 1987′s Who's That Girl Tour.
From then on, it's clear that the Rebel Heart tour connects today's Madonna with the energy and boldness of her earlier days. HeartBreakCity, performed atop a spiral staircase which floated down from above, then morphs into her mid-80s, cover of Rose Royce's "Love Don't Live Here Anymore," before she tears into Like a Virgin, given a 21st-century update lyrically and instrumentally, but performed solo, with all the captivation and aggression with which she infused it when it was first released, unbuttoning her shirt as she kneeled down in front of a fan which had her hair blowing gracefully.
The third section of the show opened with the obvious R rated scene, as dancers played out bedroom passions to a tape of S.E.X., before Madonna charged out to fight jewel-faced demons to the techno soundtrack of "Living for Love," scalping a pair of horns in Victory at the end. Then bringing out a Mexican themed dance crew with "La Isla Bonita" and "Dress You Up" with snippets of "Lucky Star" and "Into The Groove" mixed in.
Going acoustic for "Who's That Girl?," "Ghosttown" and saying "Before I sing this next song Rebel Heart which is what my life seems to revolve around, I want to thank all of my Rebel Heart Fans for supporting me for over 3 decades." in which the crowd then erupted into a standing ovation then going right into "Rebel Heart." Perched on rubber poles and bending with the wind in an astonishing display of acrobatics, the dancers nearly stole the show in Madonna's absence during another costume change, set to Illuminati's thumping beats.
After a jazz-club rendition of "Music" universal mission statement opened a party-hearty stretch, Madonna stole back the show, updating the choreography of her "Material Girl" music video by sending suited men tumbling down the angled center-stage platform. The elegant stage design, rising from and collapsing into the floor, and serving as both a screen and a playground. Then performing Edith Piaf's "La Vie En Rose" in french as she sat upon a red curtained stage risen to her height.
This infectious night that brought the Atlantic City, NJ crowd to a series of spontaneous, and escalating, standing ovations. Madonna then bringing up long time fan Billy to dance with her and be tonights Unapologetic Bitch as she performed "Unapologetic Bitch" as Billy danced around on the stage with her ending that encore by awarding Billy with a banana in which she shoved into his mouth and told him to eat it. Exiting the stage to a red lit screen that said BYE BITCHES before reentering the stage for her encore "Holiday" in which bursting into a massive party on stage and in the crowd, Madonna dressed in red, white and blue showing her support of the American Flag.
The Rebel Heart Tour is one of the best-choreographed, theatrical shows you will probably ever get to see. Madonna having 3 decades and counting in experience touring and performing she knows how to put on an incredible mind blowing extraordinary show for her fans. The number of stage, outfit and prop changes was enough to keep anyone entertained. The concert was more than a concert, it was a show with multiple acts and never-ending movement. Classic hits were mixed in among a heavy tour set-list. The crowd on their feet throughout the entire concert except when the Queen of Pop requested that the crowd sit down for her acoustic performances. If you have the opportunity to see this tour definitely get out and see it you never know what surprises Madonna has in store for your show but in Atlantic City, NJ she proved her statement of "BITCH IM MADONNA!"
"Thank you Atlantic City. Thank you New Jersey. Thank you to everyone who came out, you were a great crowd. We love you. Goodnight!" - Madonna
"Nobody fucks with the Queen!" - Madonna
"There are 3 rings to marriage; The Engagement Ring, The Wedding Ring, & Suffering." - Madonna
"How many drinks did you have tonight sir" Says Madonna "I didn't count." Guy Replies "That's How I feel about marriage." - Madonna
"Motor City, your hometown girl is back." Madonna made sure she let fans in Detroit know she's from the Detroit area and she's proud of it.
Madonna was born in Bay City and raised in the Detroit suburb of Rochester Hills.
Madonna put on a visually stunning and energetic show at Joe Louis Arena on Oct. 1, featuring numerous costumes and dancers who also performed some physically demanding stunts between Madonna's costume changes.
Madonna has more Top 10 hits (38) than any other music artist in history. On this tour, you would never know she is 57 years old. She performs at a very high level not many artists can duplicate.
Madonna looks like she's in incredible shape. And, she has to be to dance and sing as much as she did, looking like a woman half her age. She also pulled off some very difficult dance moves. Her voice still sounds terrific, as heard clearly on the numerous ballads throughout the show.
Madonna Detroit quotes:
"Motor City, your hometown girl is back."
After singing "Body Shop:" "If anyone can understand the trials and tribulations of working at a body shop, it's the Motor City."
"Detroit made me who I am today."
"They told me I have two hours, so get in, get out. Umm, bitch, I'm from Detroit."
"I'm very proud to be part of the going-up process in Detroit. I've been involved in a lot of projects with Dan Gilbert. From the Youth Boxing Program, to the Women's Empowerment Program. Detroit is making a comeback, so watch out."
"We are going to build this city back up."
"Detroit has some good looking guys. Why did I leave?"
Unique to Detroit:
Madonna wanted to do something special for her hometown crowd, so she performed an acoustic version of "Frozen." She said this was a special performance just for Detroit, and from what I've seen from her other tour dates so far, she did not perform that hit song anywhere else.
Madonna's father was in the crowd at the Detroit show. She thanked him for making her strong. Madonna dedicated the song "Rebel Heart" to him.
Madonna's daughter, Lourdes Leon, also was in the crowd for the Detroit show. She attends the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Madonna dedicated the French song "La Vie En Rose" to her daughter saying she is the first person to teach her love.
Madonna has been criticized by some for not playing very many hit songs and fan favorites on her last couple of tours. She had more of a balance between those hits and newer material on this tour to satisfy even the toughest critics.
She performed "Burning Up" on guitar, "True Blue" on the ukulele, "Deeper and Deeper" just the way we remember, portions of "Vogue" and "Love Don't Live Here Anymore," a techno version of "Like a Virgin," "La Isla Bonita," a medley of "Dress You Up," "Into The Groove," and "Lucky Star," an acoustic version of "Who's That Girl," "Music," and "Material Girl."
For the encore, she performed "Holiday," which was her first single ever.
Total songs: 27
Start time: 9:35 p.m.
End time: 11:47 p.m.
Madonna still does what she wants because, well, she's Madonna. On this tour she is giving fans a good mix of new songs and fan favorites.
Most of the songs were filled with very talented dancers. Madonna also showed off her dance skills, doing quite a bit of difficult moves throughout the night. The costumes on both the dancers and Madonna were visually terrific and classy.
If any fans had any doubts Madonna was and is still the best, then her "Rebel Heart" tour will remind them that bitch, she's Madonna, and don't you forget it.
Madonna returned home to Detroit on Thursday, bringing with her a joyous celebration of love, her hometown and her very favorite subject, herself.
The Material Girl's Rebel Heart Tour stop at Joe Louis Arena was a pure wowser of a show, an extravagant pop showcase only Madonna can pull off. While drawing heavily from this year's "Rebel Heart" album, it pulled liberally from all corners of her career, and found Madonna dusting off hits and second-tier gems from her more than 30-year catalog.
There's a reason legacy artists such as U2 and Madonna are still must-see concert acts, and part of it is the vast catalogs they have in their back pockets. They've put in decades of work and have a deep well of material, made up not only of those career-making global smashes everyone knows but those lesser known hits that are ripe for revisiting.
One of the great pleasures of U2's 360 Tour was when the band pulled out the "Achtung Baby" album track "Ultraviolet (Light My Way)" during the encore, and Madonna had several of those moments Thursday. Some of her biggest hits were ignored – no "Like a Prayer," no "Express Yourself," no "Ray of Light" – while underappreciated fan favorites such as "True Blue" (reinvented as a campfire-style singalong), "Burning Up," "Deeper and Deeper," "Who's That Girl," "Love Don't Live Here Anymore," "Candy Shop" and "Frozen" were all given center stage. It was a night designed for and tailored to superfans, but it played to the masses. No one was left out of this dance party, and Madonna was a gracious host.
She shouted out Detroit early and often, announcing, "Motor City, are you ready to party? The hometown girl is back!" after opening the show with the highly-charged "Iconic." Her father and daughter were in the audience and both got name checked, as did Dan Gilbert, whom she said she's been proud to partner with in Detroit's revitalization efforts. (Detroit's Downtown Boxing Gym and the Empowerment Program were also given props.) "Detroit is making a comeback, so watch out!" she said late in the show, rousing the crowd. "I said watch out, get excited! Come on!"
There was plenty to get excited about. Madonna's team of dancers – the best in the business, hands down – were never less than thrilling, especially in one sequence where they bobbed up and down on flexible stilts like the swinging polecats in "Mad Max: Fury Road."
As always, Madonna toyed with and tweaked themes of sexuality and religion, combining them in ways designed to provoke and push buttons. During "Holy Water," dancers dressed in modified religious habits danced on stripper poles that doubled as crosses, and the performance built to a recreation of the Last Supper with Madonna sprawled out on the table as the main course. (A bit of "Vogue" was mixed into the song, with religious iconography flashing on the video screens during the song's roll call of Old Hollywood stars.) That led to "Devil Pray," where Madonna's arms were bound in red rope as she begged for forgiveness from a priest-type figure.
As if sensing things were getting a bit heavy, next up was "Body Shop," which unfolded in a playful recreation of a mechanic's garage. "If anyone can understand the trials and tribulations of working at a body shop, it's the Motor City," Madonna said.
Where Madonna's last tour, the MDNA outing, was a heavy and often violent affair, there was a lighthearted tone in the air on Thursday. And Madonna seemed as loose and freewheeling as ever, cracking jokes with the crowd and going off script several times.
Meanwhile, the 130-minute show was a pure delight to watch unfold. It was a masterful production, tightly choreographed and precise, a study in exactitude. Anytime your eyes fixed on one thing on stage, something else was happening or getting ready to happen at the other end. A long catwalk stretched nearly the length of the arena and lit up the venue, bathing it in pink while Madonna sang "La Vie En Rose" (in French! While playing the ukulele!) late in the night. (She dedicated the song to her daughter.)
"Like a Virgin," which has been given numerous stylistic overhauls over the years, was reinvented Thursday as a mid-00s hip-hop jam -- think Ciara's "1, 2 Step" – and it worked amazingly well. The show's undisputed highlight was the gypsy-style, Cuban flavored "Dress You Up," which segues into "Into the Groove" and "Lucky Star." "Pretty good for a small town girl from Detroit," Madonna said, boasting the city "made me what I am today." (She worked overtime to distance herself from the negative comments she made about her Michigan upbringing earlier this year, at one point even calling Michigan the "heart of America.")
It was another heart on display the rest of the night. During the intro to "Rebel Heart," Madonna proudly categorized herself as one, saying, rebel hearts are "not always popular, but we will survive." Madonna's been a survivor her entire career, and Thursday's concert showed her rebel heart is still tick, tick, ticking away.
Madonna performed for a sold-out audience at Chicago's United Center on Monday evening, and judging by comments from people leaving the show, it was the best concert Madonna had given in Chicago during her 30-year performing career. Madonna brought out the best in herself and her fans. Madonna made performers like Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, and Lady Gaga seem like "Beta" pop stars, and that's saying a lot, since all the mentioned performers are great.
Despite rumors to the contrary, Madonna still does a lot of choreography in the show and barely seemed stiff, although it appeared that she almost lost her balance again during "Living for Love," but — thankfully — didn't fall down the stairs. She still dances with a lot of energy, but that's not what thrilled the audience the most. It was Madonna the vocalist that ruled the show.
Madonna opened the show with "Iconic" from her Rebel Heart album. She then went into "Bitch I'm Madonna" and got the whole crowd clapping along when singing "Burning Up." Then, there was the obligatory blasphemy segment of the night with Madonna performing "Holy Water," which doesn't make reference to the type of moisture you may think. She even added in some stripper nuns with white panties before singing some bars of "Vogue" and then recreating The Last Supper with herself as the main feast. While it's easy to see why some could be offended by this, Madonna delivered it with a huge sense of irony and self-parody.
While the audience was impressed with the first part of the show, they didn't catch on fire until the second act, when Madonna beautifully sang "True Blue." There were some longtime fans in the audience with tears coming out of their eyes. She then sang "Deeper and Deeper" from her 1992 album Erotica and even though she displayed some impressive dance moves, her powerful singing is what really made the performance come alive.
Madonna then fought with a dancer on a staircase while singing "Heartbreak City," a forgettable track from Rebel Heart. However, when she switched to "Love Don't Live Here Anymore" from 1984's Like a Virgin, she brought the audience to their feet just by belting out the lyrics. Madonna then performed the Like a Virgin title track very playfully, almost like she was imitating herself from 30 years ago.
By the time Madonna performed "La Isla Bonita," the audience wasn't only on fire, but exploding with joy. She did a slow version of "Who's That Girl," which had fans lighting their phone flashlights all over the arena. Perhaps the night's best performance was "Ghosttown," the song that followed. Even though it's a relatively new song (and wasn't a huge hit), the audience still knew the words and sang along as Madonna's voice was filled with the amount of raw emotion and intensity rarely seen throughout her career.
Madonna thrilled the audience by bringing back a jazzy version of "Music" and "Material Girl," which had her throwing dancers in tuxedos down a photo slide that must have cost several thousand dollars to make. She then talked about marriage ("It goes downhill from here!") and then stunningly sang Edith Piaf's "La Vie En Rose."
Madonna brought a Britney Spears clone on stage during "Unapologetic Bitch" before closing the show with the album version of "Holiday" while wearing the American flag. It was a night Madonna reconnected with her longtime fans, some who doubted that she still "had it." As expected, Madonna proved that age is just a number. More importantly, however, Madonna proved that her she can thrill people with her voice just as much as she can with all the usual bells and whistles from her shows.
As stereotypically gay music experiences go, you can't go much gayer than attending the opening night of a Madonna tour. I say this fondly, and as a forty-something gay man who has seen lots of ostensibly very gay things, including but not limited to Kylie Minogue's Fever tour, a semi-private Celine Dion concert in New York City, and multiple Erasure tours. Within the pantheon of music culture that gay men hold dear, Madonna has been serving as a defacto ambassador for nearly 30 years since. Admittedly, talking about gay diva worship in pop culture is to trade in both old stereotypes and terrible clichés, but standing outside Montreal's Bell Centre Arena on the opening night of Madonna's Rebel Heart Tour, it's hard not to ponder the connection, standing amid sea of excited gay men—most of them sporting Madonna shirts from previous tours, with a few of them dressed as Madge herself. A DJ outside the venue was spinning Madonna remixes and a pack of horned dancers provided "Living for Love" photo ops in front of a Rebel Heart backdrop. There were of course women, and perhaps a younger audience than expected, but Madonna's audience of gay men is holding steady.
Since interviewing Madonna for Pitchfork earlier this year, I have often been thrust into the strange position of being a Madonna apologist in the course of conversations about her. Why does she insist on competing with teenage pop stars? (Why not?) Why does she work with the trendiest young producers? (She always has.) Why is she still showing her ass in public? (Again, why the fuck not?) It's a curious role for someone who doesn't even own all of her later records. As a goth teen in the late '80s, my bedroom altar was dedicated to Siouxsie Sioux, who articulated my particular strain of teenage ennui.
Still, I loved Madonna for what she represented. That she spoke about AIDS and advocated for gay people at a time when few else did was inspiring to me. When she showed up on "David Letterman" with Sandra Bernhard, the way she seemed born of a mythical downtown NYC I'd only ever read about was life-giving. Yet, after the interview ran, I was kind of amazed at how much grief I encountered on her behalf, most of which can be summed up with some version of How Dare She STILL Be Doing This. She's always been a polarizing figure in pop culture, but as she gets older she becomes polarizing in new ways; her steadfastness and tenacity as a controversial pop icon are taken as an affront.
After all the noise surrounding the leak and subsequent release of Rebel Heart, the cape-yanking tumble at the Brits, her often questionable Instagram activity, her insistence on remaining both sexual and youthful at the age of 57 (despite the fact that media outlets talk about her as if she was 97), being in a room full of liquored up Madonna fans at the opening night of her tour is to experience her influence made manifest. Also, her longtime fans don't give a fuck about any of that stuff. In the hearts and minds of those whose lives she has religiously soundtracked for the past 30 years, Madonna is pretty much beyond reproach.
It helps that the Rebel Heart Tour, as it turns out, is the most retrospective thing Madonna has done in a decade, mostly dispensing with the thematic narratives of previous shows in favor of something altogether lighter. The show is still an outrageously choreographed spectacle—in which dancers clad as nuns poledance, and Madonna herself first appears in a gilded cage that is lowered from the ceiling—but unlike previous tours, in which she danced, sang, and yoga-posed always like a woman with something to prove. Comparatively, the Rebel Heart Tour actually seems like, well, fun. She smiles. She jokes about her own image. She belts out "La Vie En Rose" while playing a ukulele. She does faithful renditions of "True Blue" and "La Isla Bonita" that resulted in nearly deafening arena-sized sing-alongs. The show itself, while still offering plenty of cuts from the new record, also showed Madonna giving a very sweet nod to her own history, something she's seemed wary of in the past, as if looking backwards too much somehow nullifies the potential of her future.
Madonna isn't always easy to love, even if you happen to really love her. But why should she be? She may not always give people what they want, but she reliably gives people what she wants, which is just as admirable. Her legacy at this point is untouchable—though her position in popular culture circa right now is a weirdly untenable one.
ere she to abandon making new music and simply play the hits, she'd get called out for finally having become a nostalgia act. When she makes new music now—having already recorded a gazillion iconic singles—she gets shit for it, regardless of said music's quality. Part of what infuriates people about Madonna is that, despite all of this, she remains unbowed. And this, of course, is why gay men love her.
Gay fandom is a complicated phenomenon and one, quite honestly, that I don't always understand. But what Madonna means, particular for gay folks of a certain age, is something that is not to be taken lightly. These days it's de rigueur for pop stars to support, embrace, and court a gay fanbase, but back in the '80s that was hardly the case. At a time when an entire generation was being lost to AIDS, Madonna was one of our biggest advocates. (She's actually the first person I remember ever seeing utter the word "condom" on television, via her MTV safe sex PSAs) At a time when representations of gay people in mainstream media were few and far between, seeing Truth or Dare—a film that matter-of-factly depicts gay friendships in a way my teenage self had never before seen—was an unexpected lifeline. For a lot of gay kids who felt adrift in our secluded, pre-Internet teenage bedrooms, seeing Madonna cavorting with her gay dancers and actually celebrating their queerness felt like evidence that there was indeed a different kind of life out there for us—a club that might actually want us as a member.
I couldn't stop thinking about all of these things while watching Madonna do a writhing version of "Like a Virgin" some 20 feet in front of me, a bizarro "I made it through the wilderness" moment that apparently a lot of the people in the room were also having. Aging along with your heroes is often weird. Some people—David Bowie, Patti Smith, for example—make it seem easy, cool even, while others (George Michael, I'm looking at you) make it really uncomfortable. For me, Madonna exists somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. Given that her whole career has been defined by pushing back against the status quo, it makes sense that she would continue to do so now. If she bristles at the mention of retirement (as she did when I talked to her), it's totally understandable. People have been asking her about "aging gracefully" since she entered her thirties. Her career begs the question, at what point is anyone expected to give up doing what they love? And at what point is it considered necessary to give up on your idols and surrender to the tyranny of coolness?
As I get older, I increasingly hope the answer to those questions is never. Singing "Who's That Girl" along with several thousand other gay men at the Montreal show proved to be surprisingly emotional for me, a rare instance of feeling part of some shared, mainstream gay experience. Watching Madonna medley her way back through the past three decades, I kept thinking about the guy in the lobby I'd seen earlier wearing a Keith Haring t-shirt and how Madonna herself had gotten choked up talking about Keith, as well as the countless other people who supported her career early on and were lost to AIDS. At some point during the show—maybe around the time she pulled out Erotica's "Deeper and Deeper"—I scarcely noticed when my own cynicism about the whole thing evaporated while I danced. As a person who works in a culture that gleefully encourages snark and bitchiness and in which expressing admiration in a non-ironic way is often seen as a sign of weakness, it's nice to be reminded how refreshing it is to simply love something because it makes you feel alive.
As Madonna neared the end of the show, it was nice to see that she too seemed genuinely moved by the feeling in the room. She gave up her tightly rehearsed performer posturing for a few minutes and simply became human, smiling and pausing to address the crowd. "Thank you so much for sticking with me all these years," she said. As me and my boyfriend started to drunkenly applaud, we were drowned out by the queen behind me who seemed to sum up everyone's feelings by screaming out, "That's right, bitch! Somehow we're all still here. Aren't we lucky?"
ONE MIGHT say this has been Madonna's motto, or at least the "taking chances" part of it. (Madonna doesn't seem to ever relax enough to have fun!) Over the years of her long career, Madonna has rarely played it safe. There's always been this perverse push-pull between the star and her fans — watch me, I'm going to do something fabulous, now keep watching, because I'm going to make you all crazy. And maybe not in a good way. (The "Sex" book ... the Letterman debacle ... wearing those damn grills on her teeth!)
This tension notwithstanding, her career has spanned three super-successful decades, but it has often left her admirers scratching their heads. They want her to be more accessible, "nicer," play ALL the hits and stop experimenting with her music. They want her to be Cher. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) Madonna does exactly as she pleases, always has, always will, so this frustration seems pointless. Especially if you have followed her career since 1983, as I have. Or even since 1990, or 2000. She's Madonna, these hoes should know!
NOW comes the star's Rebel Heart Tour, which hit Madison Square Garden like a glorious punch in the jaw last Wednesday night. Is she "different?" Yes. Has she taken one bit of advice? Most unlikely. This concert — her best, I think, since "The Girlie Show" — is simply what she wanted to do in this moment. (Two years from now, she might get all dark and broody on us. With guns!)
MADONNA'S shows have always had extraordinary set pieces, thrilling sections, but too often she indulged her penchant for, well — doing exactly as she pleased, and alienating many in the audience. (Although this hasn't stopped her tours from being mega-hits.) "Rebel Heart," beautifully mixes songs from her current album with classics such as "True Blue" (people were crying to finally hear her sing this early hit) ... "Burning Up" ... "Deeper and Deeper" ... "Who's That Girl" ... "Like a Virgin" ... "Dress You Up, "Into The Groove, "Lucky Star" ... "La Isla Bonita" ... and ta-da! "Material Girl," which she offers in high glamour — not the video version, a la Marilyn, but as a 1930s vamp, kicking those panting men down steep slides, as she belts out the famous lyrics. ("Cause the boy with the cold hard cash is always Mr. Right.") She gives these oldies respect, too. Not performing them exactly as she once did, but not rendering them unrecognizable.
The "Rebel Heart" songs are integrated with care, and the super-enthusiastic MSG crowd knew every lyric to "Devil Pray" ... "Holy Water" ... "Iconic" ... "Unapologetic Bitch," and "HeartbreakCity" (which she mashed up brilliantly with another oldie "Love Don't Live Here Anymore.")
SHE looked great, she sounded great, she moved wonderfully and without the effortful "athletics" that have (in my opinion) marred her dancing in recent years. She was fluid and graceful — even in high heels. If perhaps there was a little less dancing, that was all to the good, as she has rarely used her voice so well. There were no political statements, no pointless profanity, nothing especially sexual — I mean, it's Madonna, her mere presence spells sex. But nothing made you roll your eyes, clutch your head and wonder, "Why, M,why?" And this audience stayed by its seats, standing for two hours.
There were very few annoying wanderers. She ended with a rousing "Holiday", wrapped in an American flag. And there was nothing ironic or disrespectful about it, either. Who is a greater all-American success story than Bay City Michigan's Madonna?
And, much to my pleasure, Madonna did have her Dietrich moment, as I have always yearned for. She sat on stage, with a guitar, and performed a moving rendition of "La Vie en Rose." She really can't sing, say her critics. Bull. The woman can sing. (I don't expect Madonna to wedge herself into a beaded gown and whisper out sultry ballads, but — she could if she wanted to!)
"REBEL Heart" is fun, just fun. Madonna seems joyous herself, full of energy and vitality — no strain, no pain. (No pain that's obvious, anyway.) The costumes, sets and amazing dancers take second place to the positive vibrations Madonna sends out. If it's acting, then she is a far, far better actress than she has ever been credited. The star seems to have recaptured the effervescence of her early days, when fame was was shiny and new, not yet a burden, and the world she declared she wanted to conquer, was waiting for her.
Madonna is a great showman, and a great artist. Period. Deal with it, bitches.
The two words critics love to use about Madonna — always have — are "desperate" and "over." If what I saw last week is desperate and over, please, sir, may I have some more?
P.S. Actress/comic Amy Schumer was Madonna's opening act, and she was a profane riot. (Madonna also pulled her up onstage during the "Holiday" finale.) Since Madonna is less overt this time out, Schumer supplies the raunch. I don't know how she'll play in the middle of the country, but Amy is perfect for big cosmopolitan cities.
THE lights flicker to the deafening roar of 20,000 New York Madonna fans packed into a hot and sweaty Madison Square Garden - the arrival of 'The Queen' is imminent.
It is hard to believe amid the glitz, the hype, the unbridled hysteria and adoration of the crowd, that we are back where it all began more than 30 years ago.
Madonna legend holds that the then unknown Italian-American wannabe rocked up to Times Square with just 36 dollars in her pocket and a dream of being a superstar. And as the frenzied excitement threatens to shake the very foundations of the building, I think it is safe to say she can tick that one off her list.
Yes Madonna is back on the road for her 10th world tour - Rebel Heart - named after her 13th studio album released at the end of last year. This is the fourth show on a mammoth 70-gig extravaganza which will take in America, Europe, the UK, Asia and Australia.
Rebel Heart kicked off in Montreal, Canada, last Wednesday amid much speculation as to whether the veteran singer, now in her fourth decade of entertaining, would be up to the job. As the first reviews started to trickle in it was clear not only is she still very much up to it, but that she is still as slick and polished as ever.
And why would that come as a surprise? This is the woman who after being dragged backwards off a flight of steps at the Brit Awards a few months ago, was back in full cape doing the same stunt in front of thousands last night - minus the stumble this time.
Madonna has set the bar very high for herself and make no mistake expectations are very high in every arena and stadium she sets up her stage. But as the show gets underway to the unmistakable Madonna mix of tight choreography, stunning sets and sheer star presence it is clear Rebel Heart will not disappoint.
The stage lights up before a backdrop of flashing Madonna shots in varying guises as an image of the star asks "are you with me?" - a resounding 'yes'. An army of medieval warriors carrying cruciform spears arrives before Her Madge descends from on high in a fortress-like cage to launch into the opening track 'Iconic'.
It's a fitting start because it's not the lights, the costumes or the eye-popping spectacle which has just unravelled which draws the first gasps, but the arrival of Madonna and the knowledge that for the next two hours devoted fans will get to breath the same air as their idol.
As elaborate and flamboyant as Madonna's performances are, there is one thing they are not, and that is gimmicky. After all, who needs flying cars, pantomime palm trees, giant tongues and blow-up hotdogs when there is really only one thing worth looking at on this platform - the most iconic pop performer of our generation.
She leaves the tacky props to those less ingrained in pop legend, there really is little comparison to be made between the 57-year-old powerhouse and the ever growing community of Rihanna's, Katy's, Taylor's and Gaga's.
Madonna displays an astonishing ability to evolve without appearing dated, the show contains all the elements of raunch, religious iconography and cheeky innuendo you would expect from the one-time 'Queen of Sleaze' but at no point does it ever seem cheesy.
Whether she's cavorting with male dancers a third her age or gyrating in a thigh-revealing flapper-girl getup, with every swish and flex of her athletic body she leaves the viewer in no doubt that she is in absolute control not only of her brand, but of how she is perceived.
When she grinds up and down a go-go pole trampling female dancers decked out as semi-clad nuns, she is not being slutty but is once again testing the boundaries of social acceptance.
As Miley Cyrus has us cringing at her elongated tongue and childish 'twerking', Madonna, 35-years-her senior, has academics still pondering her message and infallible relevance as a cultural icon, expertly juxtapositioning sexuality and religion, vulnerability with power.
The show moves through a carefully-constructed set of themes - Joan of Arc, Samurai to Tokyo Rockabilly, Latin Gipsy and Party. Madonna fans will know this format of old having been used by the star on every world tour since her 1990 Blond Ambition spectacle.
One difference this time round though is that Madonna's energy, though staggering, is slightly less pumped. The dance routines look less exhausting to watch and many of the numbers have been slowed down to ballad pace for this tour. But she is 57 for goodness sake, an age at which most of us would be starting to think about comfy slippers and early nights.
And that's not to say she doesn't bust some impressive moves, you try hanging upside down on a pole and singing without dropping a note. Another standout in this show is that Madonna, for the first time on a major world tour, appears more laid back and happy on stage.
There is less intensity in her presence and a softer, cheerier, 'let's just have a great night' vibe to the whole thing - perhaps she is mellowing, after all let's face it, she's nailed it.
But the show will not disappoint British fans who have another two months to wait until the Queen of Pop lands on our fair isles to play London, Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow. There is something here for everyone, the young and old, die-hard fans and those who just like Madonna's music and fancy a good night out.
Rebel Heart plays London's O2 Arena on December 1 and 2; Manchester Arena on December 14; Birmingham Barclaycard Arena on December 16 and The SSE Hydro in Scotland on December 20.
Madonna let fans see her sweat when her Rebel Heart Tour started its two nights at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday. She belted "HeartBreakCity," a bitter, accusatory breakup song, from a staircase as she battled the embraces of an acrobatic dancer. Then she tossed off a jacket to reveal a sweat-soaked blouse, and traded heartache for triumph with the first words — "I made it through the wilderness" — of "Like a Virgin." She pranced and strutted through it with some moves from her 1980s videos and opened the blouse to reveal lingerie and cleavage. The lesson: Madonna the indomitable sexpot would prevail.
That's undeniable. She mentioned, twice, that she first played Madison Square Garden 30 years ago, saying she felt nostalgic. But while much of her audience has grown up with her, Madonna, now 57, hasn't allowed herself to become an oldies act. She filled the set with songs from "Rebel Heart," released this year, and thoroughly rearranged her early hits.
Through the decades, Madonna's tours have delivered spectacles that push hot buttons galore: sexuality, power, faith, rebellion and sheer willfulness. They were all part of the "Rebel Heart" show, too. But on this tour, Madonna isn't confronting her audience as much as sharing her prerogatives with it. The dance numbers go hopscotching through history and geography, reaching up in the air and across the arena, simply because they can.
Madonna's set opened with a recorded monologue about wanting to "start a revolution"; her voice warned about "too much creativity being crushed beneath the will of corporate branding and what's trendy." She made her entrance inside a medieval-looking cage that she would break out of as she sang "Iconic," a pep talk on self-realization for everyone, and then "Bitch I'm Madonna," a reminder — with thundering dubstep bass drops — that she stands apart. She commanded a troupe of dancers costumed like samurai warriors, defeating one in mock combat. Then, almost immediately, she was a rocker with a black Flying V guitar, playing "Burning Up" as something like a Joan Jett song.
She delivered the show's blasphemy quota early, with "Holy Water," calling for oral sex amid bump-and-grind pole dancers wearing nuns' headgear, and segueing into "Vogue," with the dancers recasting the Last Supper as a bacchanal. "Devil Pray" — about setting aside drugs for spirituality — had her both genuflecting before a priest figure and grinding her hips.
But then she set provocation aside. It was a friendlier Madonna who encouraged a singalong as she strummed a ukulele through "True Blue." It was a frisky Madonna who danced through a simulated gas station, climbing on and off the mechanics, in "Body Shop." It was a touristic Madonna who wore a long ruffled skirt and extended a flamenco version of "La Isla Bonita" into a Latin-flavored medley of early hits. An earnest Madonna exposed her voice in a solo rendition, with ukulele, of "La Vie en Rose." And a suavely retro Madonna started "Music" as a chanteuse's torch song before switching to its electronic beat and flaunting her skimpy rhinestone dress amid jitterbugging dancers.
Madonna's ire was reserved for an ex: in "HeartBreakCity" and in a version of "Living for Love" that traded the upbeat gospel of the single version for a brutal bass stomp, as she played matador with men wearing horns. She closed the main set with another jibe, but a more celebratory one: "Unapologetic Bitch," which brought back the night's opener, the comedian Amy Schumer, to dance along and, with Madonna's help, flash her underwear.
But Madonna took care not to end on that angry note. She was back, dressed in the American flag, for "Holiday," sounding like the 1983 original with pumped-up bass, inviting the world to dance — a little nostalgic for once, but unstoppable.
"You know what they say — it's lonely at the top," Madonna told the crowd near the end of her New York show last night. "But it ain't crowded!" And on the second U.S. show of her hotly awaited new Rebel Heart tour, Our Lady spent three hours proving what a goddess she is, not to mention what an Unapologetic Bitch. Damn right it's not crowded, because there's nobody else near her throne. The whole night was a tour of everything only Madonna can do. She's not the same. She has no shame. She's on fire.
She sang the Edith Piaf ballad "La Vie En Rose" in French, alone on the stage, strumming her ukelele. ("It's en français, though, okay? So try and sing along if you can.") After "Material Girl," she tossed a wedding bouquet to a gay couple up front, then snickered, "Suckers!" She used crucifixes as stripper poles, doing the "Vogue" rap while writhing against a dancer clad in a nun's wimple and feathery hot pants. Her cassocked dancers simulated a group-grope orgy at the Last Supper while the guest of honor chanted "Yeezus loves my pussy best!" And all night long, her banter was the toppest of notch, like when she introduced her gorgeous new acoustic country-hoedown version of "True Blue." "No swear words in this song," she announced. "This is a song about true love. I didn't know what I was talking about when I wrote it." Glad you're the one who brought that up, Madonna.
She hasn't reached so far onstage, musically or emotionally, since her 2001 Drowned World extravaganza. Her last couple of tours had spectacular performances, but dodgy set lists. This time Madonna has much stronger new songs to play with, from Rebel Heart — and she brilliantly revamps the hits. She played a Flying V for a punked-out "Burning Up," dropping to her knees for her guitar solo — the first time she played Madison Square Garden, 30 years ago, she got on her knees in front of the male guitarist while he played a solo, and don't think she doesn't remember these things.
Opening act Amy Schumer helped set the tone — when was the last time you saw a stand-up comedian slay in an arena? Schumer was clearly right at home in a room full of Madonna fans: "I know who's here. It's like taking a warm bath in a tub full of dick that doesn't want you." She talked abut how hot Bradley Cooper's girlfriend is ("She's like a panther fucked a gazelle and they fucked Gisele") and how hot Bradley Cooper is ("you would just grab your ankles and say 'any hole's fine'"). For the encore, she came back out to let Madonna kick her in the ass, right before "Holiday."
But it was Madonna's night. "Body Shop" was a Fifties-style dance routine where she rolled in on the hood of a vintage Chevy, just like Christie Brinkley in Billy Joel's "Keeping the Faith" video," then frolicked in glitter ankle boots with a harem of hot greaser mechanics, all looking like the boy who knocked her up in the "Papa Don't Preach" video. (So true: Italians do it better!) Then she sat her dancers down on a pile of tires and adopted a Dolly Parton twang to tell them, "Like my grandma always said, if it's got tits or tires, it's gonna give you trouble."
"Like a Virgin" was one of the night's peak moments — the song got pimped up with the Egyptian-lover electro-beats from "Music," while she took the stage alone to revamp her cowgirl line-dance moves from the "Don't Tell Me" video. She wore fingerless black gloves, reading her 1984 Boy Toy self, yet she humps the stage with enough verve and wit to make the girl she used to be look like the shy type. She also said, "It's so hot in here," which is Madonna-speak for, "You don't mind if I strip this shirt off, do you?"
She kept getting surprisingly sentimental about playing the Garden, 30 years after her 1985 Virgin Tour. Back then, she always used to ask the crowd, "Will you marry me?" Tonight the girl was in a slightly shadier mood. "I don't know about marriage," she mused, after her bouquet toss. "Do you want to marry me?" When fans screamed, she replied, "No, you probably don't. But maybe it'll be third time lucky." She resurrected long-unheard gems like "Love Don't Live Here Anymore" and "Deeper and Deeper," along with a snippet of "Justify My Love." ("You put this in me, so now what?" — such an underrated but on point Madonna line.)
"Music" began as a jazz-flapper café ballet, with Madonna in Twenties Gatsby drag, before it blew up to hit the electro-sleaze heights. (As it happens, it was 15 years ago this week that Madonna released Music, still her hardest-rocking and most seductive album.) After the devils-and-bullfighters-and-Minotaurs pageant of "Living For Love," she began the gratifyingly long Latin segment with "La Isla Bonita," stretching into a generous and unhurried medley of "Dress You Up," "Into the Groove" and "Lucky Star."
"I'm feeling very nostalgic tonight," she told the crowd. "Do you people understand I played Madison Square Garden 30 years ago?" She kissed a fan in a 1985 Virgin Tour shirt who claimed he was there — for all we know, he might have been the goth club kid doing the cobweb dance in the Into The Groove video. It led to the emotional highlight of the night, when she picked up her acoustic guitar for one of her saltiest and best Number One hits, a song she hasn't performed since the Eighties: "Who's that Girl," leading the audience in the question "¿Quien es esa niña?" The question hung in the air. "I still don't know," Madonna said after the song. "I still don't know. I think I'm not supposed to know — maybe that's what life's about, figuring out who the fuck you are."
In her producer Nile Rodgers' essential memoir Le Freak, he tells the story of taking Madonna to Madison Square Garden in 1984 to see Duran Duran, where she sat unnoticed and unrecognized in the audience. Just a few months later, she returned, except this time she was onstage as the headliner. (Duran Duran were back in NYC this week too — and like Madonna, brazen enough to jumpstart an excellent show with an excellent new song, "Paper Gods." The Eighties are the flattest of circles.) But that's why she's Madonna. She might be still figuring out who the fuck she is — but a stage this size is always the place she goes to look for clues.
In the first of two Rebel Heart tour shows at the historic venue, the pop queen brings out Amy Schumer, Game of Thrones, transgender nuns, a ukulele … and her greatest hits.
Madonna's album Rebel Heart was bedevilled by leaks; she fell flat on her backside at the Brit awards; and her Instagram gaffes have made Jeremy Corbyn look like a Rupert Murdoch-style media mastermind. As she arrives in Madison Square Garden on the fourth date of her 10th tour – the last under her 10-year, $120m contract with Live Nation – she should be up against it. Yet Madonna is always at her best with her back to the wall, when the killer instinct that has sustained her through over 30 years in pop rears to the surface, a visceral refusal to be beaten.
Her choice of support act on this homecoming gig – since New York is the place she remade herself – is very Madonna, all wrong on paper but in practice, right on the money. Amy Schumer takes the stage in front of a massive backdrop of Madonna's face staring at the heavens and clutching a sword to her breast, the massive machinery of pop music concealed behind it. Swigging from a bottle of champagne, and with nothing but a microphone and a stool, the comic of the moment says that she was asked: "'Who better than you to open up for Madonna?'" "Uh," she rhetorically answers. "Any band?"
Yet Schumer's perfect reading of the audience, in which straight men are such a minority as to be non-existent, ("It's like taking a warm bath in a ton of dick that doesn't want you") weapons-grade filth ("We're here to rethink cum") and description of the Kardashians as a family who "take the faces they were born with as a light suggestion" reduce the crowd to marshmallow before Madonna has even made an appearance.
Twenty-five years from her apotheosis, 1990's Blond Ambition tour, Madonna's vision of the pop concert – in which music is combined with dance, video and costume, in order to reconceptualise familiar hits into an overwhelming sensory bombardment – has now been copied by generations of pop stars. She's also notorious for stuffing the setlist with new material, thwarting those who would love an oldies show. At first the signs aren't promising: the show starts with film of Madonna writhing in a sequinned dress in a cage, while her voiceover chunters that creativity is being threatened by corporations (ironic, given that Madonna is a formidable corporation in her own right).
She then descends from the ceiling similarly banged up, while knights in armour march down the stage, which juts almost the length of the arena. It's Madonna does Game of Thrones. The first song is Iconic, one of the dimmer bulbs from Rebel Heart, followed by Bitch I'm Madonna, a great title in search of a decent song. But when the dancers depart, and Madonna struts down the runway to strap on a flying V, the show has lift-off with Burning Up. One of her earliest records, it amounts to a manifesto ("I'll do anything, I'm not the same, I have no shame") and all these years later it still grabs you by the throat. Aged 57, Madonna is still palpably hungry, and her performance has an enduring rawness and truth. Unmediated and undiluted, she's the ringmaster of her own circus, connecting with her hardcore in a totally instinctive way, regardless of the choreography, pyrotechnics and fancy costumes (created by a battery of top fashion designers – but really, who cares?).
Madonna's striking ability to imbue songs that might seem throwaway with significance and depth is illustrated four songs in. On record, Holy Water is a mortifying extended metaphor for her, ahem, vaginal secretions. But on stage, it's a Ken Russell fantasia in which a scene of transgender naughty nuns poledancing (including Madonna climbing some 12 feet into the air to stand on a revolving naked man, one of several moments which involve genuine physical peril) morphs into a genuinely unnerving demonic parody of the Last Supper in which Madonna ends up tied up on the table, legs akimbo.
Two more album tracks follow – the dodgy Devil Pray and the lovely Messiah – before the show hits its second section, set in a 50s garage where Madonna and the dancers prance to Body Shop (another number DOA on record) before gathering on a pile of tyres for a ukulele singalong to True Blue. From then on, it's clear that the Rebel Heart Tour connects today's Madonna with the energy and boldness of her early days – there's precious little from the many eras in between. HeartBreakCity, performed atop a spiral staircase, morphs into her mid-80s, yearning cover of Rose Royce's Love Don't Live Here Anymore, before she tears into Like a Virgin, given a 21st-century update, but performed solo, with all the allure and aggression with which she infused it when it was first released.
The following section has a Mexican theme, Madonna in full Day of the Dead finery, and of course performing La Isla Bonita, the only song from her past she revisits on almost every tour, along with Dress You Up, Into the Groove and Who's That Girl? – a song, she says, about "not knowing who the fuck you are". It's a moving affirmation of her ongoing, instinctive relationship with her Latino audience.
The title track of Rebel Heart is performed against a morphing backdrop of fan art depicting her many image changes, though the show actually reveals how consistent she has been underneath it all, endowed with an unswerving belief in the transformative power of pop. The final straight is pure pleasure, Madonna in a flapper's outfit, performing a jazz-era take on Music (in visuals alone – musically it still packs the robotic punch that made it irresistible 15 years ago), then going into a showstopping Material Girl, performed on an upended video screen titled 45 degrees, in which Madonna pushes the top-hatted dancers down the slope, one by one, in a reboot of the famous video.
And then there's a moment of intimacy, Madonna perching at the end of the circular hydraulic platform with her ukulele, announcing that she is going to perform one of her favourite songs. What ensues is an unaccompanied version of Edith Piaf's La Vie En Rose, suddenly revealing that after all these years of being dismissed as a singer, Madonna has the pipes. Her rendition bites through the inherent campness of the concept to locate something unarguably moving. Finally, Madonna brings Schumer out again during Unapologetic Bitch, spanking her and then giving her a banana as a reward. Rising to the challenge, Schumer pretends to stick it up her backside, to the delight of the audience.
Holiday, performed with the stars and stripes rampant, is a victory lap. Madonna had said: "I'm feeling pretty nostalgic tonight … I performed here 30 years ago." Her Madison Square Garden concert seems simultaneously like the latest stage of a 32-year durational performance art piece about stardom and an affirmation that there is simply no other performer like her. Tonight, Madonna kills it.
For an artist who rarely looks back creatively, Madonna was in a particularly wistful mood during her Madison Square Garden concert on Wednesday (Sept. 16) night, the first of three NYC dates on her Rebel Heart Tour.
"I'm feeling very nostalgic tonight," Madonna said (twice, actually). "I played Madison Square Garden 30 years ago. That's crazy." When she trailed off for a moment, you almost thought she was lost in sentimental reverie. But as always, Madonna was laser-focused on the present, even while reminiscing. "You were there?" she asked a fan in the front row who had been talking to her. "Then I gotta give you a kiss." For the record, a Madonna-on-fan kiss is a controlled affair: She kissed her fingers and touched the fan's forehead, like a messiah gracing her faithful follower with one touch.
Nostalgia aside, Madonna's restless creative spirit is on full display on the Rebel Heart Tour. Refusing to coast by playing faithful, familiar live renditions of her hits, Madge recast a number of her classics in different musical molds, with mostly positive results.
Strapping on a guitar, she skuzzed up "Burning Up" to hard rock heights and turned "True Blue" into a ukulele sing-along. For "Like a Virgin," she lost the original instrumentation, her backup dancers and most of her clothes while turning her breakthrough hit into a sparse, Pharrell-esque jam.
In a lengthy nod to her Spanish-speaking audience, Madonna delivered a Latin-tinged medley of "Dress You Up," "Into the Groove" and "Lucky Star." The maracas might have been a little much, but the crisp Spanish guitar successfully made the songs sound newly organic. And while there weren't as many French speakers in attendance at MSG, Madonna nodded to her Gallic fans with a surprisingly full-voiced version of Edith Piaf's "La Vie En Rose."
Later in the show, Madonna began "Music" as a Jazz Age ballad before kicking the No. 1 hit into banger mode. The presence of "Music" was an effective reminder that while some compulsive naysayers tsk the Queen of Pop for trend chasing with Diplo, she brought techno to the pop mainstream years before EDM was a ubiquitous term.
As always, Madonna will never be everything to everyone. Some were undoubtedly let down to see her make it through the "Vogue" spoken word section during "Holy Water" without segueing into the full song -- and to see the lights come up without any "Like a Prayer."
But the classic tracks Madonna did pull out were judiciously selected, with attention paid to material rarely performed on her live tours. An acoustic "Who's That Girl?" (not seen on a Madonna tour in nearly 30 years), a pumping "Deeper and Deeper" (absent from her setlist for 11 years) and "Love Don't Live Here Anymore" (which segued out of new song "HeartBreak City") were all resurrected to huge applause.
Speaking of resurrection, Catholic themes occupied a sizable portion of her stage show, as you would expect -- but always with the Ciccone wink. There was a bacchanalian Last Supper, nuns gyrating on stripper polls and famous faces from Renaissance religious paintings projected onscreen during the aforementioned "Vogue" roll call.
Aside from the stunning Minotaur-filled "Living for Love," the most effective new song in her Rebel Heart Tour arsenal was "Body Shop." While the song was light to the point of forgettable on the album, its low-key, affable sound worked to the choreography's advantage as Madonna teased and flirted her way through a stage filled with tires, muscle cars and muscle men.
"My grandma always said, 'If it's got tits or tires, it's going to give you trouble,'" Madonna said in a faux Southern accent after the song. "Sorry, I know I'm not as funny as Amy Schumer, but I'm trying."
Schumer, incidentally, killed her opening set (last night was her first of three opening slots for Madonna in NYC). Repeatedly mocking the flowering falsehood that it's a new Golden Era for women in Hollywood while still making jokes about the First Lady taking a hot load, Schumer's ability to pivot between the bawdy and the incisive proved the perfect fit for a Madonna opener.
"I thought I was gonna bomb so hard for months," Schumer said when her set was over. "This is the best feeling ever."
That feeling might've been one-upped (or quashed?) later on in the evening when Madonna brought Amy out during "Unapologetic Bitch," bent her over and literally kicked her ass (in addition to pretending to penetrate it). Schumer was ecstatic and surprisingly rhythmic while dancing with Madonna onstage, but the Queen couldn't let her go without some hazing.
Before Schumer left the stage, Madonna put a sock puppet on Amy's hand and made it tell her, "Hi Amy -- I'm a sock, bitch!" Waiting a few beats for an actual joke to follow, Schumer exploded into confused laughter when it became clear that was pretty much all Madge had to offer with the skit. Madonna might be good at changing creative lanes, but her attempt at improv was like switching lanes by means of rolling out of a moving car.
When the show came to a triumphant close with "Holiday," New York's favorite adopted daughter marched around in an American flag cape while her dancers -- dressed for a Gatsby-style rager at this point -- paraded about with jubilant relief. It was clear they felt the rush of owning Madison Square Garden and relished it. Madonna, on the other hand, kept her composure. Clearly, failure to dominate MSG on Wednesday night was never an option for her -- just like failure to dominate New York City was never an option for Madonna more than 30 years ago.
The first questions posed when the subject of a new Madonna tour comes up are typically what was the controversy, how dark was it and did she skimp on the hits?
I'm an odd duck among Madonna fans and always have been. The thing I'm most interested in is how were the arrangements? After years of toying with her live renditions, Madonna and her creative team are masters at tweaking her hits — usually by playing with percussion beds and chord progressions while keeping melodies and tempos (mostly) intact. Although rare, these experiments occasionally backfire ("Like a Wirgin" anyone?).
The incarnations this time out for the "Rebel Heart Tour," which touched down in Washington Saturday night in a glitch-free performance (remarkable as it was only the third show of the tour), were as effectively fresh as any I've ever heard her use. Even more satisfying, though, was that this was applied to a bumper crop of second-tier hits she pulled out. It was actually nice, for a change, to get a reprieve from oft-performed stalwarts such as "Like a Prayer" and "Express Yourself" (or even the oddly perennial "Human Nature") in favor of several she hasn't sung live in decades. Having toured consistently her last five albums (in the new music paradigm, it's where all the money is especially for veteran acts), she's more inclined to plunge deeper for material. For the faithful — and this was no less a gay high holy day than it's ever been — that was a real treat.
"Burning Up" was thrashy and spare; "True Blue" found Madonna plucking out the accompaniment on a ukelele (trust me, it worked); "Love Don't Live Here Anymore" was woven in beautifully with "HeartBreakCity, a cut from the new album; "Deeper and Deeper" was thankfully rescued from the torchy makeover it had on the "Re-Invention Tour" to its original tempo; while a sparse "Like a Virgin," performed sans dancers over a blisteringly syncopated beat, felt like it rocked the Verizon Center rafters.
Although not averse to the occasional mash-up, Madonna has for years eschewed the hits medley approach. So it was a delightful surprise when what started out sounding like a Latin-infused (and slightly slower) rendition of "Dress You Up" turned out to be an '80s medley that seamlessly wove in "Into the Groove," "Everybody" and "Lucky Star" before returning to "Dress." Equally fun was the next song, an acoustic sing-along of "Who's That Girl," another early-career hit that's been out of rotation too long. "La Isla Bonita," "Material Girl" and encore "Holiday" were offered in more faithful renditions.
For reviving such relatively deep cuts, it never felt like Madonna was scraping. You might think, having toured so much in the last 14 years and being the kind of singer known for mixing things up from tour to tour (although almost never from night to night), her discography would start feeling a bit exhausted by now. That was not the case and it left her plenty of room for stuff from the new album with 12 "Rebel Heart" tracks represented in some capacity (a few were interludes). While not career-defining by any means, the new cuts meshed well with the classic material and the show was expertly paced. Oddly MIA were "Ghost Town" and "Joan of Arc."
"Holy Water," with gyrating nuns, was naughty fun, much like "Body Shop." The biggest showstopper came about half-way through with an expertly choreographed rendition of "Living for Love." The dancers, sets, video screens, costumes, were all as top-level as we've come to expect from a Madonna tour. This is a woman who never coasts. Overall, this outing had a lighter, less gritty feel than the "MDNA Tour." Both work — this was just more fun. She seemed to be having fun too. Perhaps it was because the tour is just starting, but she smiled more easily than any time I've ever seen her.
Only one moment felt slightly off — the oddly flat false exit at the end of "Unapologetic Bitch." It was redeemed by "Holiday," (itself a surprise as Madonna almost never gives an encore) but still felt abrupt and anti-climactic.
For me, the biggest surprise was how strong Madonna's vocals were. For all her bluster, stamina and innovation, her vocals, pleasant enough, have never been the calling card. During several of the evening's quieter moments, especially a late-in-the-show and out-of-nowhere cover of "La Vie en Rose," you almost could imagine a whole evening of that working without all the sets and bombast. Her range, tone quality and interpretive abilities have improved with age. It was a nice surprise on a pitch-perfect evening.
Madonna came pulsing into DC for her Rebel Heart tour on Saturday night, where she played to a packed house at the Verizon Center.
But there was one notable absence: no sign of our Commander in Chief.
Madge told the crowd she was thrilled to be in the Nation's Capital, "even if Barack Obama didn't come to my show. I did invite him, you know," she said. "Maybe he thinks I'm too 'provocative.'"
Hmm…where would he get that idea??
The show, which opened with Gothic-style theatrics with her Madgesty making her grand entrance in a suspended cage, featured half-naked nuns, a priest, and plenty of ripped, glistening dancers.
But the best part?
A Spanish-style segment that deftly wove in a string of her classic hits.
Also: how is this woman 57??!? She's still got it.
"I still believe in love — even if Barack Obama didn't come to my show," Madonna teased near the end of Saturday night's concert at the Verizon Center. "Maybe I'm too provocative." Like all her tours, Rebel Heart had its fair share of provocation, chiefly through repeated sacrilegious references to God and Catholic iconography.
But that's always been Madonna's cross to bear (and her bread and butter). This time out it was confined to the opening numbers. If you could look past it, as well as her overuse of war and violent imagery (Madonna is seemingly forever fighting someone, from God and Gaga to Guy and the media), you probably left charmed by the evening.
The Rebel Heart Tour finds Madonna at her happiest and most personable, and also in her best voice. In past tours she seemed to be performing on auto-pilot, but not on Saturday.
Edgy and sassy and unapologetic, Madonna once again proved her predominance in pop performance. It doesn't matter if you don't like her new album, even though it accounted for nearly half of the two-hour set. The truth is, few others working in pop today put on such a compelling and sensory-rich, top-notch theatrical production from beginning to end. Madonna makes her concerts feel like celebrations.
Near the concert's end, Madonna settled, with a guitar, on a raised platform and sang the French classic, "La Vie En Rose" — which she dedicated to Obama — as if she were a bona fide chanteuse. "Everybody sing along!" she cooed playfully. She didn't need the audience assist, as she perfectly conveyed the emotions of the song. It was just one example of how significantly Madonna's musicality has improved over the years, even if her music has not.
Undoubted Queen of Pop Madonna has always been a bit of a rebel and her latest tour may be one of her most rebellious yet with an appropriate name to boot. The 57-year-old songstress kicked off her Rebel Heart Tour in Montreal this week complete with pole dancing nuns, Mike Tyson and non-stop theatrics.
This is Madonna's World.
Pleasing the crowd no end, the iconic singer - who has been wowing audiences for over three decades - belted out a selection of old and new and even performed Material Girl from the first time since her Blonde Ambition Tour in the 1990s.
Her entrance was as flamboyant as her fans know her personality to be and she descended on to the stage in a cage and then gave concert-goers two of the most energetic hours they may have ever seen.
Ending the show on a high note, Madonna draped a Canadian flag around her as she sang Holiday to a crowd who lapped it all up.
Her Rebel Heart album came out in March of this year and the tour continues to March 2016 where it finishes in Australia.
In an uncharacteristically unadorned segment around two-thirds into the kickoff of her Rebel Heart Tour, Wednesday at the Bell Centre, Madonna announced she was "going to sing a little song here on my guitar — back to where it all began."
Before she could spark a flamenco-tinged Who's That Girl, a fan's interjection caught her ear.
"Yes, I know I played drums first. But who can see you behind the drums? I'm a Leo. We like to be the centre of attention."
So she's still self-aware. And in a spare-no-expense theatrical spectacle that artfully flowed from showstopper to showstopper, she proved once again that she doesn't just crave the spotlight — she owns it.
Montreal accidentally got the first look at the Rebel Heart Tour after five shows were postponed for extra prep time, and the kinks were ironed out before Wednesday night. (OK, 99 per cent of them were: "This costume is treacherous," the singer exclaimed when she got snagged by some bejewelled fringe.) Consisting of four loosely thematic sections broken up by costume changes, with almost every song benefiting from its own tailor-made staging and with a small army of dancers gracefully executing intense choreography, the show hit all the marks.
Those included the expected provocation. Anyone hoping Madonna would smash new taboos would have left disappointed; but then, she's already shattered most of them. Still, the first segment's slightly confused rebellion was built on a load-bearing mash-up of familiar themes: sex, salvation, religion, oppression.
The introductory film positioned the star as both outsider and leader, with images of Madonna — and, why not, Mike Tyson — in captivity, and talk of "too much creativity being crushed beneath the wheel of corporate branding. … It's time to wake up." Ignoring the fact that Madonna long ago became a corporate brand unto herself, it was thrilling to see her descend from the rafters and break out of her cage. With a battalion of armoured warriors falling under her command, Iconic was insanely theatrical, Broadway-worthy, and just the beginning.
There was a backscreen projection of Nicki Minaj motormouthing through the shuddering bass in Bitch I'm Madonna (rarely has a song title been more perfect for pricey shirts at the merch stand), although the virtual cameo was upstaged by a cyclone of geishas. There was Madonna whipping off her skirt and playfully scolding the gawkers ("I'm up here") as she riffed on a Flying V in an aggressive Burning Up — boiled down to an elemental form, like most of the set list's vintage pieces.
And there were the stripper nuns. Twenty-six years after Like a Prayer's video scandalized the Vatican and parents who relied on MTV as a cheap babysitter, the sight of dancers twisting down steel crucifixes while Madonna snapped "bitch, get off my pole" in Holy Water was hopefully intended to be comical. The Last Supper tableau that played out during a rumbling Vogue was more challenging, as was the dance-off in Devil Pray that seemed to advocate for spirituality as the most powerful drug.
From there, the show's tone was more carefree, helped along by a singer who was clearly enjoying herself. The more modest second segment centred on a certain youthful innocence; in a display of Madonna's gift for literalism, it opened with her lounging on a car hood, swigging from a bottle and cavorting with her grease-monkey buddies for a whimsical Body Shop. She strummed True Blue on ukulele from atop a tire stack; it was both endearingly quaint and, supersized by an unprompted singalong from more than 16,000 voices, a goosebump moment that felt more grandiose in its way than the showpieces surrounding it.
HeartBreakCity's intimate drama unfolded on a spiral staircase between Madonna and a solitary dancer, pushed to his doom in an effective climax. A skeletal, click-clacking Like a Virgin was both bigger and smaller, the star left alone to fill the sprawling cross-shaped walkway with her charisma. No problem.
The third block opened with the unsubtle and unfulfilled promise of an R rating, as dancers played out bedroom passions to a tape of S.E.X., before Madonna charged out to fight jewel-faced demons to the techno soundtrack of Living for Love, scalping a pair of horns in triumph at the end. In one of the evening's minor victories, she made a smooth transition from that sulphur-scented campiness to the Latin romance of La Isla Bonita — one of the only hits to retain its original form, with steadfast cultural references that won't yield to a restless artist's hammer and tongs.
Perilously perched on rubber poles and bending with the wind in an astonishing display of acrobatics, the dancers nearly stole the show in their employer's absence during another costume change, set to Illuminati's woozy thump. After a jazz-club revision of Music's universal mission statement opened a party-hearty stretch, Madonna stole it back, updating the choreography of Material Girl's video by sending suitors tumbling down the angled centre-stage platform. (The song was also updated, dragged out of the '80s by an apocalyptic bottom end.) The device was the linchpin in the elegant stage design, rising from and collapsing into the floor, and serving as both a screen and a playground.
La Vie en Rose was another big small moment, prefaced by a speech about believing in love despite being "devastated, smashed to bits" that may become rote in a few weeks but sounded fresh on Wednesday. Delivered atop a circular riser decorated with Valentine's curtains, the performance was stronger for being vulnerable, and received a resounding ovation that transcended thanks-for-singing-in-French affection.
She risked draining that immense bank of adoration by wrapping herself in the maple leaf during the mandatory celebration of Holiday. (Judging by her star-spangled cloak, it was a temporary substitute for the American flag. Still: were they fresh out of fleur-de-lis at the souvenir shop?)
It was a rare tone-deaf gesture in a nearly flawless show whose polish didn't mask its spirit. The big production numbers were elevated by a striking joyfulness, the less adorned songs by a genuine warmth.
In the second category, none stood out more than Rebel Heart's uplifting title track, presented as a statement of identity and gratitude. Before expressing thanks for the fan art that was spliced into the backscreen projection, Madonna asked:
"Do we ever really know who we are? It takes a lifetime to figure it out."
Another interjection from the floor got a laugh. " 'Bitch, we're Madonna.' Yeah, that's a start."
The start, and the end. The song title and the show shared a sense of self-confidence and a sense of play. The first was never in doubt; the second was a minor revelation from an artist whose discipline and perfectionism haven't compromised a love of serious fun.
The most shocking thing about Madonna's Rebel Heart Tour, which opened at Montreal's Bell Centre Wednesday, had nothing to do with sex (how could it at this late date?).
Instead, the surprise of the show came in smiles.
Throughout nearly the entire two hour event, Madonna could barely stop grinning. For anyone who has followed Madonna tours from the start, the sight of it couldn't help but startle.
Never a warm live performer, Madonna tends to grimace through her concerts, stressing athleticism and discipline over all.
This time, she seemed to having a blast. It made for an infectious night that brought the Canadian crowd to a series of spontaneous, and escalating, standing ovations. It didn't hurt that she sang La Vie En Rose, both in French and in bold voice.
The bright tone of the show made for a striking contrast to the star's last tour, "MDNA," a dark and violent affair that often ended up puzzling to boot. "Rebel Heart" had no such pretense. In fact, it may be Madonna's lightest roadshow to date.
That's not at all to say it's unsubstantial. On the contrary, the triumph of the "Rebel Heart" tour is how it finds Madonna taking ownership of her legacy with an unprecedented maturity
She began that approach on the tour's nakesame album, which found her in a newly self-referential mode.
Madonna mirrored that here by featuring no fewer than nine of its tracks, including the show's opener, "Iconic." For this initial section of the show, Madonna drew on her time-honored mixture of the erotic and the reverent.
Her twenty dancers, dolled up as medieval warriors, bore cross-topped weapons. In a slow, graceful take on "Vogue," Renaissance images of religious figures replaced movie stars while Madonna and her dancers posed at "The Last Supper" table.
While the star used to position such displays associal commentary, here they seemed to have more to do with reasserting her long history with them.
Madonna delved deeper into her personal story in the second act, which found her on the hood of a '60s Chevy in an auto repair shop, a clear reference to her Detroit roots. She emphasized a rare sincerity here by singing the unashamedly romantic "True Blue," while playing a ukulele, of all things.
Madonna came the closest she's ever going to get to a "greatest hits" display in the third act, where she offered touchstones from "Lucky Star" to "Everybody." The latter she hasn't performed live since the early '90s.
Even so, none of the older songs sounded anything like they had on their albums. To suit the matador-themed theatrical accompaniment, Madonna reimagined them as Spanish-tinged ballads.
Madonna included in her run of oldies "Who's That Girl," which she delivered as a solo acoustic ballad. After singing it, she admitted that it took her a hell of a long time to answer just who this particular girl may be.
Then, she went into "Rebel Heart," a song about the joy of self-discovery. That theme allowed Madonna to run through a wide range of characters in the show— including a '20s French cabaret star — while maintaining a solid through-line.
It also helped her pull off what may have been the show's most stunning move. When performing "Like a Virgin," she appeared on the gaping stage entirely alone, dancing with a freedom and innocence that made her, at 57, seem once again new.
The icon, 57, debuted her new extravaganza in Montreal on Wednesday after months of teasing her demanding show on Instagram.
With a mix of defining hits ("Like a Virgin" and "Vogue"), unexpected classics ("True Blue" and "Who's That Girl"), plus new tunes from her latest album Rebel Heart ("Bitch I'm Madonna" and "Body Shop"), the set list paid homage to a handful of eras from Madonna's four-decade career. True to form, pop's original provocateur belted out her numbers while striking serious moves on a catwalk shaped like a heart and crucifix.
If you can't wait to experience what the singer has up her sleeve on her tenth world tour, read on to see some of the best moments from the concert.
Madonna opted for "Iconic," a new song about triumph, to open the show. Dancing warriors filled the stage as she descended from the ceiling in a gold cage.
The "Candy Shop" choreography put a modern spin on your typical cabaret.
Madonna lit up with a smile while showing off her guitar skills.
The wedding look from the 1984 MTV VMAs made a comeback for "Like a Virgin."
For "Material Girl," Madonna and her dancers channeled their inner kid and turned a screen into a massive slide.
She soared while closing the show with "Holiday," proving Justin Bieber isn't the only pop star who can fly.
MONTREAL (AP) — Pole dancers dressed like nuns, Mike Tyson and nonstop theatrics. Welcome to the church of Madonna.
DJ and producer Diplo warmed up the crowd with an hour-long set.
The show opened with a video featuring Mike Tyson, Chance the Rapper and Madonna, where she addressed topics ranging from censorship to dictatorship.
She then descended to the stage in a cage.
Madonna wasted no time getting to fan favorites including "Burning Up" and a mash-up of "Holy Water" with "Vogue." She then pulled a classic move and ripped off her skirt to reveal a barely there nun's outfit and started to pole dance.
She then used one of her dancers, also dressed as a nun, to ride like a surfboard. Dancers then lined the stage to recreate the Last Supper, with Madonna as the main course.
The biggest standing ovation came during her rendition of the French classic "La Vie en Rose." The audience went wild and sang along. They didn't seem to mind when she flubbed a line. Madonna later joked that her French isn't the best.
She also joked about her marriages. "Who wants to get hitched? Anybody want to get married? Sucker? It's downhill from here." She later followed up with: "In spite of all of that heartbreak, pain and suffering, I wouldn't trade love for anything."
After performing for nearly two hours, and changing into countless outfits designed by Miuccia Prada, Jeremy Scott and Alexander Wang, among others, Madonna ended the concert with a crowd favorite.
Draped in a Canadian flag, she had nearly everyone on their feet dancing to "Holiday."
The tour is set to wrap in Australia in March 2016.↑ Back to top of page