The name Madonna can equally invoke love, hate, huge smiles & rolled eyes. I am a woman who grew up in NYC during the 80s & 90s. I LOVE MADONNA. If you didn't, there was something wrong with YOUR life. In our current microwave world (with 10 second attention spans and a new pop star turnover rate of 20 a day), Madonna may not have been able to enjoy the same staying power. However, Madonna came up in the 80s, the defining era for SUPERSTAR pop stars (Michael, Prince, Janet). She quite possibly ran the world at the time. From her mark on fashion to her moves as an envelope pusher and sex symbol; Madonna was ever-evolving. Her latest video, her recent ensembles, her thematic albums, her rumored relationships, and her infamous "Sex" book garnered headlines and made her a household name (with even a TV movie about her "early years" airing in primetime on a major network a mere 10 years after she hit the scene).
I could go on about Madonna for hours (and not in a silly fan way, but more as an admiring spectator who accepts her highs/lows, and enjoys a healthy debate about her achievements and level of talent), but this post is about her MDNA tour. Why would I post about the MDNA tour NOW (when I attended the show in September)? Well if you haven't heard, the tour film is being debuted tonight on EPIX. I couldn't be happier. I love to watch Madonna's shows live (having attended the Drowned World, Re-Invention, Confessions, Sticky & Sweet, and MDNA installations), but I also love re-watching the TV versions at home to check for missed details and see how the productions translate onscreen. For something as acrobatically grand as Drowned World, the TV version did not do the live experience justice. But for something like Re-Invention, the filmed piece (shown through the documentary I'm Going To Tell You A Secret) represents it beautifully. Tonight will reveal the translation factor for MDNA.
The MDNA Tour was at times dark & somber, and relied heavily on her new material. Some fairweather fans and newbies attending with the hopes of seeing "Material Girl" & "Burning Up" (both "retired" onstage during the Re-Invention tour) were disappointed. What was up with the creepy Gregorian chants, onstage murder scene & drawn-out experimentally dramatic version of "Like a Virgin"; I loved it all. Well not the LAV performance...I can respect what she was trying to do (imagine performing the same song 40 million times...you are gonna want to try flipping it into new genres and representations...some work/some don't); But I did enjoy the darkness and creepy feel of the beginning portion of the show. You see, I called Madonna's tours "installations" before for a reason. Her live shows are full-blown EXPERIENCES. She is not a band who you go to see live for the "jam" versions of her tunes. She is not a diva who you go to see for the 'stand still in a rhinestone floor-length gown' vocal runs that give you goosebumps. And she is not a teen sensation who lip-synchs the entire show while revealing new breakdancing trick dancing throughout. She includes elements of all those things while entertaining the shit out of you with cool costumes, inventive sets, and amazing outside talent. One of the things I appreciate most about Madonna tour shows is the way she intertwines the performance vignettes in between her songs. When she takes a break or goes to change, you will still be marveled by tightrope walkers, flamenco dancers, or an eclectic musical group (Kalakan) she discovered while on a birthday vacation (an actual story told during the MDNA show).
One of the biggest newsmaking moments of the MDNA show was Madonna's nod towards Lady Gaga. At the time, they were embroiled in a passive-aggresssive "catfight" over the obvious similarity of Gaga's "Born This Way" and M's "Express Yourself". I thought the way Madonna addressed the situation was wildly entertaining (and crowned her the winner in the battle). By melding together her recent hit "Give Me All Your Luvin'" (which already makes mention of copycat pop stars in a general sense), with her own "Express Yourself" and Gaga's "Born This Way", the audience could not deny the plausibility of M's argument that the songs were so similar. The cheeky, "you know I'm the Queen" performance elicited thunderous cheers from the crowd. Not to mention that the colorful red & white bandleader uniforms worn during the grandiose drummers-hanging-from-wires-while-Madonna-dances-her-ass-off number popped onstage and created a magical moment that by itself was one of my favorite song showcases I've seen from her thus far.
In the end, the MDNA show had a clear linear development from dark to light. It seemed like Madonna was showcasing a wild girl who was killed, died, reflective in the afterlife, and then resurrected to rock through the end of the show with huge celebratory party performances of "Like A Prayer" and "Celebration". Definitely a successful statement piece if I ever saw one. All hail the Queen indeed.
And for those who are specifically interested in the setlist for the show I attended (on September 6, 2012 at Yankee Stadium), I've listed it below: