Madonna commands attention and doles out the hits at Rogers Arena
I want what Madonna’s having.
Seriously, what the hell?
When she finally did take the Rogers Arena stage — at 10:21 p.m. on the first of her two-night stand in Vancouver — the singer came out swinging like someone half her age.
The 54-year-old made her entrance from the back of the stage on a covered riser made to look like a confessional, clad in a black catsuit and carrying a gun (she was all over that Second Amendment right during the show). She joined a lot of buff monks (you don’t get to type that very often) and contortionists dressed as gargoyles on pedestals in front of a big cathedral-type structure, while Gregorian chanting filled the stadium and the deceptively plain stage turned into a system of rising levels that elevated Madonna and her hot boys. She delivered “Girl Gone Wild” while the world apparently came to an end on the video screens around her. Next up more gunplay on the catwalk with “Revolver,” with the help of Lil Wayne on the video screen.
Wham, then Madonna really hit lift-off with the violent “Gang Bang.” In this mini story multi-millionaire Madonna moves into a seedy motel room to chug booze and shoot bad guys. After yelling, “Die, Bitch!” over and over again while she killed another guy, she threw away her gun and launched into a weirdly ritualistic “Papa Don’t Preach” and “Hung Up” medley.
Yes, MDNA Madonna is a mother-you-know-what and she’s not afraid to let you know. This is not a warm and fuzzy show.
But you know what? Despite coming with heady topics like sex, love, violence, repression and religion, Madonna’s music really doesn’t require any heavy lifting.
In fact, the only heavy lifting here is the iron Madonna has obviously pumped to turn her body into a lean, mean (duh, it’s Madonna) pop-star machine.
While each of the 20-plus songs are production numbers with enough hoopla and pizazz to make Flo Ziegfeld (kids, look it up) giddy, you can’t take your eyes off the woman at the centre of it all.
The highlight of the evening was a “Respect Yourself,” medley, complete with Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way” mixed in, and its cheerleader outfits and drum corps suspended from the ceiling, Madonna beating the stage like it owed her money.
Half of the two hour set was new stuff from the MDNA album and the rest was the hits, including a militaristic version of “Open your Heart” complete with her son Rocco joining the 20-strong dance troupe.
After a bit of audience banter and some words about not being prejudiced and treating each other with respect, M. launched into an energetic “Holiday,” complete with some audience shaming. Yes, she bites the hands that feed her. Come on folks, it’s Madonna.
From my seat, her Madgesty didn’t look like a middle-aged mother of four. More like a 20-something guy in high heels with arms as taut as handrail tubing, a butt you could bounce a quarter off and legs so chiselled that the words Jiminy Cricket kept coming to mind.
I know, why all this talk about how Madonna looks? Well, honestly, are we going to dig deep into the set list and analyze the songs?
What’s the point? The songs are meant for a club, or a hair salon, or a road trip to a fashion outlet mall. Despite that, her tour manifesto (not kidding) describes the show as “the journey of a soul from darkness to light.” This isn’t the time for deconstruction, it’s time for dancing. And Madonna made sure the crowd did by delivering big shiny numbers like “Vogue” and “Candy Shop.”
Even with missteps like the lame guitar playing, shaky vocals and obvious lip-syncing (you try running on the spot for five minutes and singing without sounding like a spinning class instructor) the show was a hit with those who matter: the thousands who waited hours (well, it gave them plenty of time to buy $45 t-shirts and DVDs of Madonna’s WE movie) for Madonna to hit the stage and dole out one big pop confection after another.
by Dana Gee