The idea that pop music can inspire a revolution is one that Madonna is sticking with on her Rebel Heart Tour.
Of course, in Madonna’s world Madonna is the revolution, and so Rebel Heart opens with a video montage of the pop icon as a caged martyr, looking blonde, bothered and smeared with blood. “Die for what you believe in,” her vocal-fried narration commands, though later in the show she quoted Socrates to explain that she is not always certain of herself: “An unexamined life is not worth living.”
Much of this tour is dedicated to re-examining aspects of Madonna’s career that many in the room – judging from the demographic in attendance – should be familiar with by now: Cabaret Dancer, Bad Catholic, 50s Greaser, Lover Of The Spanish Guitar Solo, Her Asian-Fusion Look From The Late 90s.
A fitfully vocal crowd ensured that Madonna’s performance vacillated between impeccably choreographed routines and an insatiable thirst for affection (“You are some quiet motherfuckers”).
The show opened with a fascist Catholic bondage segment set to Rebel Heart album cut Iconic that eventually culminated in the concert’s most sublime moment of pop-arena ridiculousness: Madonna riding atop a spinning pole dancer who was dressed in a nun-habit-bra-ruffled-panties combo to a trappy rework of Vogue.
Other sublime moments: a performance of Burning Up with Madonna on guitar, True Blue on ukulele, a straight-up take on disco-y Deeper And Deeper, a bongo-and-maracas singalong to La Isla Bonita, an interpretive-dance-battle on a spiral staircase that ended in ballad Love Don’t Live Here Anymore.
There were no confrontational sequences like the Guantanamo Bay or gun-violence-inspired segments from her last tour, though Devil Pray was accompanied by footage of evangelicals and syringes that inferred psychedelic links between drugs and feverish spirituality.
As usual, Madonna mercilessly tinkered with the arrangements to her biggest hits, reworking Material Girl and Like A Virgin with rumbling 808s, tinny hi-hats and aggressive drums in line with the booming EDM aesthetic of this year’s Rebel Heart. The audience sang along as if nothing was amiss, but it seemed like only the cry-facey fans sitting front row around the sword-shaped runway stage were belting out the new songs that comprised half the set list.
There were also a lot of ballads that gave Madonna a chance to sit on the stage and sing. Her voice sounded good with little accompaniment, but she also spent too much time bantering and engaging in mocking exchanges with audience members that slowed momentum. She’s been dabbling in stand-up of late and flexed her improv muscles at set’s end.
The opportunity came when she brought up hometown pop star Nelly Furtado to dance to set-closer Unapologetic Bitch. Furtado is married to Madonna producer Demacio “Demo” Castellon so she joked that she was his “second wife” and then, in a moment of hilarious awkwardness, she tried to persuade the confused-looking Furtado to eat (or improvise in other ways with) a banana. Then the show abruptly ended. Then she came back and did Holiday and all was well again.
The Rebel Heart Tour is more about acrobatic feats and fun-filled nostalgia and less about being a rebel, which Madonna defined conservatively as being able to live with self-imposed “restrictions” and knowing how to “pick and choose” when to start up trouble, which, for whatever reason, she has chosen not to do this time around.
Source : NowToronto