The MDNA Tour rolled in with a fleet of luxury tour busses, dancers and costumes galore, lots of lights, props and moving parts, and of course, Lady M herself -- a pop music ninja in a petite, five-foot-four-inch frame.
Before I delve into the details of a two-hour Madonna assault of the senses, I want to address some of the complaints about this show I have seen flying around the Internet and offer a defense of the top-selling female artist of all time:
Complaint 1: "She started two-hours late. She didn't come on until 10:30 p.m."
The show was listed as starting at 8 p.m. There was an opener for the show (DJ Paul Oakenfold). If you are aware there is an opener at 8 p.m., then of course the headliner is not going to start until well after -- we call this Concert 101. Also, as widely publicized on local media outlets and from past tour reviews, 10:30, p.m. is Madonna's standard start time. Any basic Google search on the MDNA tour to prepare for the concert-going experience would have relayed this information. So anyone who was shocked and offended by it simply didn't do the homework; that's a rookie mistake.
Complaint 2: "She didn't play a lot of her '80s hits."
I love the '80s and I love '80s Madonna, too. Would I have liked to have heard more of those hit songs of my high school and college days? Sure. Was I expecting to hear more of them? No. The tour is not called the "Greatest Hits of the '80s tour." It's called the "MDNA Tour." The name of the album is "MNDA." Based on the entire history of concerts, it follows that she is going to focus her live material on the album she is supporting. I actually think it's a pretty good album. It doesn't sound like Madonna in the '80s. You know why? Because it's 2012 and, like most of the rest of us, Madonna has evolved.
Okay, now that we've cleared that up, here's my opinion of the night: I really enjoyed most of the show and it did live up to my expectations. I will say up front that I am somewhat biased. I'm a lifelong fan and I was lucky enough to score one of the tickets/wristbands to Madonna's coveted "Golden Triangle," a small area of the floor directly in front of and surrounded by the stage. They give the Golden Triangle tickets away via a lottery through her fan club and a select lucky few get to enjoy the show from the middle of the action. It would be hard for anyone NOT to enjoy a performance of this magnitude standing just mere feet away. Everyone else in the Golden Triangle seemed to enjoy it as well.
I can safely say I have never seen a show quite of this magnitude. A Madonna concert isn't simply a concert; it's a performance of epic proportions, bigger than Broadway and Vegas combined. No, she didn't sing every single note, but the ones she did sounded good and the rest was still amazing to watch, from the second the curtain fell to reveal dancers dressed as monks, with a giant thurible swinging from a rope over the stage and then Madonna herself, entering via a curtained, gothic confessional booth and speaking the intro to "Girl Gone Wild."
Though the thumping of the bass was almost painfully intense at times, I enjoyed most of the "MDNA" material, particularly the upbeat, dancey "Turn Up the Radio," "Give Me All Your Luvin'," and "I'm a Sinner" (which she had to stop and start over due to a sound/technical issue, but handled with total professionalism). "Gang Bang" was a bit over the top with a fake motel-room set and "gun battles" complete with screens splattered with blood that seemed uncharacteristically violent.
Madge gave her long-time fans -- many clad in lace gloves, skirts, hair bows and stack bracelets in tribute -- a taste of the "old Madonna" they desired with hits like "Papa Don't Preach," "Open Your Heart" (sing-along style), "Vogue" and "Human Nature" among others. She performed "Like a Virgin" as a ballad, lounge-style atop a piano. She donned a majorette outfit, backed by dancers clad as cheerleaders and marching band drummers, for a mash-up of "Express Yourself" and Lady Gaga's "Born This Way," after which she chanted "She's not me!" in a not-so-subtle diss to Gaga's extremely similar tune.
Madonna pretty much invented reinventing yourself, and showed her many faces throughout the show with costume, hair and attitude changes. She brought out her ever-controversial sex symbol side for "Justify My Love" and "Candy Shop"/"Erotica."
Enough can't be said about the incredible talents of her backup dancers, who leaped, flipped, bumped, grinded and even bounced on flexible elastic tightropes. Plus, there was one very special dancer -- her 11-year-old son, Rocco (with director Guy Ritchie). The proud mama gazed on as her boy did head spins on the stage and he gazed right back as she commanded the praise of nearly 20,000 fans. It was pretty adorable.
For me, the absolute highlight of the show was the performance of "Like a Prayer" with a full choir (including Rocco) and the whole stadium singing along and clapping. It truly was a religious moment, and one I won't soon forget.
For some, Madonna's show didn't live up to expectations (or exorbitant ticket prices). She certainly wasn't without flaws (such as her reference to being in Minnesota, rather than Missouri, or lip-syncing during the trickier dance numbers); but overall she was a blast to watch, perfectly pleasant, warm and personable -- grateful for and deserving of the audience's praise. Tickets were crazy expensive, but the cost seems more reasonable when you consider that a production of that level with that many players costs a great deal more to put on than a standard rock show.
As for me, I just couldn't believe I stood that close to her, soaking in her raw energy. For the first time in my life, I was truly and absolutely star-struck. And I had a hell of a good time.