Madonna / MDNA World Tour
What’s a sexual provocateur to do when sex ceases to shock? In the case of Madonna, the answer lies in violence. Fans at Boston’s TD Garden on September 4th for the "MDNA World Tour" were treated to a much darker affair than 2008’s "Sticky and Sweet Tour." (The tour moves on to other cities in the United States and Canada listed below.)
At 54, Madonna is a better performer than during her younger years. Years of gymnastic training, increasingly intricate choreography, and vocal lessons have made her into a superhuman pop tour de force. The "MDNA" set made full use of Madonna’s skills as intricately timed moving platforms and slacklines found her effortlessly navigating an ever-shifting maze of set pieces. In the brief respites from the engaging choreography, Madge headed center stage with a guitar and microphone. That she looked so consistently at ease is a testament to her flawless showmanship.
Madonna entered the stage with an explosion of raging violence, a heavily religious and grim affair involving demonic forces and a machine gun. Before audience members even had a moment to process the bizarrely unsettling spectacle, Madge was literally waving a gun toward some lucky members’ faces snarling, "Shot ya dead, in the head!"
While the affair lightened up as it went, the overriding theme resembled an emotional exorcism. Alluding to personal trials, notably Madonna’s divorce, darkly hyperbolic imagery highlighted intense internal struggle. In an odd way, the show proved Madonna’s maturity, as a younger artist performing such densely emotional material based on experiential struggle would feel forced.
The most vulnerable moment came during a drastically reworked version of "Like a Virgin." The choreography represented the intersection of alluring abuse and self-actualization, complicating the affair with a highly erotic arrangement. It was uncomfortable and gripping, the evening’s stand-out segment.
Madonna had the hardest time connecting on the US hot-button issue of LGBT suicide. She heavily referenced the issue during an international political segment in a way that felt forced given the uneven juxtaposition. Following every photo of a youth suicide victim with a flash of light and gunshot likely proved traumatic to many LGBT concertgoers.
Given Madonna’s focus on international and identity politics in more abstract terms, her use of individual victims’ identities for only that single segment could read as uncomfortably exploitative, a grab for Lady Gaga’s base. Where Gaga has earned a right to identify with the families of these victims, Madonna arguably hasn’t.
The show worked best when highlighting Madonna’s impressive career achievements. Her classic performance of a largely unaltered "Vogue" was a refreshingly fun look at one of pop culture’s best moments. While light on classics, Madonna was smart in including a faithful and rousing performance of "Like a Prayer," arguably her most-loved song of all time.
Even the newer material played well given the setting, with mediocre tracks from "MDNA" given enhanced meaning through remarkably well-executed theatrics. Absolutely no one in pop music puts on a show of the caliber audience members expect from Madonna. One need only remind those who question her relevance that the "Sticky and Sweet" tour is the highest grossing tour by a female artist of all time. "MDNA" is expected to crack the top ten concert tours of all time in terms of sales.
Madonna recently said of her high ticket prices,"I’m worth it." With yet another stunning tour underway in her third decade of performing, one would find it hard to argue with that assessment. The risk outweighs the imperfection here, making the "MDNA World Tour" a memorable addition to an already stellar career.
Upcoming dates for The "MDNA World Tour" are: 9/8, NYC; 9/12-13, Toronto; 9/15, Atlantic City; 9/18-20, Chicago; 9/23-24, WDC; 9/29-30, Vancouver; 10/2-3, Seattle; 10/6-7, San Jose; 10/10-11, LA; 10/13-14, Las Vegas; 10/16, Phoenix; 10/18, Denver; 10/20-21, Dallas; 10/24-25, Houston; 10/27, New Orleans; 10/30; 11/1, St. Louis; 10/3-4, St. Paul; 10/6, Pittsburgh; 10/10, Cleveland; 10/12, NYC; 10/15, Charlotte; 10/17, Atlanta; 10/19-20, Miami. For further information, visit the Madonna website.