It only took 25 years, but the Twin Cities finally got its third date with Madonna.
The 54-year-old Michigan native filled the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Saturday, Nov. 3, with more than 13,000 screaming fans, at least a few of whom caught her only other two local gigs, way back in 1985 and 1987.
"It's been a long time, Minnesota," Madonna announced midway through the concert. "It's been too long, Minnesota. Sorry it took me so long to come back."
If 25 years wasn't long enough, the Material Girl made her faithful wait just a bit more, taking the stage at 10:35 p.m., a time when most arena acts are kicking off the encore. But Madonna isn't "most arena acts," and her show at the X proved that again and again.
Madonna packed the evening with eye candy, from her state-of-the-art stage to her muscle-bound, contortionist backup dancers. At one point, an entire marching band of drummers backed her up, while suspended from the rigging at the top of the stage. Necessary? Hardly. But that's how Madonna does it.
The stage morphed for each song, the entire cast changed costumes multiple times and nearly every song featured an unexpected twist. Even when she wasn't onstage, Madonna's presence could be felt, from the front row to the cheap seats. Cleary, this woman wants to make her concerts an event, and in that sense, she succeeded.
The major complaint, of course, is that she insisted on filling the set list with new material, much of which simply doesn't stand up to her big hits. On top of that, when Madge did dip into the back catalog, she switched up her old songs, performing them in new, not-always-successful arrangements. For example, she slowed "Like a Virgin" down to a crawl and paired it with "Love Spent." Elsewhere, she pushed "Open Your Heart" and "Justify My Love" into murky waters.
Darkness hung over much of the first half of the show, when Madonna ran around the stage with firearms for "Revolver" and "Gang Bang" and, later, when she delivered a memorably disorienting version of "I'm Addicted," one of the finest moments on her hit-or-miss new album "MDNA." The concert could have used a bit more levity, for sure, but it did make the fun moments that much more giddy, like when she snuck Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" into her own "Express Yourself," all the while dressed as a cheerleader.
She might be afraid to show her witch hands these days, and spent much of the show disguising them behind gloves, but she's still willing to flash a little skin. At one point, she backed her behind right into the camera and showed off a few bruises as if they were badges of honor.
And because she's Madonna, she wasn't afraid to speak her mind.
"I don't care who you vote for, as long as you vote for Obama," she said at one point. She followed up with a command: "You must vote 'no' on the marriage amendment."
And she'll do it all again, during a second performance Sunday night.