50 year old women in lace seemed to be the rule rather than the exception upon entering Scottrade Center on Thursday night for the long sold out Madonna engagement and her first ever St. Louis show. The queen of over the top pageantry and a special brand of provocateur brought her "MDNA" world tour to town for a night heavy on new cuts as well as some Madonna classics thrown in for good measure.
As the clock ticked towards 10:30pm (sorry grey hairs), it was time for the grand arrival of one of the most famous women in music. The packed house went nuts as hooded guards took the stage to announce the arrival of the night's headliner with ominous bells ringing and a smoky cauldron swinging from side to side. With an extravagant intro and plenty of buildup, the 54 year old Madonna appeared in all black and was greeted like a queen as she stepped into the first song from her "MDNA" album called 'Girls Gone Wild'. The energy didn't seem to waiver over the next 2 hours as Madonna ripped through a 20 song set.
Theatrics seemed to be the theme of the show and the singer herself has described the MDNA show as "a journey from darkness to light, from anger to love [and] from chaos to order". Darkness was certainly on the bill during "Revolver" and "Gang Bang" as the singer brought out quite an arsenal of guns to mow down a bevy of shadowy figures popping up in seemingly never ending directions. One could see that sequence of the show would be unsettling to some in the audience. The thing is though...Madonna makes no apologies for her antics and never has during her ever evolving career. She stands firm in her convictions and for her "art" and it was very much on display during this night.
Madonna favorites were up next as a few classics were brought out of the arsenal including a haunting version of "Papa Don't Preach" (complete with ominous demons) and a poppy Cheerleader routine during "Express Yourself" with more than a few nods to Lady Gaga as Madonna intertwined "She's not me!" tauntingly. Madonna brought out the guitar next as she shouted "I came here to have a good time." as she ripped into 'Turn Up The Radio'.
Given Madonna's recent political statements during her concerts, she left most of it out on this night. A smatter of boos shot back when she did bring up politics but she simply used the platform to say "It is important you vote. Recognize and appreciate that you have that power". There were not mention of a preferred candidate but I think it goes unspoken at this point. A larger scale of boos greeted Madonna as she momentarily thought she was in Minnesota but her fans quickly made her aware that she was, in fact, in St. Louis. She quipped back seeming somewhat embarrassed with "Sorry, I am on 4 hours of sleep. Aren't you happy I am here? Do you want me to come back?" which were both greeted with huge cheers.
As the set moved towards the middle stages, a few of the biggest songs of the night were offered. Though, some may be in different form than Madonna fans are used to hearing. A sharp version of "Vogue" had the party thumping in Scottrade Center as the entire venue swayed with energy. A sleek and sexual version of "Human Nature" howled through the walls ending with Madonna doing a strip tease at the front of the stage which ended in her (rather nice) ass being displayed for all 16,000 to enjoy. Madonna then invited a fan to write a message on her back at this moment. She chose a fan named Martha who could not have fit more of a Midwestern stereotype if she was wearing overalls and participating in a deep friend Oreo eating contest. Martha's message for Madonna's back was a simple and succinct 'UR The One' which brought huge cheers from the crowd. A somewhat modified version of 'Like A Virgin was next featuring Madonna writhing around on stage in somewhat of a missed opportunity. It seemed this version, which sounded completely different than normal left a little something to be desired.
As the set moved towards the final stanza, the party atmosphere was ramped up. Dancers seemed to be levitating and descending in all directions. A break-dance type routine brought the heat during 'Addicted'. The song 'I'm a Sinner' saw a few technical problems as Madonna stopped dead halfway through only to replace her in ear monitor and mic and then start it back from the top. She described it as "like my worst nightmare". The song of the night was up next as the Madonna staple "Like A Prayer" rang through and was greeted with zealous enthusiasm. A full chorus joined her on stage and the party was in full effect. A fun and energetic version of 'Celebration' closed out the show as Madonna waved and left to the stage to thunderous applause.
All in all, I have to give Madonna a solid nod for a fun and memorable show. The setlist may have been a little light on the classics but it did feature a solid mix of old and new and most certainly pushed the envelope as expected. Overall, the theatrics of the show were much better than the music performed itself but that is somewhat to be expected from a woman who has been working to outdo herself for 20 years. If you get a chance to check out Madonna, I would recommend taking the opportunity. The copycats of her act are a dime a dozen and you only get the genuine article once in a very great while, take it while you can.
Girl Gone Wild
Revolver feat. Lil Wayne
Papa Don't Preach
I Don't Give A feat. Nicki Minaj
Best Friend / Heartbeat
Express Yourself / Born This Way
Give Me All Your Luvin' feat. Nicki Minaj & M.I.A.
Turn Up the Radio
Open Your Heart
Justify My Love (Interlude)
Like a Virgin
Nobody Knows Me (Interlude)
I'm a Sinner
Like a Prayer