Madonna had some explaining to do to her St. Louis fans Thursday night when she brought her “MDNA” tour to a sold-out Scottrade Center.
After performing a percussion-fueled “Open Your Heart” that ended with a break-dance spotlight with her son Rocco, she acknowledged that it was the first time she had brought one of her extravaganzas to town.
“It’s finally good to be here. I kicked and screamed my way to St. Louis. I begged my way to St. Louis,” the pop star said to massive applause from 17,000 fans at the beginning of a chatty but personal interlude.
She wished a fan down front a Happy Birthdayand said there wasn’t a better way for him to spend his day; complimented a group who came dressed as vintage Madonna; explained the importance of voting, surprisingly without endorsing anyone by name; and then she did the unthinkable.
She didn’t make one of her signature headline-making statements but instead referred to St. Louis as being in Minnesota, a concert sin that drew as many boos as if she’d called President Barack Obama a “black Muslim” again.
Sure, there’s a St. Louis Park and a St. Louis County in Minnesota, but that’s not where Madonna was Thursday night. She apologized quickly, asked fans if they wanted her to come back, and promptly moved onto cute pop throwaway “Masterpiece.”
Madonna’s two-hour show wasn’t fully a masterpiece itself, though it often carried out her high ambitions, despite a moment near the end that went haywire for her.
Showy and stunning, the heavy-handed spectacle boasted a Broadway-esque overload of sights and sounds that even included a crew of drummers dangling high overhead during one song. Madonna delivered an impressive athletic performance with none of the stiffness of her Super Bowl halftime show.
She proved at 54 she still has plenty to show in concert, even if her recent album output says otherwise. The tour’s biggest drawback is that it leans heavily on one of her lesser efforts, “MDNA.”
Her set list was weighed down with “MDNA” songs at the expense of old favorites. Songs such as “Holiday” and “Lucky Star” were only teased during a pre-taped video segment. To Madonna’s credit, her new songs came off better in concert than in their recorded forms.
Madonna, who graced the stage at 10:37 p.m., opened her show with a church set piece doused in Catholic imagery including cloaked monks. A repentant Madonna voiceover gave way to Her Madgesty bursting the church wide open for first song “Girl Gone Wild” from “MDNA.”
Next song “Revolver” was all dancers and guns and “Gang Bang,” another “MDNA” cut, featured Madonna repeatedly shooting a lover while fake blood covered the screen behind her.
It was dramatic for sure and not much fun. No wonder her fans in Colorado shuddered.
Madonna threw a tasty musical bone at fans with “Papa Don’t Preach,” performed mostly on her knees, while “Hung Up” demonstrated particular prowess as she sang it on her back and on a tightrope, and while she was crawling and was dragged across the stage.
Madonna strapped on a guitar for “I Don’t Give A,” with video accompaniment from Nicki Minaj. There was more fun guitar play for “Turn Up the Radio.”
She and her double-jointed dance troupe donned colorful marching band uniforms for “Express Yourself,” which detoured into Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.” Madonna stated repeatedly “she’s not me,” a not-so-subtle dig at Gaga.
“Give Me All Your Luvin’” allowed Madonna to show off her best cheerleader moves, and “Vogue” was as stylishly staged as its name implies. “Vogue” paved the way for other pleasing fare such as “Erotica” and “Human Nature,” which Madonna started as a striptease that ended with her revealing her black thong.
A version of “Like a Virgin” recast as an old-fashioned piano ballad was a questionable choice. Fans threw dollar bills at her as she writhed around the floor. She explained the money she collected was for the people in New York who lost their homes to Hurricane Sandy.
During “I’m a Sinner,” she suddenly stopped the song and said she was having sound problems. “We are at the mercy of technology,” she said. “This is like my worst nightmare.” She wondered aloud if she should disappear and come back,thanked fans for their patience and a few minutes later restarted the song.
“Like a Prayer,” which came with a gospel choir, and “Celebration” closed out the big evening.
Superstar DJ Paul Oakenfold, who produced “Celebration” for Madonna, got the crowd going early with a set of high-energy dance cuts.
Madonna set list, Scottrade Center, Nov. 1
— “Girl Gone Wild”
— “Gang Bang”
— “Papa Don’t Preach”
— “Hung Up”
— “I Don’t Give A”
— “Best Friend”/”Heartbeat”
— “Express Yourself”/”Born This Way”
— “Give Me All Your Luvin”
— Turn Up the Radio”
— “Open Your Heart”
— “Justify My Love” (interlude)
— “Candy Shop”
— “Human Nature”
— “Like a Virgin”
— “Nobody Knows Me”
— “I’m Addicted”
— “I’m a Sinner”
— “Like a Prayer”