After three decades of this, you thought Madonna might start taking it easy?
Certainly not this Madonna, the one who brought ageless energy, flamboyance and flash Thursday night to a packed Joe Louis Arena, homecoming stop on the pop queen’s Rebel Heart Tour. These days, the 57-year-old star seems eager to drive home a point: In a world brimming with pop contenders, there’s still only one of her.
With her father and daughter looking on, Madonna also served up the most Detroit-centric show we’ve ever seen from an artist who for years has been accused of spurning her roots. There were pep talks about the city’s resilience, celebrations of the city’s comeback (“Watch out!”), even a shout-out to developer and “incredible guy” Dan Gilbert.
The spectacle had started with a big helping of new Rebel Heart fare to go with Madonna’s latest foray into erotic religious imagery, her male dancers costumed as cross-bearing knights and their female counterparts as pole-dancing nuns. From there on through the euphoric Holiday encore, the two-hour-plus show kept up the brisk pace — a whirl of set changes, outfits that quickly went from lavish to skimpy, and tight, intricate dance numbers that often found their way down the lengthy catwalk.
In a defiant assertion of her relevance, Madonna has long used her tours to emphasize her latest Music, and Thursday was no different: The set was loaded with Rebel Heart material, and when she did tap the older stuff, it got unapologetically reinvented. She strapped on a guitar to dial up the riff wattage of 1983’s Burning Up, and turned Dress You Up into a colorful, festive number complete with some rumba and a conga line. She and guitarist Monte Pittman doubled on ukuleles for True Blue, and teamed up again with acoustic guitars on Who’s That Girl. Like A Virgin was stripped into a spare, throbbing number in a rare scene that saw Madonna alone on the stage, a shared moment of intimate nostalgia between artist and audience.
Thursday brought a lean-and-lithe Madonna who balanced seriously intense performances with a lighthearted, sometimes mischievous spirit. For all the sizzle — the dazzling set pieces, the splashy visuals, the eye-popping interludes by her supremely skilled dance crew — it was a show that planted some genuine heart in the proceedings.
That was certainly the mood as she deposited ample Detroit devotion throughout. More than a year after providing financial support to several community organizations, Madonna name-checked two of them (the Empowerment Plan and Downtown Boxing Gym) from the Joe Louis stage, and spoke enthusiastically about her working relationship with Gilbert, the Quicken Loans magnate and downtown developer.
“Detroit made me who I am today, so I want to say thank you with these next few songs,” she said while easing into a stretch that included Rebel Heart, dedicated to her dad somewhere out in the crowd, 84-year-old Silvio Ciccone.
Source: Detroit Free Press