When an artist embarks on the tenth concert of a career that spans over 30 years, one may think that it would be nothing new or innovative. One may think that she’d be up to the same old tricks, sing (or lip sync in the case of some) the same mega-hits the way they sound on her greatest hits compilation and simply go through the motions to cash in on all that concert cash. One does not know Madonna.
Rating: 5 stars
Madonna stopped for the first of two nights at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, on the third leg of her Rebel Heart Tour which has been traveling the world since last September (and continues until March). This trek felt pretty different than a lot of Madonna’s past tours–yes, the intricate choreography and intense precision were there, but there was a warmth to Madonna this time around that hasn’t been present as much on stage before. She broke character, one might say, having moments with audience members, cracking jokes and spanking her dancer as punishment for not catching a maraca. She seemed to be genuinely having fun.
That’s not to say Madonna wasn’t Madonna. After so many years of performing, she still managed to find new ways to shock, inspire and make a statement: she had pole dancing nuns followed by a recreation of The Last Supper, she “played” La Cucaracha on her crotch (“It’s a rare talent to be able to play your pussy like that,” she said) and dressed her dancers in religious garb for her song Devil Pray. She also gave a touching speech on what it’s like being different and not fitting in before playing the title track of the tour. Nevertheless, the show had just as many (if not more) lighter moments as well that included some line dancing, some bull fighting (well, minotaur fighting) and a patriotic finale that found Madonna soaring high above the stage.
While no one really goes to a Madonna concert just for the vocals, her voice was strong and nothing was lip synced (although a handful of songs had a very loud backing track). The Material Girl‘s strong and crisp vocals were especially apparent during her many acoustic songs (on which she played the guitar herself), including a ukulele renditions of True Blue and a cover of La Vie En Rose. Miami fans got an extra special treat with an acoustic version of Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, which was the first time she’s played it on The Rebel Heart Tour (Madonna mentioned that Miami was the perfect city for it too).
Another unique experience for Miami attendees was during Unapologetic Bitch, when Madonna brings an audience member on stage. Miami’s audience member was none other than Madonna’s own daughter Mercy whose birthday it was (instead of the usual “gift” Madonna gives the Unapologetic Bitch, which is a banana, Madonna gave Mercy a cupcake and sang happy birthday to her). It’s noteworthy that while other celebrities boast about their famous “squads,” Madonna chose to bring her daughter on stage rather than any of the countless A-List celebrities in the audience (which included Naomi Campbell, Gloria Estefan, Sam Smith and Madonna’s long time pal Rosie O’Donnell).
As far as the set list, about half were songs off of Rebel Heart (the tour is called The Rebel Heart Tour, after all) and half were some of Madonna’s biggest hits (mostly those from the early and mid-80s). Some of the oldies stayed pretty true to their original compositions, such as La Isla Bonita, Deeper And Deeper and the closer, Holiday, while others were reinvented, including a flamenco-themed medley of Dress You Up, Into The Groove and Lucky Star.
Perhaps the most stunning reinvention was for Like A Virgin. Madonna modernized the song and gave it a brand new, incredibly catchy beat, as she danced her butt off all by herself, sans dancers, all over the stage, including rolling around on the floor in what was possibly a nod to her original Like A Virgin performance from the 1984 MTV Video Music Awards (although this time, 32 years later, she did it in a suit instead of a wedding dress).
Perhaps the only songs missing were some of her many hits from the 90s and 2000s. Sure, she performed an over two hour concert and there isn’t time for her to do every hit in her vast library, but with so many songs from the 80s and her most recent album in the set list, the years in between seemed a bit underrepresented. In fact, the only songs performed that were post-1990 and pre-2015 were Deeper And Deeper (1992), Music (2000) and Candy Shop (2008). Songs such as Ray Of Light, Hung Up or Take A Bow may have been good additions/replacements, if for no other reason than to demonstrate how consistently Madonna has cranked out the hits over her 30 plus years.
One of the highlights of the show came while Madonna was off stage changing–her dancers, standing high atop poles, swung back and fourth Cirque du Soleil/”Mad Max” style right above the audience’s heads, grabbing other dancers from the stage below in the process. It was an incredible sight that just goes to show how incredible a Madonna concert is–it really isn’t just a concert at all, as she goes all out to bring the most state of the art and stunning visuals to entertain her fans.
I hesitated to bring up her age (so many other writers do that it’s become taboo at this point), but I thought it important to stress that at 57 years old, Madonna is still able to put on a two and a half hour show that found her pole dancing, vogueing and of course dancing her butt off all while singing live. Ever since her Blond Ambition Tour in 1990 when she essentially turned arena pop concerts into theatrical events with costumes, dancers, choreography and sets, younger pop stars have tried to use her formula for their own shows. Yet, at 57, Madonna still does it best (and that is the only reason I felt the need to mention her age). Madonna is a seasoned pro who shows no signs of slowing down, despite joking that her next tour will be all ballads and stand-up comedy (called The Tears of A Clown Tour she said). And if that ever does come to fruition, I’d still be first in line for tickets. Why? Because Bitch, she’s Madonna. There’s simply no one else like her.