There are certain things you expect, no demand, from a Madonna concert: You want lots of bare flesh, hot girl-on-girl action and a hefty dollop of swearing. The 50-year-old pop icon delivered on all counts Saturday at the first of two sold-out Sticky and Sweet tour stops at Oracle Arena. Plus, she offered fans that paid upwards of $400 for floor seats a chance to get a closer look at the world’s most famous red-string kabbalah bracelet.
Madonna spent a good portion of the two-hour set uttering four-letter words, prancing around in designer undies and alternately slapping around and seducing more than a dozen backup dancers. Between the breathless aerobic workouts that accompanied nearly every song, she also made a point to voice her support for same-sex marriage and Barack Obama.
Her personal life is a bit of a mess at the moment, with the very public split from Guy Ritchie and younger brother Christopher Ciccone’s tell-all biography in bookstores. But with her 11th and latest album, Hard Candy, stalled outside the Billboard 200, Madonna doesn’t have time to mope.
Taking the stage in a fishnet bodysuit with one leg splayed across a throne and her crotch on full display for about 20,000 people – a nod to the salacious Hard Candy cover photo – she opened the show with two of the record’s most exuberant highlights: Candy Shop and Beat Goes On, complete with tightly choreographed dance routines, an enormous white Rolls-Royce and video-screen cameos from Pharrell Williams and Kanye West. Considering the number of tour buses and 18-wheelers in the parking lot, she probably could have afforded the real things.
Madonna played eight of Hard Candy‘s 12 tracks, while her old hits were tossed off with little fanfare and lots of chagrin: Vogue was stripped of its sleek house hook and served over a skeletal rhythm; Borderline was reinvented as a two-chord punk surge featuring Madonna on leadish guitar; and Like a Virgin was essentially handed over to thousands of off-key voices in a half-hearted sing-along. Other classic tracks were shelved in favor of surreal video clips and elaborate dance routines that gave Madonna a chance to change from one skimpy outfit into the next.
She wasn’t making a complete break from the past, but she certainly didn’t celebrate it, either. Divided into four parts, each segment of the concert revisited and revised the odd corners of her 25-year-plus pop career. Madonna went back to early ’80s New York – not hers, mind you – by jumping rope in knee-high socks and short shorts in front of Keith Haring figures for an electric version of Into the Groove.
She then proceeded to attack four clones representing her at various stages in history for the acidic She’s Not Me. Wearing white-rimmed Lolita glasses, she rubbed her backside when she sang the line, “She’ll never have what I have.” Then she ripped off Material Girl Madonna’s glove and slapped her with it, tore down Like a Virgin Madonna’s veil and wrapped it around Vogue Madonna’s head for a steely kiss. Let’s call that the fantasy sequence.
The real Madonna then returned for a bizarre gypsy folk interlude that saw tunes like Miles Away and La Isla Bonita reinvented with furiously strummed acoustic guitars and ended with three old guys performing the traditional song Doli Doli. Along the way, there were black-hooded monks, flamenco dancers and a long cartoon of an alien woman chasing fish to the Eurythmics’ Here Comes the Rain Again. Why not?
The night ended with a strange pileup of politics and fanfare, as Madonna’s election day and virtual Justin Timberlake-abetted save-the-world public-service announcement 4 Minutes gave way to a high-energy disco workout that incorporated thumping versions of Like a Prayer, Ray of Light and Hung Up. The set-closing Give It 2 Me was a revelation, given all more impact when the song abruptly ended, the words Game Over flashed on the video screens and the house lights came on. Guess $400 doesn’t buy you an encore.
It was OK. Even if the new songs feel a little like Gwen Stefani’s leftovers, suggesting that, for once, Madonna has actually fallen behind the pop-culture curve she always capitalized on so brilliantly, she worked so hard selling them that by the end of the night, the audience felt breathless even as the singer kept bounding forward.
Source: San Francisco Chronicle