EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — 50 is the new 25. Or at least, that’s what Madonna seemed intent on proving at her first U.S. concert since reaching that half-century milestone.
Kicking off the U.S. leg of her Sticky & Sweet tour at the Izod Center, the pop icon exhibited the energy, not to mention the muscle tone, of a woman half her age during a 23-song set that chronicled her storied career, from ’80s hits to songs from this year’s release Hard Candy.
Intent to give herself and her fans a musical workout, as well, Madonna put a slightly different spin on familiar tunes. As she has on recent tours, the singer played guitar on several numbers, lending a garage-rock edge to Borderline and Hung Up.
Into the Groove was presented as a pumping club mix, with Madonna jumping rope to emphasize its aerobic intensity. By that point, she had changed from a black-bustier-and-boots ensemble to a sportier but similarly revealing number set off by red gym shorts and black socks that stretched up to her gravity-defying thighs.
Audience members were impressed, and titillated. “If I were a lesbian, I would go for her,” said Mary Beth Murdza, 45, a resident of Wall Township who added, “I don’t think I’ve missed one of Madonna’s tours.”
Manhattan newcomer Barry Sherman, 29, came dressed in fishnet and spandex in homage to his idol. In his old house in Vermont, he added, “One of the bedrooms is a shrine to Madonna.”
Madonna herself paid tribute to world music and different cultures throughout the evening. Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You had an Asian flavor, underscored by Japanese dancers, and was followed by a segment that drew on Latin influences and included Rumanian gypsy musicians, including the songs La Isla Bonita, Miles Away and, from Evita, the ballad You Must Love Me.
The visuals were similarly exotic and often stunning, from an anime-inspired montage to footage of various foreign landscapes and people. Ray of Light and Like A Prayer were accompanied by spiritual imagery, with quotations from the Bible floating across the screen.
Madonna’s recent collaborators Kanye West, Pharrell Williams and Justin Timberlake popped up on video, as did Britney Spears, who filmed a special black-and-white clip as a backdrop for a frenzied Human Nature.
An already controversial segment showed famous and infamous figures ranging from Adolf Hitler and Kim Jong Il to Martin Luther King Jr., the Dalai Lama and John Lennon. Current presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama were also included, McCain in closer proximity to some more patently villainous types and Obama nearer to those viewed more favorably, who also included Mother Teresa and Bono.
Madonna did not patently link McCain to any of the ogres, or verbally attack the Republican contender. She did, however, have a few choice words for his running mate. “Sarah Palin can’t come to this party,” she declared, after leading the audience in a festive a cappella version of Open Your Heart. “She is not in my show. She will never be in my show.”
She reinforced that message, humorously, by imitating “the sound of Sarah Palin’s husband’s snowmobile when it won’t start” with a loud, purposefully irritating burst of guitar.
Set list (in order):
Beat Goes On
Die Another Day
Into the Groove
She’s Not Me
Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You
La Isla Bonita
You Must Love Me
Get Stupid (segue)
Like A Prayer
Ray Of Light
Give It To Me
Source: USA Today