As we have all surely learned by now, Madonna does not do half-measures.
Tuesday night at TD Garden the truly, remarkably indefatigable pop superstar powered her way through a sold-out performance just shy of two hours and heavy on the razzle dazzle.
The show included but was not limited to: a seedy motel set, on which a gun-toting Madonna was attacked on all sides by assailants she handily dispatched in choreographed fight scenes set to the dark Gang Bang; a phalanx of flying drum majors beefing up the backbeat on the jubilant Give Me All Your Luvin’; a crew of slackline acrobats flipping, twisting, and bobbing on wires during the disco throbber Hung Up; video cameos by Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne; a bevy of costume changes; and a full stage of nearly 30 dancers, instrumentalists, and singers clad in choir robes, ecstatically raising their voices on Like a Prayer. Add an elaborate, state of the art stage with banks of platforms rising and falling and walls of video screens, and Madonna’s arsenal was short only a kitchen sink.
Madonna herself remains impressively fleet of foot, dancing nearly non-stop; and when she sang live, she was perfectly competent of voice, even if the mix didn’t always do her favors.
Most Madonna fans know she is no mere jukebox in concert and has too many songs to please every fan with a wish list, but anyone who expected all that effort and spectacle to be in service of her greatest hits, was likely disappointed that the show focused so heavily on her middling latest album, MDNA. Often when she did do familiar songs, they were either partial performance teases (Papa Don’t Preach), mash-ups (Candy Shop and Erotica), or drastically reinvented, like her deathly, dirge-like waltz version of Like a Virgin.
Older songs that got the full treatment included a bouncy take on Express Yourself which snuck in bits of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way and, pointedly, Madonna’s She’s Not Me. A sassy Vogue, in classic form, came complete with flamboyantly-clad dancers strutting down the arrow-shaped runway that jutted into the arena and corralled a portion of the crowd on the floor
While some of the MDNA songs benefited from live concert energy—one of the album’s stand-outs, moody ballad Masterpiece was enriched by Basque trio Kalakan—it’s hard to imagine a majority of fans preferring them to any one of the many hits that flew by in a rapid-fire video montage at one point.
But as we all have also surely learned at this point, Madonna does just what she wants to do, and there is something admirable, if not totally satisfying, about that.