Already thirty-four dates into the globetrotting MDNA Tour, Madonna embraced the opportunity to address her first American audience at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday (Aug. 28).
“In my country we have freedom of speech. We have freedom of expression,” she began in a mid-show breather, referencing her world tour, which began May 31 in Tel Aviv, Israel. She made a string of relevant references, from jailed homosexuals in St. Petersburg to a show of support for the recently imprisoned Russian punk protestors Pussy Riot. “Don’t get fat and lazy and take that freedom for granted.”
Being a socially conscious 53-year old performer capable of championing the MDNA Tour‘s theatrics, Madonna is setting a pretty good example. The first American performance of her ninth world tour was a show of strength for the pop star, as she and her ensemble tore through nearly two-dozen cuts from her ever-deep catalog. She generally avoided her earliest albums (with a somber piano rendition of Like a Virgin and Papa Don’t Preach the main exceptions) and crafted an eclectic mix of highlights from her post-1980s material.
Special attention was of course paid to MDNA, which debuted atop the Billboard 200 in early April, especially in the early going.
With the stage temporarily transformed into a cathedral, Madonna emerged amongst a legion of clergy-clad dancers to the tune of Girl Gone Wild, her new album’s second single.
A song later, the EDM-flavored album cut Gang Bang made an appearance, with an armed and dangerous Madonna temporarily ditching the religious imagery to fight off potential assailants from her ensemble. Though she’d wind up wielding her guitar a bit later on, there’s a good chance she spent just as much time wielding various firearms over the course of the evening. This set the tone for most of the performance — one that was energized, jarring, and unafraid to push the pop envelope.
Song choices echoed this feeling as well. Though time was taken for a few tender, sentimental moments, passion and consciousness prevailed throughout the majority of the night’s performances. On one end, Madonna took advantage of message-minded songs like Express Yourself to drape them in contemporary issues, and on another, she invigorated her more innocent fare with violent, striking dance numbers. In Hung Up, the singer literally hung herself, which helped liven up the 2005 hit, with its memorable synth hook edited out from much of the mix.
Madonna also continued the tour’s tradition of inserting a partial cover of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way, into Express Yourself. The elder singer hasn’t been shy about pointing out the 2011 song’s similarity to her own, which to the ire of Gaga.
Two artists on board (in spirit) were Lil’ Wayne and Nicki Minaj, who appeared via jumbotron to perform their parts in Revolver and Give Me All Your Luvin’, respectively. Madonna’s son, Rocco, also made one of his now-routine appearances, dancing with his mom during part of the set.
Handling opening duties was DJ/producer Laidback Luke, who offered roughly thirty minutes of dance remixes in the early going. Madonna did not come onstage until well after ten o’clock (which she later apologized for) though the audience was understandably quick to excuse her tardiness.
The MDNA Tour marks Madonna’s second concert tour under her current 360 deal with Live Nation Entertainment. It makes its next stop Aug. 30 in Montreal, Quebec’s Bell Centre and continues through 41 more North American dates before a final 12 in Latin America. Click here for remaining dates and cities.
The Setlist in Philadelphia:
Girl Gone Wild
Papa Don’t Preach
I Don’t Give A *
Express Yourself – Born This Way
Give Me All Your Lovin’
Turn Up The Radio
Open Your Heart
Justify My Love
The Erotic Candy Shop
Like A Virgin
Nobody Knows Me
I’m Addicted To Your Love
I’m A Sinner
Like A Prayer