Gun-toting vixens. Blood-spattered motel rooms. Point-blank executions. Acrobatic militiamen. Gratuitous cleavage shots. No, this isn’t a scene-by-scene breakdown of a new Quentin Tarantino movie, it’s the first half an hour of Madonna’s new live show which blazed into Yankee Stadium on Thursday night (and will be reprised Saturday night).
The shock-and-awe tactics have been a staple of her 30-year career, but right now they seem to be an especially savvy move. Madonna’s latest album, MDNA, (released in March) was heavy on dance dynamics but light on killer pop hooks, and that imbalance has resulted in sluggish sales by her standards.
Not that it mattered one iota during the opening segment on Thursday because the extravagant sets, fantastically choreographed routines and the mini-movies projected on the stage screens were enough to divert attention away from the limp Euro-disco of Girl Gone Wild and the unconvincing dubstep influence that underscores Gang Bang — both of MDNA.
While those half-baked attempts to contemporize as a musician have fallen flat, Madonna’s show remains a master class in performance and spectacle. Song-and-dance routines were a given, but the 54-year-old also pulled off a range of physically staggering party tricks including an extended fight sequence and a melodramatic walk across a tightrope. During a tongue-in-cheek piano-ballad version of Like a Virgin, she also spent several minutes writhing across the stage like a mortally wounded femme fatale. Whatever Madge is paying her personal trainer, it simply isn’t enough.
There were moments where her cultural-chameleon act adopted some more absurd shades. I’m a Sinner in particular made an utterly perplexing transition from MDNA filler track to a faux-Indian hippie jam, complete with sitar twangs and Sanskrit chanting. It’s the sort of thing that only a college kid returning from a gap year in Goa would have found interesting. For the rest of us, the bathroom felt like the less nauseating option.
But those dud moments were few, and it would have taken a lot more of them to truly spoil Madonna’s homecoming. She may have decamped to London and taken on an air of refinement in recent times, but there’s a smart-ass New Yorker still bubbling under the surface, and The Bronx responded ecstatically to those glimpses of the Ciccone sass. During Express Yourself, she couldn’t resist issuing a sly smack down to Lady Gaga by seamlessly incorporating a chorus of Born This Way to illustrate the melodic similarities, and adapted the lyrics to include the line “she’s not me” for good measure.
But the cheekiest moment of the night undoubtedly came when dear old Madge began to strip to the sound of Human Nature. With the stadium’s attention fully focused on her barely covered behind, she used the moment to get political. “I’m not gonna show you my ass tonight — I’m gonna show you my feelings,” she explained dryly, before completing the strip by revealing a badly scrawled “Obama” tattoo on her back.
Subtlety is not a strong point, but, as she has continually proved, being a pop icon is all about the grand gestures. And, after all this time, Madonna’s are still the grandest of all.
Madonna plays at Yankee Stadium again Sept. 8, and at Madison Square Garden Nov. 12 and 13.
Source: New York Post