10.29.2008

Concert review: Madonna

She knows she can do it better and she does.



Whether a high-powered fashionista or a modern rendition of the Madonna
with child, Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone is the ultimate female
performer. Her staggering success is fuelled in part by her
she-iconology -- the world continues to be dazzled by her well-crafted
multifaceted persona. And Madonna loves two things most: her vagina and
a crowd.



At 50, far past the ideal age of a pop star and with many other pop
tarts cooking in the oven looking to be the next Madonna, does her
Madgesty still reign supreme on her 2008 Sticky and Sweet Tour?



Madonna returned to Toronto to play two sold-out shows on Oct 18 and
19. As a devout fan for many years, I was hysterical when I watched her
show on the second night at the Air Canada Centre.



This was the fourth time that I have seen Madonna live, and the energy
buzzing in the air surpassed any concert I have ever attended. This was
my first time sitting in floor seats. I literally felt as though I was
an extension of the stage and an interactive part of Madonna's
performance.



When I got through the initial shock of realizing my main source of
creative provocation was merely 23 rows from me I, alongside many of
her fans, waited anxiously to rampage through her store of candy
galore.



Madonna entered the Air Canada Stage on an "M"-marked pimp throne with
"Candy Shop," the title track off her latest studio album Hard Candy.
In the words of Dee Daly, 28, a first-time Madonna attendee, she
entered in true M form, "with her legs spread open and ready to go."



But Daly felt that, compared to her entrance on her last Confessions
Tour -- in a Swarovski-covered discoball -- this wasn't Madonna at her
most stunning.



Perhaps her appearance was more subdued, but Madonna was still lathered
in bling. Images of colourful candy rolled across the giant screens
while the crowd roared with enthusiasm at the sight of the
five-foot-two-inch icon. M wore a simple black lace bodysuit, a pair of
stiletto knee-high black boots, black gloves and swung around a black
cane while exclaiming, "My sugar is raw!"



Sticky and Sweet featured six gigantic screens gracing the main stage
that revealed an array of bouncy slogans that the Toronto crowd chanted
aloud while images of religious symbolism, racial diversity,
destitution and war acted like a news flashes.



Her show is a sensory overload; you just don't know where to look.



The costuming this tour was not up to par with the extravagant and
sensational outfits she usually performs in. "I understand the childish
nature of the concept of a candy shop, and the innocence of a child in
shorts," said Daly, "but the costuming overall was not that amazing."



My favourite ensemble was the black dress with scattered neon jewelry
and thigh-high boots -- playful and original yet sophisticated. Madonna
continues to amplify the presence of female sexuality in her
performances; she has always been an unapologetic sex siren. While some
critics feel she is too old to wear bodysuits and prance around
carelessly in gym shorts, I hope I have half that sexual confidence at
the half-decade mark.



Madonna has featured her political opinions in all her shows since The
Drowned World Tour of 2000. This time Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther
King Jr and Barak Obama were flashed as light against dark images of
Adolf Hitler and John McCain.



It's obvious how the Madgical one will be voting this US election.



"She was performing and we were listening," said Daly. "When Madonna
speaks her audience listens." The crowd reacted with loud screams.



Filipe Silva, 30, has seen Madonna live two times before. He likens her
concerts to "going to visit mama," where audience members get off at
being schooled through Madonna shouting commands such as, "Don't sit
their like a silly girl," and "No ones gonna show you how!"



Typically Madonna doesn't really incorporate other artists in her
concerts; clearly she loves being the sole point of attention, besides
the d├ęcor of her dancers. This time, however, M acknowledged the
producers from her last album. A virtual Timbaland appeared to
freestyle during an introduction to "4 Minutes" while Justin Timberlake
was brought to life on smaller sliding screens that Madonna mounted and
danced beside during the duet.



My favourite cameo was Pharrell Williams in throwback '80s
synthesizer-filled "Beat Goes On" with the hip-hop flavours of Kanye
West lacing the track. The energy on the song perfectly matched the
energy onstage.



A virtual Britany Spears also appeared in a remixed version of "Human Nature."

 

One of the more novel visual elements was a massive chandelier screen
that lowered to pour raindrops before Madonna in a black cape appeared
enclosed in the screen to sing her first ballad "The Devil Wouldn't
Recognize You." 



Musically all Madonna concerts bring an interesting mix of old and new
-- but the catch for her devoted fans is that she always reinvents her
old tracks.



"Vogue" sampled with "4 Minutes" and a house version of "Like a Prayer"
brought the desired Madonna dance fever. "Like a Prayer" was Daly's
favourite performance; it reminded her of the classical moment in the
controversial video when a back-up singer places her hand on M's
forehead before breaking it down with the choir. "It was like in church
and all of a sudden Jesus came to talk to us," said Daly.



Standing strong Madonna also ripped a rocking version of "Borderline"
surprising the crowd. A dance circle gathered for a folk version of "La
Isla Bonita" that showed off a beautiful female flamenco dancer, while
M rested on a stool and sang with a smile.

That was Silva's favourite because the arrangement was so different
from the recorded version. It felt reminiscent of an authentic Spanish
performance.



M gave us something new to suck on, but the taste was familiar.



Can she still dance? Yes, Madonna danced hard for the entire show and
proved that though she is 50, she can keep up with inconceivable
choreography thrown at her.



Then again Madonna can do no harm to her dedicated fans. The woman
could show up in baggy sweat pants and strike one pose and people would
freak out.



Madonna has proven herself to be the most potent and enduring female
symbol. After 25 years performing she continues to give it to us with
everlasting vigour and dedication. Love or hate her, you will pay
attention.



Surely by now Madonna should be promoted from Queen of Pop to the
Almighty of Pop. With a body like a little Amazon, she can go on and on
and on.