It's been seven long years since Madonna last played her hometown, but when she arrived on stage Tuesday night at Ford Field -- fittingly, on nothing less than a throne -- the enormous grin on her face said it all: It was good to be home.
She said as much during her livewire two-hour concert, sprinkling hometown sentiment and "it's good to be home"-isms throughout the show. But she let her feelings really be known near the end of the night, before a sing-along portion of the show which included a karaoke-style version of her hit song "Material Girl."
"I don't come here very often," she told the crowd of 30,000, "so please make a big deal about it!"
It wasn't hard to. The homegrown superstar -- way before she became the biggest star in all the land, she was just a kid from Rochester Hills with dreams of ruling the world -- put on a stadium-worthy celebration that was part concert, part block party, and all fun. Whereas past Madonna extravaganzas have served to titillate or provoke, the focus here seemed to be on having a good time, plain and simple.
Madonna offered up a fair number of selections from her latest, April's "Hard Candy." Whereas the record is a bit of a stiff, in person it sounded positively vital, with an explosive, show-closing "Give It 2 Me" sounding nothing less than apocalyptic in its urgency.
She dipped into her back catalog, as well, offering revamped, reinvented versions of some of her biggest hits, including a thrashing, punk rock take on "Borderline" and a gypsy-style take on "La Isla Bonita" that would make her friends in Gogol Bordello proud.
The concert briefly delved into politics with a video montage showing images of famine and villainous world leaders, which later gave way to images of Bono, Oprah, John Lennon and yes, Barack Obama. Earlier tour stops included images of John McCain on the "bad" side of things, which have thankfully been excised post-election.
Madonna didn't always sing -- she oftentimes made no attempt to mask her piped in vocals -- but she constantly danced and always entertained. Her performance was tireless, and her ultra-fit, 50-year-old build continues to impress while gleefully mocking the rules of nature.
The homecoming was only slightly dampered by the crowd of 30,000, which was far from a sell-out (the entire upper deck was blocked off with a black curtain). The attendance figure can be blamed on several factors, including Michigan's down economy, the high ticket price and the fact that the local date wasn't announced until three months after the rest of the tour. Many local fans likely made the trek to shows in nearby cities such as Toronto or Chicago, thinking that like on Madonna's last two tours, there would not be a Detroit stop.
But it was good to have her back, if only for a night. And on that night she proved that despite her various personas and endless reinventions, there is still only one Madonna.