Madge brings her tour magic to Ford Field, MI
— There is only one way for Madonna to begin a show — on a throne, of course.
that's exactly where we find her at the start of her Sticky & Sweet
show at the Air Canada Centre here, as a giant "box" made of video
screens lifts and separates to reveal the Michigan-born pop culture
queen dressed in black and seated amidst a pageant of candy-coated
swirls and images. She rises, tosses off her black coat and begins
singing "Candy Shop" amidst a sea of tuxedoed and top-hatted dancers.
this juncture of her career Madonna doesn't do anything small — nor,
perhaps, should she with more than 200 million albums sold worldwide
and, at 50, a newly enshrined status in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
She describes the Sticky & Sweet Tour, which marks Madonna's first
performing visit to her home town since 2001 (she appears Tuesday at
Ford Field in Detroit), as a "rock-driven dancetastic journey," which
is an apt summation of the energetic and inventive carnival that runs
through 23 full-production song-and-dance numbers with elaborate
staging and video dressing.
"She's always looking to do new and
great, creative things," explains the show's creative director, Jamie
King, who's been working with Madonna for a dozen years. The thematic
center of this production, he says, was Madonna's new album, "Hard
Candy," a return to the crafted, danceable pop after some excursions
into the electronic music realm.
Sticky & Sweet is an array
of high-octane ensemble dance pieces and visual tricks, divided into
four segments. There's Pimp, Old School, Gypsy and Rave — each with
distinctive looks and staging schemes ranging from a white roadster
that rolls Madonna and her dancers out from the main stage during "Beat
Goes On" to shimmering beaded curtains that encase her as she sings
"Devil Wouldn't Recognize You" atop a grand piano.
Not Me," four of the female dancers dress as some of Madonna's past
personas, and she manipulates them like mannequins, switching articles
of clothing from one to the other. "Into the Groove" features some
strenuous jump-rope choreography, and during the "video interlude" a
couple of the male dancers stage a boxing match, complete with a ring,
while a remix version of "Die Another Day" — Madonna's theme for the
2002 James Bond film — pipes over the speakers. "Guests" such as Kanye
West, Pharrell Williams, Britney Spears, Timbaland and Justin
Timberlake appear on video screens for their respective songs (although
Spears and Timberlake recently recreated their parts in person at the
Dodger Stadium show in Los Angeles).
For all its visual
confections, Sticky & Sweet isn't short on musical highlights,
either, including a thumping, house-style version of "Music" and a punk
rock treatment of "Borderline" that's one of several songs on which
Madonna plays guitar. Before "Hung Up," she takes audience requests,
delivering a snippet of "Express Yourself" or "Holiday" before going
into the song.
And for the Gypsy segment of the show the
ensemble is joined by the Kolpakov Trio from Romania for ethnic-infused
treatments of "Spanish Lesson," "Miles Away" and "La Isla Bonita,"
while her rendition of "You Must Love Me" from the film "Evita" is a
bona fide show-stopper.
What Madonna fans may find most
surprising is that Sticky & Sweet is not as gratuitously
provocative, particularly sexually, as her other tours — no nude
dancers or simulated orgasms or S&M imagery. "I don't think she's
feeling overtly sexual at the moment," acknowledges King, who started
working on the show four months before the tour's Aug. 23 start in
Cardiff, Wales, and is hoping one of the shows will be filmed for a
DVD. "Sexuality wasn't big on our list of things to really touch on."
its place Madonna plays a political card during Sticky & Sweet. She
made a few caustic comments about Republican vice-presidential
candidate Sarah Palin at some of the shows, but the big moment is the
"Get Stupid" video interlude, a montage of images that manages to
equate President George Bush and Sen. John McCain with Adolf Hitler and
other historical villains and also pays tribute to humanitarians and
activists such as Mahatma Ghandi, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela,
Live Aid/Live 8 founder Bob Geldof, filmmaker Michael Moore and former
U.S. vice-president Al Gore and ends with president-elect Barack Obama
— before "4 Minutes" ushers the show into the celebratory Rave segment
which also includes "Like a Prayer," "Ray of Light," "Hung Up" and
"Give It 2 Me."
At the end Madonna works her way back into the
"box" from which she came, while "Holiday" plays on the P.A. and the
video screens declare Game Over.
Madonna's Sticky & Sweet
Tour plays 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Ford Field, 2000 Brush St., in Detroit.
Tickets are $50 to $350; for information, call (313) 262-2000 or visit www.ticketmaster.com