I don’t think I’ve ever reviewed a gig before, mainly because I’ve never actually BEEN to a single artist gig before. I did realise with some horror that I have inadvertently seen Blue perform live more than any other act. I do wonder how that can happen by accident… but then I’m not talking about Blue, I’m talking about Madonna. Since it was my first time, I hoped she was going to be gentle.
Before I start, I would sincerely ask people to make up their own mind about Madonna. I’m utterly bored of reading reviews (using the term loosely) from both Madonna loons and Madonna anti-loons. Both blinded by their agendas, I get the impression most of the reviews were written (or at least decided) before they’d actually seen anything. I’m not writing this review for effect, I just went to see one of the most famous women alive, and I want to write about it, thanks.
Phew! I don’t know what possessed me to spent in the region of £200 (I’ve tried to forget the exact amount) for a Golden Circle ticket to her oddly solitary London date in Hyde Park. But I did, and a trouble-free entrance at opening time gave us a good spot not too far from one of the catwalks.
Supporting the show were two acts. Martin Solveig produced several MDNA tracks, and opened with a DJ set mixing his own hits (which I didn’t really know except “Hello”), Madonna hits (including a few MDNA tracks not on the setlist), and other big dance hits of the moment (“Titanium” going down particularly well). It was a good-natured set and he seemed like a really sweet and energetic guy.
Outstaying their welcome were LMFAO, or the afro guy anyway, the other guy was laid up with a back injury. Their nondescript mulch of beyond generic tracks about partying and rocking, and party rocking and getting drunk etc. left us all waiting for their two big hits “Party Rock Anthem” and “Sexy and I Know It” which – to give them credit – did get things going. Then we waited for an age for the woman herself to come onstage.
The intro was great, with clandestine monks and priests almost summoning her like some demon, before she pulled back the curtain from her flying confessional booth and launched into “Girl Gone Wild”. It was an awesome start, with some stunning choreography and visuals to boot. The ascent to heaven via the visuals looked superb, but a little confusing as she segued straight into “Revolver” and “Gang Bang”, an unusual choice for a recently redeemed soul. “Revolver” worked amazingly well considering its rather dodgy rep for a GH-filler track with terrible lyrics. I was won over by it anyway. Her gunplay continued with “Gang Bang”, another amazing marriage of inch-perfect choreo, vivid visuals and pantomimey gunplay.
I admit that for a huge part of the mid-section I wasn’t standing there open-jawed. There were a few old hits – Papa Don’t Preach, Vogue, Human Nature and Express Yourself – that made it through the wilderness without much tampering, but other re-workings fell a bit flat. Hung Up lost its signature sample and any party spirit, with a no-doubt impressive but not especially engaging tightrope terrorist section. Open Your Heart got a thoroughly tedious Basque makeover and an exasperating sermon on predjudice – a one-two punch that marked probably the low point of the evening. Or maybe the low point was the utterly baffling mashup of Candy Shop and Erotica. I mean honestly, who asked for THAT?!
The other MDNA tracks for the most part came over really well, with the exception of a rather throwaway “Turn up the radio” that I thought would have worked better. But “I don’t give a” was great with some gorgeous hi-def Minaj shots. “Masterpiece” got a rather unimaginative airing, weighed down by that Basque nonsense, and “I’m a sinner” was an oddly-placed momentum killer right at the end. “I’m Addicted” (along with “Girl gone wild” and “Gang Bang” at the start) was amazing as I knew it would be. I couldn’t help thinking it might have made a better closing track though. Still, it injected some much-needed energy to the final act.
I was surprised at how underused “Give me all your luvin” was though, without the Minaj rap it felt a little weak. Maybe it was because I just couldn’t see a lot of it from where I was. The air-lifted drummers were pretty good, but as a whole it was a bit of a missed opportunity somehow.
Towards the end there was an overlong but mesmerising acapella version of “Like a virgin”, a song I’d never really loved, but played in such an extraordinary way that it’s one of my lasting impressions of the night, particularly as I’m sure I could see her nipples through that lacy bra (nice tits, FYI). “Like a prayer” got a more traditional reading, which got everyone singing, even if a little re-invention wouldn’t have gone amiss.
The “Nobody Knows Me” interlude’s visuals were totally spellbinding. Not entirely sure what the underlying message was there – it just felt like an attention-grabbing “here are some bad people, here are some good people, here’s a cause to support etc – but it looked amazing. Speaking of visuals, the concert closed with an energetic but very brief “Celebration”, which I loved.
I hate how this review sounds so critical, but I did enjoy myself a lot. My REAL problems with the show (apart from that Basque trio) were my issues with my fellow concert-goers. As a short guy, I didn’t get on well with the guy in front who had one dance move: the fist in the air and moving as if straddling a mechanical bull. Dance by all means, but just put your fucking arms down.
While I’m at it, I hate cameraphones. I’d be a hypocrite if I meant that generally, because I had to take SOMETHING tangible away from this show. Photos are fine, but if you are going to block everyone else’s view by filming every second, then I’m sorry but you need to JUST DIE (but I’m not sorry). Worst of all were the insidious crowd-pushers. We all staked our claims to good spots by virtue of our timely arrivals, and people seemed quite pleased for a long while, LMFAO notwithstanding. But periodically little groups would come by “because our friends are just over there, we’re going over there”. Fine, that’s fine of course. Except some of them are liars, and shamelessly decided to stop in front of us and set up camp. I’m not cut out for this shit, especially at £200-odd a time. Christ knows what the standard ticket-holders could see, even at the front of their block!
Anyway, the bottom line is that it was a good show. I wasn’t blown away, but I saw her live for the first time and that has to count for something. Not an irrationally polar reaction from me, I’m afraid. I’ll weigh up the options next time she tours, and I’ll definitely get the MDNA DVD, but I just wish I’d seen the Confessions Tour live now, that really did look like magic.
She’s still got the energy for this game, despite shamelessly turning 50+. People just need to stop wasting their energy on bitching about her the whole time, and who knows, maybe they’ll have some fun!