No Rest For The Weary (continues)
After the incredible all new images of the “Bedtime Story” interlude – which literally had me ecstatic with pleasure as the “Orbital Remix” is my favorite version of one of my all-time favorite Madonna songs – Madonna was back again with her heart-and-soul segment of the show. She spoke to the crowd for a moment – something she rarely does these days – and thanked us for her energy. She mentioned that after her postponement, she was still not feeling 100%, and that it was our love that was getting her through the night. She bragged, “I’m not a quitter!” (Clearly, there was no rest for this weary one either.)
A bluesy “Nothing Fails” (from AMERICAN LIFE) led into “Don’t Tell Me” – complete with a French MOULIN ROUGE-inspired backdrop and berets(?) – and identical choreography from that of the DROWNED WORLD TOUR performance of the same song. Normally this would have made me feel cheated, but really, they are some pretty damn good moves! Adorned in a simple black vest and trousers, Madonna then urged everyone to get up out of their seats – as she was about to take control of the entire crowd with the rousing “Like A Prayer.” Clearly one of the major highlights for everyone that evening, the song had the thousands-strong audience singing and clapping along in unison. It was spiritual to say the least – and that is exactly the way Madonna wanted it.
In fact, heavy-handed images of Kaballistic words and Hebrew symbols repeatedly flashed across the video screens throughout the night – and here – during “Like A Prayer,” Madonna was backed by a previously filmed Gospel choir of back-up singers. It was another moment in the evening which would have bordered on the cheesy side of things if it wasn’t for the powerhouse performance at hand.
The “Mother And Father”/ “Intervention” medley was next. Gone were any references to the Jewish faith, and in their place were giant images of Madonna as a child, Madonna’s mother, and very Catholic renderings of Jesus and the actual Madonna. It was just another example of the pop star’s infamous use of juxtaposing controversial or iconic imagery. The song was a slow moment for most of the crowd, but for any Madonna-phile, it was certainly a performance to cherish.
This of course leads us to the big “love it” or “hate it” moment of the night… when Madonna brazenly reaches into the canon of music history and breaks out her cover of John Lennon’s pro-piece anthem “Imagine.” Again, I had not read the set-list – so this was certainly a shocking moment! In my humble opinion, which is apparently not shared by many others, she pulled it off with grace and with complete sincerity. Perhaps professional critics’ reviews of this number hinge more on Madonna’s overbearing use of horrific imagery of dying, emaciated children on the screen rather than on the actual vocal performance itself. Still, once the “Spirituality For Kids” promo pops up on the screen at the end, you must wonder if Madonna remembers her quote during the trek of her infamous 1990 BLOND AMBITION TOUR when she stated that she certainly does not want her show to be “pedantic.”
In a blink of an eye, the sick impoverished kids were gone. And in their place was a Scottish bagpiper in a kilt. What?
Yes, it’s true. Although it absolutely made no sense – this was the intro to “Into The Groove,” and the opening to the finale of the show, jam-packed with Madonna hits.
The bagpiper was escorted by another kilt-wearing cohort drumming a definite cadence with his bass drum. Those two were soon joined by a swarthy pack of neo-Scottish drumming punks who added to the percussion backbeat quite effectively. The moment was slightly reminiscent of Madonna’s DROWNED WORLD TOUR performance of “La Isla Bonita” which segued so beautifully from its preceding tune through the use of elaborate percussion.
“Into The Groove” finally emerged through the eclectic drumming, and it wasn’t long before Madonna herself was kilting her way through a spirited version of the dance classic. Large bamboo sticks replaced the earlier rifle brigade from the military section of the show, and this time the intricacies of the prop were put to use by hand as well as by foot. Missy Elliott, adorned in Tartan plaids, even appeared via video footage that was meant to re-create the Gap ad campaign that brought “Into The Groove” back from the dead in the summer of 2003. As I said before, Madonna left no stone unturned this time around!
Throwing on a cheeky “Kaballitsts Do It Better” T-shirt, Madonna then launched into 1986’s controversial pop hit “Papa Don’t Preach,” and again, I was left thinking “What?” The crowd seemed to like it, and as everyone knows, if the crowd is having fun, then you are usually having fun.
Tears started rolling down my cheeks – yes tears – for the second time that night when Madonna then dedicated “Crazy For You” to her fans who, “for the last 20 years have stuck by me through thick and thin.” Her voice was so beautiful here and so simple – I just could not hold in the emotion anymore. After the climax of the song, all sentiments were thrown by the wayside when Maddy threw her T-shirt into the crowd and joined her dancers on the ever-revolving center-stage-turned-Saturday-Night-Fever-dancefloor for her early-80’s electro-inspired “Music.” While the song was as energetic and fun as always, “Holiday,” which followed, once again took a more political route by infusing the video screens with every imaginable flag from every country in the world. The words “come together in every nation” were never more simple and meaningful in reference to the usually happy-go-lucky song than when the performance ended with the Palestinian and Israeli flags frozen in time side-by-side.
Clearly by now, after another up-close jaunt on the V-shaped catwalk, and after pounds and pounds of confetti were shot throughout the stadium, the crowd was at Madonna’s every beck-and-call. As the megalithic side screens finally closed over the stage cleverly bearing the words “Re-invent Yourself,” everyone was certainly still hungry panting for more…
But there was not more to be had. After 24 songs, the show was indeed over. Roya mentioned afterwards that she certainly missed “Live To Tell,” and “Lucky Star,” and I for one would have rather heard “Like A Virgin” rather than “Material Girl,” but for the most part, Madonna and crew did the most amazing job of culling tunes from the past and mixing them with hits of today. Missing from my wish list would have been Madonna’s most recent single “Love Profusion,” older hits “Open Your Heart,” “Ray Of Light,” and “Justify My Love,” and most-notably “Take A Bow.”
The show in general is certainly my favorite out of her six tours, as it seems overall to most resemble that of 1993’s GIRLIE SHOW (previously my favorite), in its colorful and theatrical presentation of her songs.
Ahhhh… sigh. After the high of the show, Roya and I did something I hadn’t done in over five years! We ignored the brouhaha of the film SUPERSIZE ME, and actually went through a drive-in at a fast food restaurant and ordered food? Shocking, I know, but we had to get home in a hurry to crash into our beds so that we could get up at 7:00 in the morning to go to Disneyland… Again, there was no rest for the weary – but then again, that is a whole other story…
till next time,