Grins all around: Madonna’s a dancing fool
Smiles don’t come easy for Madonna.
Instead, there are usually smirks, sneers, pouts, leers and thin-lipped, tough-as-nails displays of contempt for anyone who would dare mess with her. Madonna, she’s one tough dominatrix, and she’s got better developed biceps than just about any of the fans who filled the United Center on Sunday for the first of two concerts.
But smile she did Sunday, and often. Madonna having fun on stage? Exuding warmth rather than wielding a riding crop? Yes, it happened, a refreshing break from recent tours which presented a woman on a take-no-prisoners mission.
Consider the 50-year-old singer’s three-decade history as a performer: Her dancing, endurance and high-concept sets are never less than ambitious. But usually they have all the spontaneity of a big-budget Broadway musical.
Her tours are always technically impressive, and this one was no exception, a four-part blitz of video, dances with 16 accomplices and costume changes involving (no lie) “3,500 individual wardrobe elements,” according to a tour guide. And there were the usual canned vocals; about half the time, the massive “voice” coming out of the public-address system had little to do with the performer on stage. Once again the line between live performance and hyper-stylized MTV video was blurred – a concept Madonna practically invented in the ‘80s.
In many ways, the “Sticky & Sweet” tour is more of the same. But it was less muddled by high-concept statements, and threw itself into a low-concept sweat. Here was a show that sustained an “Into the Groove”-like party vibe for nearly two straight hours. Big Ideas were conspicuously absent, save for a dunderheaded video interlude equating a certain presidential candidate with fascists and mass murderers and another candidate with saints and liberators.
Otherwise, Madonna switched off her brain and flipped on the mirror-ball switch. She muscled up to push a car full of dancers, then impersonated Joan Jett with an electric guitar-driven version of “Borderline.” Much headbanging ensued.
The fun quotient was never higher than on “She’s Not Me,” with the singer interacting with four dancers dolled up like Madonnas of the past, including the “Like a Virgin” tease in a wedding dress and her platinum-haired Marilyn Monroe incarnation.
Things slowed a bit during the third segment, with a shrouded performer atop a piano in a cage-like cylinder, but peaked with a celebratory “Las Isla Bonita,” complete with flamenco string band. A beaming Madonna strutted arm in arm with a retinue of female dancers, and it was almost possible to see her not as a pop icon, a hard-edged diva, but as the ringleader of a gang. Of course, she ruined that illusion by slipping into her big “Evita” ballad, “You Must Love Me,” which sounded more like a demand than a plea.
No matter. “Like a Prayer” soon rolled in, and then Madonna took requests. She stumbled through a few lines of “Beautiful Stranger,” then got back on script by strapping on her guitar for a heavy metal “Hung Up.” This was Madonna doing disco with feedback firing and devil horns flashing. Once again, she was grinning, this time like a 15-year-old listening to an AC/DC eight-track in the high school parking lot. It’s a good look.
From an article by Greg Kot, Chicago Tribune.