Show Review by the Edmonton Sun
Madonna has become the poster girl for aging gracefully in the youth-oriented world of pop music.
Still at the height of her performing powers at the age of 50, The Material Girl kicked off the North American leg of her Sticky and Sweet Tour in front of a sold-out crowd at IZOD Arena on Saturday night – including her famous pal Rosie O’Donnell visibly seated near the front – with an action-packed, hi-tech, and yes, briefly political two-hour show that took a few jabs at Republicans John McCain and Sarah Palin.
Frankly, it was hard to take your eyes off Madonna’s bulging biceps, despite such distractions as various raising platforms and slick-looking, moving video screens, and if she didn’t always successfully reinvent her older tunes, the nine new songs represented from her latest urban-influenced album, Hard Candy, were among the best offerings of the night.
Opening dramatically with the new tune, Candy Shop, Madge first appeared on a throne, holding a cane, seemingly announcing The Queen of Pop isn’t going anywhere except for a ride in a vintage white convertible that was eventually driven onto the stage.
Backed by a seven piece band, including Montrealer Ric’key Pageot on keyboards, two backup singers and various dancers, Madonna expertly moved around her impressive stage which fanned out to include a long catwalk with a conveyor belt to a smaller circular stage in the centre of the floor where she spent a lot of her time getting closer to the fans.
The strong opener was followed by another catchy new tune, Beat Goes On, with her Hard Candy collaborators Pharrell Williams and Kanye West appearing via video, as did Justin Timberlake and Timbaland (4 Minutes) later in the evening.
It was when she began what would be a trend of reinventing older songs, starting with Human Nature, featuring Britney Spears trapped in an elevator on video, and Madonna on electric guitar, that the concert faltered slightly.
The energy flagged until the next song, Vogue, which was reconfigured to include the horns from 4 Minutes, and made sexy by the presence of four scantily clad female dancers in black bobbed wigs and hardly any clothes.
“Some people are still sitting down,” Madonna gently scolded about half-way through the show. “I’m not sitting down – fair is fair.”
Also sadly missing their original arrangements were Get Into The Groove, which featured a youthful Madonna both twirling around a stripper pole and skipping rope, and Borderline and Ray Of Light, both of which became rock songs with Madge on electric guitar.
Still, there were some nice segues like two male dancers dressed as boxers and actually fighting in a ring as Die Another Die played in a video version and downright striking versions of new songs like Heartbeat, She’s Not Me – with Madonna poking fun at her various incarnations including the bride from Like A Virgin and the cone-bra wearing provocateur – Spanish Lesson, Miles Away, 4 Minutes, Give It 2 Me, and the old chestnut Like A Prayer.
“It’s good to be in America, I’m so glad to be back,” sang Madonna, who started her latest tour in Europe with a stadium show in Cardiff, Wales, on Aug. 23.
Not known for her ballads, she also proved to be incredibly adept at the two in her set list, even if she couldn’t hit the high notes during an impromptu version of the requested song, Open Your Heart.
First up was Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You, with Madge decked out in a black cape and lying on top of a piano while cool-looking water imagery was projected on circular video screens enveloping her.
That was later followed by a Romanian gypsy folk band version of the Evita song, You Must Love Me, an arrangement that also strengthened the more uptempo La Isla Bonita.
The now famous Get Stupid video segue, which included images of Hitler and John McCain alongside those of Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela, was trotted out again by Madonna, who actually called out Palin by name several times as her show wound down.
“This is the sound of Sarah Palin’s husband snowmobile when it won’t start,” she said producing guitar feedback.
Review by Jane Stevenson at www.edmontonsun.com