By: Linda B
Madonna’s got some issues and she’s working them ALL out on this tour. But first things first.
The weather in New York City wasn’t just bad, it was scary bad. Tornados in Queens and Brooklyn scary bad. I didn’t even think the show was going to happen. Hours of hand-wringing ensued. Of course the show happened. Takes more than some twisty wind to stop shit from going down in the Bronx, yo. The rain came down, so we all just Yankee poncho-ed up and, as we were all worshiping in the Church of the Eternal Madonna for the night anyway, let it become a constant baptism. Washing away our sins, cleansing our souls. Which was helpful, because holy shit, girl’s got some THINGS she is upset about and clearly wants us all to help her through. What, I don’t know. But she’s pissed about something. Or multiple things.
I’ll be honest here, I’m an old-school fan. I want Borderline and Cherish and Lucky Star, all that crap. I don’t even know anything past Ray of Light. So this show was really not for me in theory. Thankfully, my friend has already been all over the world to see her and he prepped me for what was to come. “This is going to be dark. Brace yourself, honey“.
Some DJ opened, I couldn’t care less. Spent that time running around trying to find a small concert shirt specifically made for that show with the Yankees logo. Scored! The show started at about 10:20. I’m not fucking kidding you, it opens with a huge epic cathedral on what I heard were the largest screens on a tour ever (does Roger Waters know that??). Looks like you could walk into it and head right into a confessional.
A ginormous thurible spewing incense (maybe just smoke) swings over the stage, monks are chanting in robes, and then you hear the infamous, “GOD?” and the joint goes batshit. And neither she nor the crowd stops to get their breath for at least the next hour. (Seriously. She didn’t stop. Not even for water. Fucking impressive.) And speaking of confessionals, I’m pretty sure that’s what she had in mind for this whole gig. Get in a room and let it out. With her people.
Look, I can go on and on in detail about how the songs were arranged, her lack of any discernible guitar playing skills, mediocre singing abilities, the Botox, the terrifyingly toned muscles… but every other review has done that. What I wanna get into is, what the HELL is going on with her?? I loved every second of it, but it all struck me as someone who narrowly missed having a nervous breakdown a bit ago and has, uh, lived to tell the tale.
Girl Gone Wild into Revolver into Gang bang where there are a LOT of guns and dark imagery and then an elaborate game of dance-y cat and mouse plays out in the set of a cheap hotel room, only to have her shoot said manmouse the in the head. Repeatedly. “Shot my lover in the head.” With dark blood splattering all over the video screen behind her. Yowza! Looked like a Tarantino movie, so I loved it. But it wasn’t for the faint of heart. Or for people looking for Crazy For You.
Moving on we get some Papa Don’t Preach and Hung Up. There’s some other stuff from records I really should own by now but don’t and then into Express Yourself/Born This Way. My globe-trotting Madonna Super Fan and I debated whether Gaga is in on the joke or it’s a bitter jab at the kid. We didn’t agree on it. Also in there somewhere was a kick-ASS marching band segment (they were flying over the stage, for Christ sakes!) and similar stuff to what we all saw during the Super Bowl half-time show. Very cool in person. Added some pep to the rally!
Next up: Berets and Basque. Yeah, I don’t know, either. But she broke it down starting with a long-ish rant about rights and freedoms and letting people be who they are (go on, girl!) which eventually led to some singing in Basque and a completely re-worked version of Open Your Heart. You couldn’t dance to it so much. It was kinda stompy. Cool, but stompy.
All of this was fairly un-joyous. Last time I saw her was on the Blonde Ambition Tour, so I’m used to a fun, happy, sexy romp of pop tunes and buff dancers. While the marching band was a bit of upbeat energy, all of it still felt like she was working out some emotional shit. Deep emotional shit. Madonna’s got some things on her mind and she’s not screwing around anymore. Time to unleash it. I am *totally* cool with that. It made for a much more interesting show. If I wanted a dance party, I could have gone to a club in the Castro. No, I flew 3000 miles to see her in both our adopted home because I wanted to know where she is these days. And hey, I don’t know her from anything, but it strikes me as if she’s been through some hard times and like any real artist, let it out in her music/performance. I was riveted.
Okay, okay, okay, we finally got to the good stuff. My favorite Madonna showed up in her pinstripe pants, a tie and the cone bra. You know her, the overly sexual one who gender-bends her way through hazy, hypnotic orgasm beats. Justify My Love with new but familiar images projecting on the screen. Black and white, wait, what is she doing there, was that a lady or a dude, are they…? YES! Now we’re tawkin’. Vogue/Candy Shop/Human Nature.
Who wants to see a 54-year old woman strip? I do! I do! Thank god, because that’s exactly what she proceeds to do. Or sorta does. You’ve probably already seen the pictures/videos. We weren’t lucky enough to get overt nipple, but we did get a pretty solid amount of ass. (And while we’re on that topic, yes, it IS a solid ass. Whatever, she’s smoking hot. Still.)
Here’s where it gets dark again. By now we all know when she strips down there’s a word-of-the-night on scrawled on her back. Pussy Riot, Obama…tonight we got Forgive.
And then came a few moments about how she has to forgive people, but mostly and firstly, she has to forgive herself. A lone piano man played Like A Virgin in minor chords and she sang it like a funeral dirge, while rolling around the stage, reminiscent of her former trite self. Now THIS was some fascinating stuff.
At one point, we’re pretty sure she was genuinely tearing up. No, it’s wasn’t the rain. Tears, actual tears. She was choked up. Wow. Honestly, that felt like a gift right there. That’s a side of this woman you just don’t run into publicly. She was purging some demons right there. I wasn’t expecting that at all. I even got a little misty over it.
The next piece was a perfect example of why I’ll always love this woman. Nobody Knows Me featured a video montage of very disturbing images, meant to make you upset, make you think, make you FEEL, which culminated in tributes to several young people who have recently taken their own lives after being bullied for being gay. Heartbreaking. Dear Madonna, thank you. I really mean that. You had our backs long before any other public figure did and have not given up on speaking our on our behalf ever since…
(No photos, couldn’t take my eyes off the screens.) Are we having fun yet? In some fucked up way, yeah, totally! The home stretch: I’m Addicted, I’m A Sinner and…ahhhhhhhh….there they are. The gospel choir in their long, graceful robes file out onto the stage, the opening organ notes fill this newly minted cathedral and we finally get everyone’s redemption going with Like A Prayer. You know what’s mind-blowing? Being in a sold-out show at Yankee Stadium with Madonna leading us all in her glorious prayer. Amazing. Get the chills amazing. It was the only “old” song she did in its entirety the way you’re used to hearing it (well, Vogue, too, I guess) and goddamn, thank you for that. At one point she was on the part of the stage that juts into the crowd, rain coming down, arms in the air and I’m pretty sure we saw our former Material Girl get baptized right in front of us. Born again. Fucking excellent.
The show did end with the till then missing dance party. Celebration closed it out, lots of brightly colored cubes, DJs, dancing, her hair down, cutting loose, having a blast. We’ve come full circle. Benediction complete.
I’ve seen hundred of concerts and this was one of the most entertaining I’ve ever witnessed. This is someone who, despite her enormous fame, has struggled for artistic legitimacy every step of the way. I believe she’s damn well earned it with this show. (I’m actually one of those who think she earned it 30 yrs ago, but for my argument’s sake…)
And while it’s been mired in controversy and some negative reviews, I think it’s bold, brave and brilliant. Looking forward to seeing her turn Madison Square Garden into a House of the Holy in November.
All Photos Exclusively Used By Dipped in Cream With Permission By Linda B.