The Material Girl (and
Pussy Riot aficionado) kicked off her US
tour in Philly on August 28 and we were there. You got a problem with that?
BY A.D. AMOROSI
By this point in her career, Madonna is sick of hearing your
shit. That her lyrical and visual imagery – be it religious, sexual or
political – is heavy handed. That she’s too old for dance pop.
She’s tired of the Pope and the French president. She’s
tired of Elton John. She’s tired of Lady Gaga (but not tired enough not to poke fun at her). And she was
probably tired of her adoring fans that filled Philadelphia’s
Wells Fargo Center
for the first night of her American tour on Tuesday night (August 28, Wells Fargo Center) but booed
her for taking too long to get on stage.
“We had so many changes to make from Europe to America I
wanted the show to be perfect,” said Madonna, after apologizing for her
tardiness. “You deserve perfection.” She paused and said exactly what you
thought she might: “I deserve perfection.”
Welcome to the MDNA Tour. You’re going to get what you
deserve if the other night was any show of things.
Oh and “Free Pussy Riot.” That’s a sentiment Madonna shared while
talking about her democracy’s freedom of speech, the thing she treasures about
living and working in America
versus a Russia
that persecutes its PDA-loving gay population and rockers that speak against
its seat of politics. “Never forget how lucky you are to live here,” she
Madonna started her MDNA show in a church-like setting with
Gyoto monk-like cooing (the chants of the Basque trio Kalakan) the writhing of
male dancers and then, of course, a shrouded Maddie who must break out of her
floating glass confessional so to be a “Girl Gone Wild.” Dressed in tight black
everything with a rifle in her hand, she tickles the slight synth-heavy song
and goes about the business of shooting and breaking everything in sight
through to the next slow stuttering synth-onic song, “Revolver.” Only now,
Madonna’s dancing girls have guns and a giant sized screen of Lil Wayne appears
behind the dark staged proceedings, rolling his eyes and mumbling something
unchaste or whathaveyou. Darkness is a big part of the first chunk of Madonna’s
MDNA – dark outfits, dark theatrical links to gun violence, kidnapping,
molestation on a tightrope and bloodshed. By the time Madonna and her crew get
to a cheap hotel motif and the grouchy “Gang Bang,” she’s shooting a handful of
old lovers and bad news assaulters while writhing on bed sheets as her
background screens run red with splashy crimson splatter.
A bit late to be Tarantino. A slow slog through blue
distancing songs with uneasy imagery – this after having made her crowd wait
for the show’s start. These things are questionable, yes, but not without weird
merit – as if she was experimenting with her own new brand of theater different
from the racy kitten of yore (part of that theatricality is playing air guitar
with a real guitar, I think).
After a coolly minimalist “Papa Don’t Preach,” a blipping
“Hung Up” and a grouchy-in-a-good-way “I Don’t Give A *” complete with an
on-screen Nicki Minaj cameo – again, with the guest making silly faces – it was
time for some fun.
Catty fun no less as Madonna, dressed as drum majorette,
shook her ass into the cameras and mashed up her own brashly sassy “Express
Yourself” with Gaga’s “Born This Way,” smiling and all the while and adding
ripostes like “She’s not me” as part of the chorus (“She’s Not Me” is yet
another Madonna song so you got a triple mash up to contend with. Incroyable.)
With drummers flying overhead her in mid-air and drummers running and spinning
around her, the whole mash-moment and its staged motif looked like Cirque du
From there, Maddie and her crew made “Give Me All Your
Luvin'” and “Turn Up the Radio” more memorable than their recorded versions by
playing up the dramatic verve of its verses. She quieted down nicely for the
drum trio/Gregorian chant/acoustic guitar take on “Open Your Heart,”
the foreign-ly intriguing “Sagarra Jo” and the humble “Masterpiece”
ballad from her W.E. film. Though odd
in its half time rendition, “Like a Virgin” found Madonna accompanied solely by
a piano and being quietly schmaltzy. That’s a direction I’d kill to hear her
steer into – the Vegas lounge lizard. While a humming “Human Nature”
offered a strip and a shot at seeing Mad’s giant back tattoo that read “No
Fear” the gospel-yowled “Like a Prayer” and the churchy upbeat
“Celebration” offered a move toward the light and the brightly gilded
Madonna her audiences have come to expect.
Maybe they should throw all expectations out of the window
going forward. Madonna certainly did.
[Photos by Scott
Weiner ©Scott Weiner 2012]