Arts & Entertainment
4 min

Concert review: Madonna

Madge's power keeps on going

She knows she can do it better and she does.

Whether a high-powered fashionista or a modern rendition of the Madonna with child, Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone is the ultimate female performer. Her staggering success is fuelled in part by her she-iconology — the world continues to be dazzled by her well-crafted multifaceted persona. And Madonna loves two things most: her vagina and a crowd.

At 50, far past the ideal age of a pop star and with many other pop tarts cooking in the oven looking to be the next Madonna, does her Madgesty still reign supreme on her 2008 Sticky and Sweet Tour?

Madonna returned to Toronto to play two sold-out shows on Oct 18 and 19. As a devout fan for many years, I was hysterical when I watched her show on the second night at the Air Canada Centre.

This was the fourth time that I have seen Madonna live, and the energy buzzing in the air surpassed any concert I have ever attended. This was my first time sitting in floor seats. I literally felt as though I was an extension of the stage and an interactive part of Madonna’s performance.

When I got through the initial shock of realizing my main source of creative provocation was merely 23 rows from me I, alongside many of her fans, waited anxiously to rampage through her store of candy galore.

Madonna entered the Air Canada Stage on an “M”-marked pimp throne with “Candy Shop,” the title track off her latest studio album Hard Candy. In the words of Dee Daly, 28, a first-time Madonna attendee, she entered in true M form, “with her legs spread open and ready to go.”

But Daly felt that, compared to her entrance on her last Confessions Tour — in a Swarovski-covered discoball — this wasn’t Madonna at her most stunning.

Perhaps her appearance was more subdued, but Madonna was still lathered in bling. Images of colourful candy rolled across the giant screens while the crowd roared with enthusiasm at the sight of the five-foot-two-inch icon. M wore a simple black lace bodysuit, a pair of stiletto knee-high black boots, black gloves and swung around a black cane while exclaiming, “My sugar is raw!”

Sticky and Sweet featured six gigantic screens gracing the main stage that revealed an array of bouncy slogans that the Toronto crowd chanted aloud while images of religious symbolism, racial diversity, destitution and war acted like a news flashes.

Her show is a sensory overload; you just don’t know where to look.

The costuming this tour was not up to par with the extravagant and sensational outfits she usually performs in. “I understand the childish nature of the concept of a candy shop, and the innocence of a child in shorts,” said Daly, “but the costuming overall was not that amazing.”

My favourite ensemble was the black dress with scattered neon jewelry and thigh-high boots — playful and original yet sophisticated. Madonna continues to amplify the presence of female sexuality in her performances; she has always been an unapologetic sex siren. While some critics feel she is too old to wear bodysuits and prance around carelessly in gym shorts, I hope I have half that sexual confidence at the half-decade mark.

Madonna has featured her political opinions in all her shows since The Drowned World Tour of 2000. This time Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr and Barak Obama were flashed as light against dark images of Adolf Hitler and John McCain.

It’s obvious how the Madgical one will be voting this US election.

“She was performing and we were listening,” said Daly. “When Madonna speaks her audience listens.” The crowd reacted with loud screams.

Filipe Silva, 30, has seen Madonna live two times before. He likens her concerts to “going to visit mama,” where audience members get off at being schooled through Madonna shouting commands such as, “Don’t sit their like a silly girl,” and “No ones gonna show you how!”

Typically Madonna doesn’t really incorporate other artists in her concerts; clearly she loves being the sole point of attention, besides the décor of her dancers. This time, however, M acknowledged the producers from her last album. A virtual Timbaland appeared to freestyle during an introduction to “4 Minutes” while Justin Timberlake was brought to life on smaller sliding screens that Madonna mounted and danced beside during the duet.

My favourite cameo was Pharrell Williams in throwback ’80s synthesizer-filled “Beat Goes On” with the hip-hop flavours of Kanye West lacing the track. The energy on the song perfectly matched the energy onstage.

A virtual Britany Spears also appeared in a remixed version of “Human Nature.”
One of the more novel visual elements was a massive chandelier screen that lowered to pour raindrops before Madonna in a black cape appeared enclosed in the screen to sing her first ballad “The Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You.” 

Musically all Madonna concerts bring an interesting mix of old and new — but the catch for her devoted fans is that she always reinvents her old tracks.

“Vogue” sampled with “4 Minutes” and a house version of “Like a Prayer” brought the desired Madonna dance fever. “Like a Prayer” was Daly’s favourite performance; it reminded her of the classical moment in the controversial video when a back-up singer places her hand on M’s forehead before breaking it down with the choir. “It was like in church and all of a sudden Jesus came to talk to us,” said Daly.

Standing strong Madonna also ripped a rocking version of “Borderline” surprising the crowd. A dance circle gathered for a folk version of “La Isla Bonita” that showed off a beautiful female flamenco dancer, while M rested on a stool and sang with a smile.
That was Silva’s favourite because the arrangement was so different from the recorded version. It felt reminiscent of an authentic Spanish performance.

M gave us something new to suck on, but the taste was familiar.

Can she still dance? Yes, Madonna danced hard for the entire show and proved that though she is 50, she can keep up with inconceivable choreography thrown at her.

Then again Madonna can do no harm to her dedicated fans. The woman could show up in baggy sweat pants and strike one pose and people would freak out.

Madonna has proven herself to be the most potent and enduring female symbol. After 25 years performing she continues to give it to us with everlasting vigour and dedication. Love or hate her, you will pay attention.

Surely by now Madonna should be promoted from Queen of Pop to the Almighty of Pop. With a body like a little Amazon, she can go on and on and on.