September 13, 2012 | Posted in LIVE MUSIC, POP | By

Madonna in Concert – September 15, 2012 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey

Madonna: The MDNA Tour [Blu-ray].

Madonna: The MDNA Tour [Blu-ray]. Buy it now at Amazon and relive the concert experience at home.

There’s no denying that Madonna is one of the most popular and successful entertainers of our time – a fact brought to home by the spectacle of her current MDNA Would Tour. Promoting her 12th studio album, MDNA, the tour is scheduled to have 90 dates, making it her longest to date, and will travel the world from Tel Aviv to locations throughout Europe, Asia and the Americans.

I have always been a casual – though not major – fan of Madonna’s work, considering how much it was a part of the music scene in the 1980s when I was in middle and high school and her songs filled the airwaves and MTV. When the opportunity arose to see her perform live for the first time ever, I jumped on the chance figuring a Madonna show would be a spectacle worth experiencing at least once. “Spectacle” certainly describes the MDNA tour in my opinion – both in good ways and bad. My review of the concert follows, along with details on the production of the tour, related Madonna merchandise and your chance to buy Madonna tickets before the tour ends in December 2012.

About the MDNA Tour

Tour background, concept and content

The MDNA tour was announced following Madonna’s half-time appearance at the SuperBowl in February 2012. Ticket prices ranged from $45 to over $350 before even considering “premium” seat packages which could run over $600. While much of the press quickly announced the expensive seats were quickly selling out, I managed to get half-price seats (among many to chose from) on StubHub the day before her Atlantic City show. So I have a feeling a lot of ticket brokers were speculating on getting fans to pay even more than her high face-value for seats.The show’s large stage is triangular-shaped, with side walkways and an enclosed area in the front where the most hardcore fans (that is, those with the deepest wallets) can get up close with Madonna and her large ensemble of dancers. Behind the stage is an impressive video screen, with also two side screens up high for close-up views of the singer in action.

The opening of Madonna’s MDNA show. Photograph by sockii.

The opening of Madonna’s MDNA show. Photograph by sockii.

The show is thematically divided into 4 parts – although you wouldn’t really notice or know this unless you read about the concept first! The four sections are called Transgression, Prophecy, Masculine/Feminine, and Redemption, and so the entire “storyline” of the show is meant to celebrate the journey from darkness into light. The show opens with a beautiful, elaborate church-like setting on the projection screens, monks (actually the Kalakan Trio) chanting, and dancers pulling on a rope to ring a giant thurible suspended on stage. If you thought Madonna had long since given up ribbing the Catholic Church, think again. Madonna finally appears on the central projection screen in a glass confession box, which she shatters as the song “Girls Gone Wild” begins.

The entire Transgression opening section of the show is rife with violent imagery: violence as Madonna is joined by gun-toting female dancers in Revolver”, violence committed by Madonna in the revenge fantasy “Gang Bang” as she shoots intruders and their “blood” splatters the video screens; violence as she is captured and tied up by male dancers in terrorist-like gear for “Hung Up”. “I Don’t Give A” finishes out the first angry and dark section of the show, where Nicki Minaj raps from on screen and finishes by proclaiming “There’s only one queen and that’s Madonna, [expletive deleted].”

Prophecy follows, beginning with a video montage in a cemetery while a mashup of “Best Friend” and “Heartbeat” plays in the background. Then follows perhaps the brightest, real highlight of the entire show: “Madonna and the Majorettes” performing a lively rendition of “Express Yourself”. Cleverly playing up on the controversy that Lady Gaga ripped off the song in her own hit “Born This Way”, Madonna merges the two songs together at the end, and then tosses in a few choruses of “She’s Not Me” (in case anyone in the audience missed the point.) As a remix version of “Give Me All Your Luvin’” plays on, a drumline soars overhead, performing while suspended on wires in one of the shows most impressive visual delights.

Another video montage follows as Madonna changes out of her cheerleader gear, returning in black leather gear with a (pointless) guitar for “Turn Up the Radio”. “Open Your Heart” then follows, after which Madonna introduces the audience to the Kalakan Trio and finally engages with some chatter with the crowd, asking people where they are from before a call-and-return of “in every nation” turns into a version of the classic Madonna hit “Holiday”. The energy drops down for the slow ballad “Masterpiece”, while scenes from the Madonna produced film W.E. is projected behind the performers. (She also gets in another Lady Gaga “dig” at this point, dedicating “Masterpiece” to her and stating that she actually loves Gaga: “After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”)

“Justify My Love” at the Madonna’s MDNA show. Photograph by sockii.

“Justify My Love” at the Madonna’s MDNA show. Photograph by sockii.

A lengthy video interlude follows, while Madonna (on screen) slinks around in black and white, in lingerie, trying on masks while “Justify My Love” is played. “Vogue” follows in gorgeous black-and-white, sleek style while Madonna’s dancers strut and pose in avant-guarde attire. Madonna herself is sexy and stunning in a black-and-white masculine pants suit and “cone bra” by Jean Paul Gaultier. The sexual/erotic theme of the Masculine/Feminie section continues with “Candy Shop”, then leads into an intriguing staging of “Human Nature”. Madonna slowly strips out of her suit in front of six moving mirrors, eventually bearing her back to the audience (and her thong-covered backside) with the words “No Fear” tattooed on her skin.

This third segment of the show ends with a slowed-down, waltz-style version of “Like a Virgin”, with Madonna only accompanied by a pianist. She performs part of the song lying flat on the floor, seemingly in anguish and agony until a shirtless dancer (symbolizing new love) comes out, embraces her, and laces her into a tight corset.

“Nobody Knows Me” at the Madonna’s MDNA show. Photograph by sockii.

“Nobody Knows Me” at the Madonna’s MDNA show. Photograph by sockii.

The final Redemption section opens with a video montage set to “Nobody Knows Me” – a section which caused no small controversy for Madonna in France, where right wing politician Marine Le Pen threatened to sue Madonna if she aired the footage that showed a Swastika on Le Pen’s forehead. Dancers in orange prisoner jumpsuits and police gear work the slacklines, and the video ends with a tribute to those who committed suicide after bullying and harassment, including Rutgers student Tyler Clementi.

“I’m a Sinner” at the Madonna’s MDNA show. Photograph by sockii.

“I’m a Sinner” at the Madonna’s MDNA show. Photograph by sockii.

Madonna returns to the stage for “I’m Addicted”, wearing a Joan of Arc inspired costume while her dancers perform dressed like shaolin monks. The mixed-religious imagery continues for “I’m a Sinner” – now wearing a garland of flowers and once again “playing” a guitar, Madonna rides through Indian cities and country side on top of a train while her dancers jump from car to car. “Like a Prayer” then follows, complete with a church choir and Hebrew writings lighting up the projection screens. After a very short break, the show ends with an encore performance of “Celebration”, with Madonna and dancers dressed as DJs and leading the audience on a 3-D cubic journey into space…or something like that.

Madonna’s MDNA Tour – Sockii’s Review

The MDNA Tour in Atlantic City, New Jersey: September 15, 2012

Madonna on stage. Photograph by sockii.

Madonna on stage. Photograph by sockii.

As I mentioned originally, I consider myself a casual Madonna fan at best – someone who has liked a number of her songs, owns a few “greatest hits” collections and one or two other (early) albums by her, but that’s about it. I’ve always been more of a rock fan than a pop-dance listener, although I can enjoy good dance music during in certain moods and settings. I definitely felt as though I was far from the “target audience” of this show, which was heavy on Madonna’s more recent material and promoting the new release. While some of the big hits like “Vogue” and “Express Yourself” were there and well-performed, others were revamped and changed to be almost unrecognizable – and disappointing. This was particularly the case for me with the dirge-like (and seemingly unending) version of “Like A Prayer” which I just found gratuitous and indulgent. Indeed, I have to agree with the reviewer who described it thus: “This was probably meant to be an exercise in ‘Cabaret’-style decadence, but in practice, it felt like an unsuccessful leap at the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ bandwagon and a waste of a reliable house-rocker.”The stage show and video projections for the MDNA Tour are impressive – what I could see of it. Sitting about half-way back on the floor, Madonna herself was often completely obscured from view, along with many of her dancers, except when performing on elevated platforms or when I could squeeze in a view between the heads in front of us. That these were considered premium seats – with a $355 face value price tag – was criminal (thank goodness I didn’t pay anywhere near that much for them and bought them on StubHub where there were plenty of discounted tickets available for the show). So if you are going to see the tour, skip the floor unless you are right up front or near one of the catwalks and go for an elevated side-stage seat instead.I hesitate to use the word “concert” to describe the MDNA Tour, because it is much more of a show or performance than a musically-driven event. While there are drummers and singers on stage, much of the music is clearly pre-recorded. However, I’ll give Madonna credit for actually singing during much of it, though it’s fairly clear when she’s lip synching (or not even bothering) to recorded vocals. Her voice isn’t as strong as other singers’, but she does manage to stay on key most of the time live even if her voice is thin. But this isn’t a show one goes to for live music, but to experience the dazzling lights, costumes, and dancing – and of course, to see what outrageous things Madonna will do next.As far as outrage, there has been a considerable amount of it directed to the violent first part of the show, and I do have to agree with some of those criticisms. Indeed, Madonna was driven to post a “manifesto” defending the violence as essential to her artistic statement, in part stating:

“It’s true there is a lot of violence in the beginning of the show and sometimes the use of fake guns – but they are used as metaphors.
I do not condone violence or the use of guns.
Rather they are symbols of wanting to appear strong and wanting to find a way to stop feelings that I find hurtful or damaging. In my case its wanting to stop the lies and hypocrisy of the church, the intolerance of many narrow minded cultures and societies I have experienced throughout my life and in some cases the pain I have felt from having my heart broken.”

Now, I’m all for freedom of expression, but I just have to wonder how the prop guns and gory blood splattered on projection screens after “fake” headshots are going to go over when she brings the tour to Denver, Colorado next month… There can be a fine line between going for pure gratuitous shock value and making a true – if disturbing – artistic statement that challenges the audience to think. I’m still not quite sure which side of that line I feel Madonna ends up on here with the MDNA show.

Madonna herself is in fine form throughout the show – indeed her physical condition is amazing and her dancing and acrobatics at times showstopping. She knows how to work her fans and for the most part keep the energy going throughout the show – though I do wish she’d drop the “guitar hero” schtick as it just looks silly, and no one goes to see Madonna to hear her play guitar. I also think it’s incredibly rude that she keeps her fans waiting almost two and a half-hours past the ticketed show start time before hitting the stage. The show was supposed to start at 8pm, and Madonna didn’t come out until nearly 10:30 (the opening DJ, Paul Oakenfold, performed from about 8:30 – 9:30pm. So there was an hour wait even between acts!) When Madonna did this in Philadelphia last month, the Philly crowd – in typical fashion – booed her not once but twice. At the time she tried to apologize, saying to the audience “We had many changes to make from Europe to America, and I wanted the show to be perfect for you because my fans deserve it and quite frankly I deserve it.” That excuse doesn’t seem to ring true when the late start time seems to continue to be the norm and not the exception for her U.S. tour dates so far…

After the fact, am I glad I went to see Madonna in concert? Yes, if just for the experience as she’s one of those performers who is probably worth seeing at least once in your life in person. But for me, once was probably enough. And the show doesn’t have me rushing out to buy a copy of the MDNA album, either – although I might pop The Immaculate Collection back into my car cd player today before hitting the road, to relive the old Madonna hits of my earlier teen years…

Set List for Madonna’s MDNA Tour

What songs will you hear in the current Madonna tour?

Set list courtesy Wikipedia. Some of these are simply “video interludes” (that is, chances for Madonna to change costume offstage) so not actually performed live, except for the dancers. Many of these tracks also contains samples and portions of other Madonna tracks not fully performed during the show, such as “Material Girl”, “Erotica” and “Cyber-Raga”.
  1. “Gregorian Chants/Virgin Mary”
  2. “Girl Gone Wild”
  3. “Revolver”
  4. “Gang Bang”
  5. “Papa Don’t Preach”
  6. “Hung Up”
  7. “I Don’t Give A”
  8. “Best Friend”
  9. “Express Yourself”
  10. “Give Me All Your Luvin’”
  11. “Turn Up the Radio”
  12. “Open Your Heart”
  13. “Holiday” (Selected dates)
  14. “Masterpiece”
  15. “Justify My Love”
  16. “Vogue”
  17. “Candy Shop”
  18. “Human Nature”
  19. “Like a Virgin”
  20. “Nobody Knows Me”
  21. “I’m Addicted”
  22. “I’m a Sinner”
  23. “Like a Prayer”
  24. “Celebration”

sockii is just your typical Jane-of-All-Trades who never has enough time in her day for all of her projects. She has written for many websites online including Squidoo, Zujava, Yahoo! Contributors Network, HubPages and Wizzley. She has been attending and vending at science fiction and media conventions for over 15 years, and for several years ran an art gallery and jewelry store in Philadelphia. Today she is happy to be living in South Jersey with her partner David and their 6 cats. Sockii is a member of several affiliate sales programs including Amazon Associates and Viglink. Products from these services may be advertised on her posts and pages to generate sales commissions.

1 Comment

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