Madonna (New York City, NY) and Paul Oakenfold (London)
November 3rd, 2012
Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN

Photos by Ryan Siverson, you can see more here: Madonna at the Xcel Energy Center

For a certain demographic, pop stars reign as the ultimate in entertainment. With highly produced tours, well-rehearsed dancers and impressive lighting; Madonna sits as their queen. It’s more than a show, it’s full on musical theater and that’s what fans expect in exchange for a high ticket price.  The last time the Twin Cities were graced with her presence was in 1987, a whole 25 years ago, so expectations were high coming into her two sold-out nights at the Xcel Energy Center.

On a personal note, I was super pumped coming into this concert. As a dancer and a child of the 90s, I had three life goals: Become the ‘real life’ version of Clarissa Darling, Work as an MTV VJ and dance for both Janet Jackson and Madonna. (I’m only 27 so there’s definitely time to make at least one of those things happen.) The opening DJ, Paul Oakenfold, took the stage an hour later than scheduled and Madonna didn’t begin until after 10:30 p.m. The anticipation of seeing her perform, speculation of what she might say about the election and her fashion choices was almost too much to handle. It was torturous but forgiven; a diva’s gotta do what a diva’s gotta do.

The first act began with a bell hanging from the ceiling above center stage. Two “monks” approached it and began ringing the bell, slowly a cathedral background is revealed as a team of “monks” are raised from multiple levels of the stage and a Gregorian-style chant echoes through out the stadium. Contortionists added an extra level of odd, as the cathedral doors opened  to reveal Madonna dressed as a badass superhero in all black (see wardrobe list for full outfits and costume ideas). It was an exciting moment but unfortunately the excitement didn’t last long. What followed, was gun-heavy and violent imagery for her songs “Revolver,”  and “Gang Bang.”

It’s unclear if she was trying to one-up Guy Ritchie’s cinematic work or channeling her inner Quentin Tarantino, either way, she succeeded in shocking the audience. Blood splattered the screen as she sang “Bang Bang, Shot You Dead/ Shot My Lover In the Head/ Bang Bang, Shot You Dead/ Now I have no regret.” All while on the set of a cheap motel room, perching herself on a couch and repeatedly shooting a male dancer with her prop gun. From there it was straight into Catholic confessional mode, judgement and hell and shirtless dancers with animal heads carrying her around the stage.

It’s at this point when some of us made the realization that we may not being hearing “Lucky Star” or “Ray of Light” that evening- which was clearly her intention. I view this portion of the show as her reminding everyone that she has new material and something to say. We needed to stop pouting and get on board or leave, because it wasn’t going to change the setlist. However, as a consolation she did throw us a bone (heh) by classically writhing on the floor to a new arrangement of “Papa Don’t Preach.”

Madonna, Photo Credit: Ryan Siverson

And then, boom. “Hung Up” literally came marching through and served as a very welcomed theme shift. Dancers dressed as majorettes kicked off the most fun section of the show. “Hung Up” sounded great and is received much better live than recorded. “Express Yourself” was bright, fun and she even threw in a little dig at  Lady Gaga with a quick “Born This Way” chorus. The crowd was dancing and 100% behind Madonna as head cheerleader. Dancers dressed as a drumline hung from the ceiling on wires, performing above the stage. It was vibrant, fun and exactly what we’d been wanting. “Give Me All Your Luvin’” best known as one of the songs from last year’s Superbowl, included a nod to Major Lazer that easily went over the heads of most of the audience but filled my dance music-loving self with so much happiness. And just as we were all with her, it came to screeching halt for “Turn Up the Radio.” Nothing is sadder than an artist forcing crowd participation when the crowd just isn’t into it.

The third act opened with a Basque trio called Kalakan and their version of “Open Your Heart.” Madonna’s son, Rocco, made his breakdancing debut. The highlight of this portion was, without a doubt, “Vogue.” Dancers were in black and white costumes that united the fashion scene of the late 80s and Hollywood glam. The choreography was an updated version of the original, with less literal vogueing but it was still fabulous. The end of this set lead us through her more provocative side with some mild stripping, a toned down video of her in a hotel room introducing “Erotica” and ended with her showing off her fishnet, black thong “covered” butt for a photo opp. She then promised to “Show it all” once Obama is back in the White House.

Throughout this tour Madonna has made news with her political and cultural statements. She made her first move by asking if her “lovely fans” were registered to vote. She quickly went into her now infamous tour stop statement- “I don’t care who you vote for, as long as you vote for Obama.” She also showed support against the Minnesota Marriage Amendment which would make it difficult/impossible for gay couples to marry in the future.  Both sentiments were met with support and excitement; she definitely knows her audience.

The final portion of the show was the heaviest on new material and was met with lukewarm interest. She turned things around with an epic version of “Like A Prayer” complete with a gospel choir. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted in hearing that song performed live and it felt electric. At every concert I go to, I try to focus on that one magical moment that gives you goose bumps when you reflect on it at a later time; “Like A Prayer” was just that. However, much like the rest of the show, that magic quickly fizzled. “Celebration” was the last song of the night and with a quick “Good bye Minneapolis, we love you” she faded into the floor.

I had a great time although every act was hit and miss, hit and miss. As much as I respect that artists need to evolve, there had been such a long wait for her return that it would’ve been nice if she had focused on her hits while mixing in new material. I long for a ‘greatest hits’ tour and although I don’t doubt that she’ll have more hits in the future, those aren’t the ones I (and much of the audience) were there to see. She’s still the queen, she’s still a great performer with great chemistry with her dancers but I can’t help but feel left wanting more.

Set List:
Girl Gone Wild
Revolver feat. video of Lil Wayne
Gang Bang
Papa Don’t Preach

Hung Up
I Don’t Give A feat. video of Nicki Minaj
Best Friend / Heartbeat
Express Yourself / Born This Way
Give Me All Your Luvin’ feat. video of Nicki Minaj & M.I.A.
Turn Up the Radio

Open Your Heart
Justify My Love (Interlude)
Candy Shop/Erotica
Human Nature
Like a Virgin

Nobody Knows Me (Interlude)
I’m Addicted
I’m a Sinner
Like a Prayer

Wardrobe List*:
Black skinny pant, black long sleeve (possibly a one piece) and black heeled boots.
Red and White Drum Major Uniform
Black skirt, black long sleeve top, black boots, black beret
Black corset over white button down, tie, chain, black lace bustier, fishnets, black thong, black heels
Black “leather” pant, black long sleeve top with white stripes, gold t-shirt, sneakers
Gold Samurai-inspired dress with cap sleeve and right full-sleeve, black legging, bare feet
Black legging, black top with MDNA on the back
*This list may have a few holes, feel free to comment on additions.

Photos by Ryan Siverson, you can see more here: Madonna at the Xcel Energy Center

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