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Review: Madonna in Concert

Madonna
Photo by David Becker/Getty Images

When my wife and I headed to St. Paul, MN to see Madonna in concert last weekend, we knew we’d be in for an experience.  What kind of experience we weren’t sure, but knowing Madonna we knew we’d feel strongly about it – good or bad.

Turns out it was both…

The good:

1) The staging, visuals, costuming, and dancing were top notch.  Madonna prides herself on putting on a spectacle and she did not disappoint at Xcel Center.  She was joined on stage throughout the show by a bevy of talented dancers and performers that gave every song a distinct feel and look.

2) Vocally, Madonna proved she can still belt out a tune.  Her renditions of ‘Express Yourself’ (with a little Lady Gaga thrown in for good measure), ‘Vogue’, and ‘Like A Prayer’ reminded everyone in the building why we were shelling out high end prices to watch pop music royalty perform.

The bad:

1) Despite the 8:00pm start clearly printed on the ticket, Madonna’s opening act (a British DJ) didn’t hit the stage until almost 9:00pm.  By the time Madonna made an appearance at 10:30pm, most of the crowd had been in their seats for more than three hours!  There did not appear to be any technical issues that justified these uncalled for delays (apparently the audience the night before sat through a similar wait).

2) The aforementioned DJ.  As opening acts go, a DJ is cheap and doesn’t need much space to setup, but in a concert setting this 45 minute set came across as awkward to say the least.  DJs are perfect in nightclubs and dances, but when you’ve got 19,000 people sitting in the stands watching you, you have better have more to look at than a guy spinning tunes!

3) Madonna’s setlist was way out of balance.  I understand she is touring behind her latest album ‘MDNA’ and certainly expected to hear songs from that record, but when you include nine of the 11 songs on the album and essentially gloss over some of your biggest hits, fans who paid top dollar for tickets have a right to be disappointed.

It’s always tricky for artists with a catalog as large as Madonna’s to hit everything, but there needs to be more give and take.  When you see the Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi, U2, Bruce Springsteen, The Who and other legendary acts in concert these days, there is a healthy mix between old and new, usually one right after the other, in an effort to reward fans who have been there since the ‘early days’.  There were times during Madonna’s set that a considerable amount of time would go by before she got to some of the material that helped catapult her to super stardom.  I’m sure some of that is Madonna simply being Madonna, but it’s still wrong.

Bottom line:

You saw all of the elements of what makes Madonna the ‘Queen of Pop’ and ‘Queen of the Divas’ all in the same show.

Entertaining? Sure.

Controversial? No doubt.

Ordinary? Never!

It was all of Madonna’s best and worst qualities for all of us to see.

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