Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Madonna's Sticky & Sweet - Words & Pictures (Polaroids # 22)

So I finally got to see the new Madonna show here in Lisbon. 75.000 people. Lots of euphoria and fun. Better than her last tour? Possibly. Did I have fun? Absolutely.
Again, the show is divided in 4 distinct parts, each with its own theme and visual/musical genre. Madonna has to be one of the best performers ever. An actress if you will. She is her own piece of art. And, like art, she's constantly changing, evolving and surprising. Very few other performers are owners of this kind of talent (Bowie and Björk come to mind). If you wanna "get" her, you have to see her live shows. All photos below by yours truly.

ACT 1: The Ghetto-Fabulous Queen
This time around there's no big build-up intro with surreal Steven Klein images. There are some graphics projected on a screen (candy is the theme) and she comes on stage in a big M-shaped throne, wearing a black coat and knee-high boots, dominatrix style. A recurrent theme. She sings "Candy Shop" with some precise dance moves, then segues into the second song with a big "Hello Lisboa!" that drives us portuguese folks wild. The song is now "Beat Goes On", one of my favourites from her last record, and the huge screens on stage project images of Pharrell Williams and Kanye West in tuxedos singing with her. All very flashy and glamourous. Suddenly a huge white Rolls Royce comes on stage, with the words "M-Dolla" on the license plate (her alter-ego on the new record) and she and her dancers drive down the huge catwalk into the public. Works brilliantly! Next, a simple guitar based performance of her 1994 song "Human Nature" (a lyrical response to everyone who spoke against her when she was exploring sex as a theme) and the screens show a video of Britney Spears (yes, really) trapped inside an elevator, being filmed by CCTV cams. The thing here is the claustrophobia of fame and it's fascinating to me that Britney Spears agreed to do this. She is the perfect metaphor for the song. Next, a new rendition of "Vogue" (amazingly redone) and she's gone.

ACT 2: 80's are back
The screens light up with colourful animated versions of Keith Haring's paintings. Keith, an old friend of Madonna from their days in New York in the early 80's, would be 50 this year. She said this was an homage to him. She sings "Into The Groove", dances, girates, jumps rope with her dancers and it suddenly becomes one big party. Then 2 new songs: Heartbeat (with amazing choreography of her dueling with a dancer) and "She's Not Me", where 4 dancers come on stage dressed like her old personas (the virgin, the cone-bra early 90's persona, the Marilyn-esque, the bustier glam queen) and she torns them apart repeating the "She's Not Me" line. Then comes "Music" in a brilliant new version, with the screens full of graffiti tags, very street and fun. She's gone again.

ACT 3: Gipsy Party!
She comes on stage on top of a piano singing "Devil Wouldn't Recognize You", a new song that fans seem to adore but that I failed to connect to. Until now that is. The performance totally made me enjoy the song more and more, mostly because of a new piano arrangement. She looks stunning in a simple black dress adorned with colorful pagan stripes that would make Björk jealous. A few songs later and it's one big gipsy party, with romenian musicians on stage with her and her tribe of amazing dancers. The portuguese audience seemed to love this. My favourite part of the show was actually here, when the lights go down and it's just her and the romenian band doing a great performance of "You Must Love Me". I was front row and she was just 2 meters away from me. I was singing like a mad man and she acknowledged that and smiled back. That's how intimate I'll ever get in a Madonna performance.

ACT 4: Rave!
There's one video segment before this where she tries to bring a political message to her show. The video, a new remix song called "Get Stupid" (love it!) shows images of good and bad, ending with Barack Obama on the good side. She's showing her support to him and this might be controversial when the tour lands in the US (and Madonna loves a good controversy). I'm posting a video of this bellow.
The last segment shows her in a space-age suit doing techno versions of "Like a Prayer" and "Give It To Me", among others. It's not very conceptual, unlike the previous ones, but it's one hell of a party and the audience is jumping like crazy. Laser beams light up the sky, Justin Timberlake comes up on stage in the form of a moving video projection, Daft-Punkesque robots dance with her on Ray of Light and for the last song, "Give It To Me", the screens project images of retro arcade games. The show ends with a big "Game Over" sign and you know the party is over.

I must say I don't think I ever had so much fun at a Madonna show. I recognize that her last tour ("Confessions", 2 years ago) was more of an art show, more dark and atmospheric. Therefore less fun. She was playing smaller arenas so I don't think that kind of intimacy would be possible on this tour. The idea here is to create a 2 hour non-stop party and you really get that in the end. It was simply really good, do not miss it if you have the chance. See you in 2 years Madonna...

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