“Oh, Madonna. What stunt will you pull to prove you’re still shocking?” I wondered. The Material Girl dropped trou to display her thong- and fishnet-clad derrière in what she explained was a statement on obscenity and how she thinks society’s lack of humanity is obscene. The whole thing felt a bit desperate, as did the much-publicized dig at Lady Gaga on the “Express Yourself”/“Born This Way” mash-up, adding in “She’s Not Me.”
Looking past shock-value stunts, the massive production on the MDNA tour was truly impressive. Although the start time was obnoxiously late (Madonna emerged a thumb-twiddling hour after opener DJ/producer Martin Solveig was done), once things got rolling it was an extremely tight stage show. The custom visuals on the largest video screen I’ve ever seen were incredible; they ranged from a Madonna button-pushing fave of religious iconography to a memorial of bullying victims who committed suicide. Video columns raised and lowered into different vignettes such as a train chugging through India. Set pieces and special effects included a dive-motel room and multiple trapdoors scattered throughout the stage. The variety of performers astounded: slackline jumpers, Basque trio Kalakan, contortionists in gas masks and the awe-inspiring drum corps suspended on moving tracks in the rafters. Even Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne made (video) cameos.
With a split of classics and material from her latest album, MDNA, particular songs didn’t stand out as much as the overall spectacle. Naturally, “Vogue” and “Like a Prayer” outshined all MDNA album offerings. As for Madonna, her voice may have been a bit monotone at times, but she can still work that stage and dance that aforementioned ass off. Maybe it’s all that MDNA in her system. ★★★★☆