Madonna is the bar by which I judge all other pop star concert performances. Lady Gaga, for example: “This looks like something Madonna once did better.” Or Prince: “Thrilling, like seeing Madonna in concert.”
Mind you, this standard of mine is not based on a long history of attending Madonna concerts. Rather, it’s founded in the 1991 tour documentary Truth or Dare, which chronicles the then-32-year old singer on her controversial cone bra, masturbation-infused Blond Ambition tour. Watching that movie hundreds of times was as close as I had ever come to seeing Madonna in concert until her Rebel Heart tour came to Las Vegas. Madge and I finally had our day.
The now 57-year-old Madonna didn’t disappoint the now 37-year-old me. Surprisingly, she performed many of her early hits, such as 1983’s “Burning Up” and 1987’s “True Blue,” rearranged to match the tone of the tracks from her Rebel Heart LP, such as “Bitch, I’m Madonna” and “Living for Love.” The big numbers were all there, including “Material Girl,” “Holiday” (played as an encore), “La Isla Bonita” and “Lucky Star” (during which she and her dancers took several shots of Jose Cuervo Tradicional, a tour sponsor).
Characteristic of many past endeavors, the show was rich in religious symbolism. During “Holy Water”—which was intercut with a few bars of Vogue—Madonna and her brigade of incredible dancers used a cross as a stripper pole, dressed in nuns’ habits. It probably goes without saying that Madge works the pole better than most 57-year-olds.
No one does 1980s Madonna better than 2010s Madonna, and she proved it during “Like a Virgin” when she performed a dance solo that left the audience swooning. It was those moves that inspired an entire generation of girls—like myself—to cut the fingers off their lace gloves and wear bustiers as outerwear. (Male and female audience members alike came to the show dressed in Madonna-wear. The people watching was almost as good as the concert.)
Rebel Heart is the crossroads at which the “I want to rule the world” Madonna and the “Bitch, I rule the world” Madonna meet. And like the other of adoring fans who packed the arena I was happy to realize my dream of seeing it live. ★★★★★
Photos by Alexander Zayas