On the title track of her latest LP Rebel Heart, Madonna smugly quips, “I’ve spent some time as a narcissist hearing the others say, ‘Look at you, look at you trying to be so provocative.’ I said, “Oh yeah, that was me. All the things I did just to be seen.”
A refreshingly self-aware and cheeky reflection that could only come from someone as well versed in the art of pop culture as Madonna, it manages to belie the exuberant attitude present throughout the Pop Queen’s latest world tour.
Last week, Madge’s Rebel Heart tour made a trio of stops in New York City, with two dates at Madison Square Garden and a one-off at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Considering the Detroit native’s ever-present origins and impact on dance music (and her recent collaborations with EDM superstars Diplo and Avicii on her latest LP), DJ Times headed down to The Garden on September 17 to check out her latest pop spectacular.
The night started off with a stand-up set from comedian Amy Schumer, an opening act choice that definitely raised some eyebrows earlier this year when it was first announced. With her Emmy Award-winning show Inside Amy Schumer and box office smash Trainwreck having proverbially launched a thousand viral clickbait links over the past year, Schumer’s arguably the world’s most in-demand comic at the moment. Despite her obvious success, the booking was unexpected and begged some audience members to wonder if a comedian opening a pop concert could truly work.
Right from her first swig from a bottle of wine onstage, all doubts were erased as Schumer herself poked fun at her seemingly out-of-place she seemed (“Madonna said, ‘Who better [to open my tour] than you?’ I don’t know; literally any band ever?”). For the better part of 45-minutes, the Long Island native kept the audience screaming in laughter as she skewered everything from her own sex life and awkward puberty to the Kardashians (“A family of women who took the faces they were given as a light suggestion”).
Schumer more than succeeded during her set, but the crowd eagerly anticipated the lights to go off to signal the arrival of the main event: Madonna.
Mike Tyson appeared on the screens to deliver a short monologue while Madonna was lowered from the ceiling in a cage as the opening synths from trap-influenced number “Iconic” squealed. Dress as a haute couture samurai warrior, Madonna then into an energetic performance of the Diplo and SOPHIE-produced corker “Bitch I’m Madonna,” which firmly established the explosive joy that would characterize much of the show.
Over the span of the next two hours, Madonna took the audience on a euphoric journey of her biggest hits and latest work. Somewhat surprisingly, it was some of the Rebel Heart cuts that inspired some of the tour’s most show stopping moments. Early on, her oft-explored themes of transgressions and religious dogma were put on display once again as Madonna pole-danced on crucifixes with scantily clad nuns to a jaw-dropping mash-up of new album track “Holy Water” and her seminal classic “Vogue.” Later on, Madonna jammed out the aforementioned Avicii-produced title track of her latest LP as gorgeous fan-submitted art filled the screens, simultaneously honoring her past and looking forward to the future.
While some may bemoan the absence of certain hits like “Hung Up” and “Like A Prayer,” their replacement with songs missed for well over a decade gave longtime fans a refreshing switch-up from hearing her normal set staples. A mid-show rendition of the 1992 camp romp “Deeper and Deeper” stuck gloriously close to its original NYC house-fueled incarnation, and an unexpected flamenco-flavored medley of her 80s hits combined “Everybody,” “Dress You Up,” “Into The Groove,” and “Lucky Star” to wondrous results.
In the course of a two-hour epic, there are always bound to be some missteps that even the Queen of Pop isn’t immune to. Always steadfast in her beliefs on her own body of work, Madge made a few questionable set list choices (Most notably: a momentum-halting rendition of the folk-inspired “Body Shop” from Rebel Heart and the sugary “Candy Shop” from 2008’s Hard Candy). However, even the most curious of song choices is always delivered with glowing energy and extreme precision.
Overall, it was Madonna’s newfound lightheartedness that proved to be the highlight of the night. Less stoic and untouchable than ever before, Madonna unabashedly laid bare her human side to the adoring crowd. Whether she was paying homage to her fall at the Brit Awards earlier this year while she performed Offer Nissim’s fiery circuit house Living For Drums remix of “Living For Love” with a seemingly endless cape or stripping her oft-ignored early hit “Who’s That Girl” to its acoustic core, Madonna gave fans a welcome “Celebration” of a whole new side of her.
Peep Madonna’s Rebel Heart tour dates below.
Sept. 24 – Philadelphia, PA @ Wells Fargo Center
Sept. 26 – Boston, MA @ TD Garden
Sept. 28 – Chicago, IL @ United Center
Oct. 1 – Detroit, MI @ Joe Louis Arena
Oct. 3 – Atlantic City, NJ @ Boardwalk Hall
Oct. 5 – Toronto, ON @ Air Canada Centre
Oct. 6 – Toronto, ON @ Air Canada Centre
Oct. 8 – St. Paul, MN @ Xcel Energy Center
Oct. 11 – Edmonton, AB @ Rexall Place
Oct. 12 – Edmonton, AB @ Rexall Place
Oct. 14 – Vancouver, BC @ Rogers Arena
Oct. 17 – Portland, OR @ MODA Center
Oct. 19 – San Jose, CA @ SAP Center at San Jose
Oct. 22 – Glendale, AZ @ Gila River Arena
Oct. 24 – Las Vegas, NV @ MGM Grand Garden Arena
Oct. 27 – Los Angeles, CA @ Forum
Nov. 4 – Koln, Germany @ Lanxess Arena
Nov. 5 – Koln, Germany @ Lanxess Arena
Nov. 7 – Prague, CZ @ O2 Arena
Nov. 8 – Prague, CZ @ O2 Arena
Nov. 10 – Berlin, Germany @ Mercedes-Benz Arena (O2 World)
Nov. 11 – Berlin, Germany @ Mercedes-Benz Arena (O2 World)
Nov. 14 – Stockholm, Sweden @ Tele 2 Arena
Nov. 17 – Herning, Denmark @ Jyske Bank Boxen
Nov. 19 – Turin, Italy @ Pala Alpitour
Nov. 21 – Turin, Italy @ Pala Alpitour
Nov. 22 – Turin, Italy @ Pala Alpitour
Nov. 24 – Barcelona, Spain @ Palau Sant Jordi
Nov. 25 – Barcelona, Spain @ Palau Sant Jordi
Nov. 28 – Antwerp, Belgium @ Sportpaleis
Nov. 29 – Mannheim, Germany @ SAP Arena
Dec. 1 – London, UK @ O2 Arena
Dec. 2 – London, UK @ O2 Arena
Dec. 5 – Amsterdam, Holland @ Ziggo Dome
Dec. 6 – Amsterdam, Holland @ Ziggo Dome
Dec. 9 – Paris, France @ Bercy
Dec. 10 – Paris, France @ Bercy
Dec. 12 – Zurich, Switzerland @ Hallenstadion
Dec. 14 – Manchester, UK @ Manchester Arena
Dec. 16 – Birmingham, UK @ Barclaycard Arena
Dec. 20 – Glasgow, Scotland @ The SSE Hydro
Jan. 20 – Atlanta, GA @ Philips Arena
Jan. 23 – Miami, FL @ American Airlines Arena
Jan. 24 – Miami, FL @ American Airlines Arena
Jan. 27 – San Juan, PR @ Coliseo de Puerto Rico
Jan. 28 – San Juan, PR @ Coliseo de Puerto Rico