Madonna performed the opening night of her Rebel Heart tour in Montreal last night. It was a night filled with spectacular visuals, original and expertly performed choreography and most importantly, the Material Girl herself who proved why she is considered a living legend.
Overall: It was everything I would expect from a Madonna concert. The show is an incredibly high-quality production, with sensational dancers, a beautiful stage and impressive visual effects. Madonna herself is a world-class performer. Her level of energy is astounding, as she dances and throws herself around the stage with fervor and complete abandon. Whenever she was on stage, I couldn't keep my eyes off of her.
While I got the high-energy Madonna show that I was expecting, I also saw a different side to her that is not often revealed in her music videos or her TV performances. While her usual performance style could be described as fierce, aggressive and hard-hitting, the show was filled with an uplifting sense of joy and fun. To my surprise, the "Living for Love" singer played the guitar and the ukulele multiple times throughout the show, providing some raw, understated moments to the night.
Madonna herself performed amazingly, but the set list was unfortunately not as strong, with many songs missing from the nearly 2-hour set. The show is highly entertaining nonetheless, and proved that even 30 years into her career, Madonna can still outperform the best of them.
Highlights: Following an epic opening video featuring none other than Mike Tyson, Madonna descended from the sky in a steel cage and started strong with Asian-themed performances of « Iconic » (a fitting reminder to the audience that they were now in the presence of a true music icon) and « Bitch I'm Madonna » , complete with dancing samurais and geishas. Madonna then went back to her cross-burning roots with her provocative performance of Holy Water. In classic Madonna-style, she went heavy on the religious imagery, with priests, pole-dancing nuns, and a reenactment of The Last Supper. It was an epic performance that uplifted a usually mediocre song.
True Blue, a definite crowd favorite, was another highlight of the show. After playing 6 Rebel Heart songs in a row, the (mostly older) crowd was happy to hear a more familiar tune. She played the ukulele as she crooned the old-school track in one of the more stripped-down parts of the show that was simple and beautiful.
One of the most riveting parts of the show was her performance of Heartbreak City, in which she and a male dancer played embattled lovers, involved in an intimate struggle atop a staircase in the middle of the room, ending with the dancer dramatically falling from the top of the staircase.
Another highlight: the superstar on stage alone, without dancers, singing a remixed version of Like a Virgin. No bells and whistles, just Madonna doing what she does best : dancing around with the energy of a 20 year old and completely owning the stage, without the help of dancers or props, just Madonna and her incredible stage presence.
The entire last act of the show was amazing, ending the night with a bang. Her performance of Rebel Heart was accompanied by a display of fan art on the screens, a nice tribute to the fans who have supported Madonna for years. The song was followed by a cabaret-inspired Music and a classic version of Material Girl, complete with dancers in tuxedos and Madonna in a flapper-style outfit.
While the high-energy choreography was amazing, some of the best parts of the show were the softer moments, like when she broke out the ukulele again to sing Edith Piaf's "La Vie En Rose", to the sheer delight of the crowd. Before starting the song, she shared a rare personal moment with the crowd, divulging that she has had her share of heartbeak and has been "devastated, smashed to bits". She sang the song beautifully and, to her surprise, was greeted with riotous applause from the audience.
Next, she sang Unapologetic Bitch and brought out Diplo (who opened the show). The DJ played along well, dancing, getting slapped on the ass by the Queen of Pop and even throwing down some Whip/Nae Nae action. At the end of the song, Madge handed Diplo a banana as a "prize" for coming up on stage. It was one of the more surreal moments of the show, and it distracted from the song itself, which is not one of the strongest on the album.
For the final song of the night, Holiday, Madonna donned a Canadian flag and performed a fun and celebratory number that got the crowd on their feet. It was a great ending to the show, that left everyone with a smile on their face.
Lowlights: There were not many. My biggest quarrell was her choice of songs. She leaned heavily on new material and neglected to sing some of her most well-known songs including Like a Prayer and Hung Up. Instead she included a couple of headscratchers like Hard Candy's Candy Shop and one of the weaker Rebel Heart songs, Body Shop. Many longtime fans who came for the hits might be slightly disappointed with the show, as she focused mainly on new material, interspered with some of her earliest hits from the 80s. There was a definite lack of middleground, seemingly ignoring the last decade of her career.
If I'm really nitpicking, a couple of the songs, including Body Shop and Ghosttown were slightly forgettable. However, this is unavoidable in a show so jam-packed with songs.
Bottom line: These few songs were the exception in an extremely entertaining show, filled to the brim with showstopper, after showstopper. Madonna was the commanding force in the center of it all who never got lost in the razzle-dazzle of the high-price production. All in all it was an amazing night watching a legend do what she does best.