I once wrote (rather flippantly) that I would sell my first born child to see a Madonna concert. I know I haven't met the little tyke yet (or as K and I like to call him - Stewie), but I am sure he (or she) will be worth much more than that. Not that the concert wasnt good - it was in a glitzy, crazy, dancy kind of way. But it was not what I wanted or expected. Like the newest avatar of Madonna, the entire show was scarily slick. She was all taut muscles, tantric moves and moaning noises. The stage was aburst in technicolor images and United Center pretty much throbbed with the thump-a-thump-a-thump-thump techno beats that underlined every song. Yes, even the oldies. She took La Isla Bonita and Get into the Groove and made them into unrecognizable (but catchy) techno duets (with a mariachi band, no less). She writhed all over the stage and entwined her body around her impossibly good looking dancers. She flashed images of all the artists she has collaborated with on her new album Hard Candy - Timberlake, Usher, God-knows-who-else. Gay men and women of a certain age screamed and danced in the aisles, whilst their partners looked at them with that do-I-really-know-you look on their faces. Since I was one of those bad dancers let me admit - it was entertaining in the moment, but ultimately exhausting.
But lest we be mistaken, the show was all about Her Highness, the Magnificent Madonna. From the enormous M that formed the backdrop of the stage at the beginning of the show to the breathless refrain M-Madonna through all of the songs, one was surrounded by her awesomeness. Half way through the show the giant screen cycled images of Madonna through the ages - the big hair and beads in the 80's to the shorter haired sexual adventuress of the early 90's to the kabbalah worshipping, yoga loving, (ex) wife and mother of the 2000's. I felt a pang of nostalgia for the Madonna I worshipped as a girl - the passionate, smart, brave, ambitious woman who did exactly what she wanted (Papa don't Preach!). While I enjoyed the show, I felt like she had lost some of her originality. True, she has reinvented herself over the ages and adapted her musical style for new audiences. But the entire concert was so choreographed and perfect that you lost any sense of connection. Other singers I have seen live had choreographed shows too, but they left a little place for improv, for the messiness that endears them to their fans. But like her (till now) picture perfect family (with the requisite adopted child from Africa), her cant-really-be-50 body and her surgically preserved face, M has lost a bit of her soul in her quest for perfection.
I like imperfect, that's what makes us human, right? Remember the rockers of yore who banged up hotel rooms, smashed their guitars and yelled profanities on stage? Sure they did drugs and burnt out young, but they were original. They were tortured by their art and weren't afraid to show it. Today's rockers are Chris Martin types who have blond wives and children named after fruit. Its a little sad. Madonna had an interlude where she played one of her new bop-bop songs to a backdrop of forest fires, starving children and McCain (ended with an image of Obama and the word Hope - the crowd went crazy). Yes, I know its really great that these singers are involved in worthy causes. They are so much better role models, but all this earnestness takes the fun out of it, doesn't it? We watch and listen to be entertained, not lectured at.
Anyway the auditorium was jam packed. Perhaps distractions like this are what people need. Way better than worrying about lay offs, mortgage payments and the possibility of a crazy right wing President.
ps. Guess where I will be next Tuesday!