Everyone in Chicago was talking about Madonna last week. With two huge shows at the United Center, gays were coming out in droves, along with many middle-aged women dressed in '80s-style clothing. Lace and hot pink were all over the place as fans relived their teenage years.
Paul Oakenfield got the crowd jumping with a DJ set. This was fitting, as he has remixed many of Madge's songs over the years. Afterwards, there was a long break before the diva arrived to the tune of 10:30 p.m.
It initially felt like an Enigma concert with all the religious images onstage. There were a huge cross and dancers dressed in robes banging gongs, along with a huge swinging smoke thurible full of incense pouring out of it. After a quick shadowed confession, Madonna popped out with "Girls Gone Wild" that included samples of "Material Girl." Her cover of "Revolver" had her toting guns, revisiting a violence theme that had previously caused controversy. She used videos to stir this pot and remind fans how she has always pushed the envelope.
"Express Yourself" included excerpts from Gaga's "Born This Way" that surprised many, while she seems to have forgiven her for their similarities. She said, "You don't need to be Oprah Winfrey to change the world" and explained how important it is to have a strong female role model but be your own at the same time. She spoke of giving everyone dignity and respect then promptly said, "Don't vote for Mitt Romney."
"Give Me All Your Luvin'" had people rising to their feet to dance. That energy is what many bounced along to although she told her fans to buy more merchandise and then scolded them about not singing along enough to her lyrics: "You only get what you give, motherfuckers from the Midwest!"
For the "Justify My Love" segment, there were scary masks worn by dancers that tried to convey an unknown message. She continued to sprinkle past hits mixed with the new material from MDNA. "Vogue" was spectacular and definitely a high point of the show; from the costumes to the dance sequences, Madonna showed with one song that $350 tickets were worth it to the diehards.
"Like a Virgin" was sung from on top of the piano as she rolled around in a slow style that many would call self-indulgent. She then mooned the audience (seeming a little disorganized about her microphone pack) to show off her back tattoo.
"Human Nature" had huge mirrored doors spinning, and the song still holds up well as one of her standards. During the almost acoustic "Masterpiece," one twink screamed "Fuck Elton John"a probable reference to John's jabs at Madonna.
Shogun-warrior costumes made interesting dance sequences for "I'm Addicted" along with challenges of drapery. "I'm a Sinner" may not be familiar to many of the older fans, but worked well visually with the strumming of sitars. "Like a Prayer," of course, had everyone in choir robes and Madonna rolling on the ground, as was to be expectedbut why change a routine that works?
The show ended with "Celebration" and left many wanting more of an encore. But once again, this show is about Madonna's vision for a concert; the audience was just here to observe and enjoy the ride whether they liked it or not. Photos by Jerry Nunn