Madonna has never been one to rest on her laurels and her massive Rebel Heart trek is unlike any of her previous shows – no disco balls, cone bras or random gunplay last night.
Instead, fans (including it-girl Amy Schumer and Madonna’s ex-husband Sean Penn) were treated to a 140-minute spectacle that featured everything from a half-naked last supper tableau to nuns on stripper poles.
But the biggest shock of all was the Material Girl’s relaxed, almost playful attitude. Despite a chilly reception from a couple of folks near the b-stage (“wow, you’re not very loud…it’s very underwhelming” she snapped), Madonna was warm and engaging, chatting happily with fans and cracking jokes with her backup dancers.
Blame it on the alcohol – Madonna confessed to being “a little tipsy” after indulging in shots onstage. She even deigned to offer one lucky fan a sip of holy water from her cup, saying “I need to pour this girl a drink. She looks thirsty. Some for you, some for me. Do blondes have more fun? They sure do.”
But leave it to Madonna to break up a sentimental moment by scolding the fan for leaving her glass at the singer’s feet. “Don’t leave your garbage on my stage! How many drinks have you had?!”
Songs from this year’s critically acclaimed Rebel Heart album comprised more than half of the setlist, while fresh takes on party anthems like “Dress You Up”, “Music” and “Vogue” made up the rest. Madonna dug deep into her back catalogue, performing songs she hasn’t sang for decades including an acoustic take on “True Blue” that sounded lovely, and an impromptu version of 1994’s “Secret” that was a show highlight.
She even busted out a ukulele for a beautiful cover of Edith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose”, dedicating it to her daughter Lourdes who celebrated her 19th birthday last night. “This is the first time I’ve been on tour and she hasn’t been with me, so I’ve been particularly sentimental,” Madonna told us. “She taught me how to play the ukulele and taught me how to sing this song. So this is for you, Lola.”
Before introducing album cut “Rebel Heart”, Madonna addressed the devastating leak that plagued her newest album (demos from the record appeared online months before their official release in April).
“I wrote a lot of songs for this next record. This record that got leaked for like a year before it came out. That was fun,” she said. “But you guys stuck by me through thick and thin, and I know you guys didn’t listen to any of the leaked music. Thank you so much.”
Madonna closed the show with a one-two punch of “Unapologetic Bitch” and “Holiday”, the song that propelled the singer into superstardom more than 30 years ago. And despite complaining earlier that “Canadians are a little shy”, Madonna draped herself in our country’s flag and moved like a madwoman while her awesome backup dancers struggled to keep up.
I’ll close this piece by letting Madonna speak for herself. Sometimes when I cover a show, I’ll use my iPhone to record a little bit of the artist’s dialogue so I can quote them verbatim in my review. And Madonna certainly didn’t disappoint – I’ve been listening to her bitch and moan all day.
Before singing “True Blue”: “I’m gonna sing a song about love! If you know about love, then you’re gonna need a drink. Or a six pack.” Then, gesturing to Amy Schumer in the audience, “you better pay attention, Amy.”
To a couple in the crowd who promised to get married after the show: “Aren’t you guys gonna kiss or something? That’s what you do when you get married. Enjoy it while it lasts. I’m so happy for you, really I am. Okay, that’s enough. This is not a show about you guys.”
Referring to her hot, hot backup dancers during “Body Shop”: “I come to work every day…it’s hot, back-breaking work, but I don’t punch no time card. And guess what I get to look at? These six packs. If you’re gonna go to work every day, you might as well make things pleasant for yourself, right?”
To a tipsy woman in the audience: “I’m sorry lady, how many drinks have you had? Just one? One after another, non-stop maybe. That happens a lot around here.”
A bit of confusion with fans near the b-stage: “Are you guys booing me? Maybe I have to change my medication, It sounds like a ‘boo’. Oh, it’s a ‘whoo!’”
Before “Rebel Heart”: “I feel a little bit, um…I don’t wanna say ‘schizophrenic’ because then you won’t think very highly of me. I don’t wanna say ‘bi-polar’ because then you’ll feel sorry for me. So let’s just say I’m an artist. And, you know, we have a lot of sides to us.”