One has to hand it to Madonna. She is, perhaps, the only performer alive who can make people snarl in disappointment when showing up on stage 50 minutes late and make the same people walk out of the show in awe over what they just witnessed. The Rebel Heart Tour’s Monday evening stop at the Forum in Los Angeles was one of the best concerts Madonna has given in her 32-year career.
First, let’s talk about Madonna being casually late for another concert. Starting a show at 10:20 p.m. is just rude, no matter what way you put it. To Madonna’s credit, there were power problems at the venue, which caused her to do a later-than-usual and incomplete soundcheck — at least according to two security people at the venue. Still, for some reason, the crowd had to be punished by DJ Michael Diamond. It wasn’t that he was that bad; the crowd just wanted to see Madonna, and there was no reason he needed to be on stage for 90 minutes — unless the purpose was to help soften Madonna’s delay.
Once the lights went down and the song “Iconic” started, the crowd began to forgive Madonna. The first part of her show didn’t seem to thrill the audience as much as the rest of the show. Perhaps that was the purpose — to warm people up. After “Iconic,” Madonna surged into her latest hit, “B***h I’m Mdonna,” which was followed by “Burning Up,” a much-loved hit from her first album.
Madonna made sure to fill the blasphemy quota for the night when she joined stripper nuns and sang a song called “Holy Water.” Though some may call this desperate, it felt more like self-deprecating comedy or, perhaps, just plain self-parody. The audience seemed to find it funny, but the performance didn’t get them out of their seats. By the time Madonna performed her 1986 hit “True Blue,” she had the tough audience in her hands.
One doesn’t often think of Madonna as a powerhouse vocalist, but she proved those people wrong on Monday night. Her voice during a performance of her early-1996 single “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” was full of power, confidence, and vulnerability. One could see Madonna take air from her diaphragm when belting out long notes. Madonna not only sang well, but she danced with grace and fluidity in numbers such as “Living for Love” and “La Isla Bonita.”
Besides being a singer and dancer, Madonna has also been a cultural sponge and performed the songs “Dress You Up,” “Into the Groove,” and “Lucky Star” in conga mode with “Day of the Dead” inspired Mexican outfits. The younger generation would consider this cultural appropriation. But Madonna became obsessed with Latino culture long before it became cool to do so. It’s obvious, at least from the history of all her performances, that she has an appreciation of it. She’s not somebody who is appropriating or misusing the culture.
The evening’s big surprise came when Madonna broke out into “Like a Prayer,” the first time she has performed the song on this tour. The performance brought the whole crowd to its feat with some in the audience actually crying from excitement. Her vocals in the performance were spot on, even though Madonna claimed it was never rehearsed. She performed some more hits, such as “Music” and “Material Girl,” before bringing Katy Perry onstage for a performance of “Unapologetic B***h.”
The night ended with a rousing version of “Holiday” before Madonna thanked the audience for being so great. Madonna’s fans walked out exhausted after the concert ended at about 12:30 p.m. Even if her fans crawl into work with only a couple hours of sleep, Madonna gave them a night to remember.