Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012 | 11:59 p.m.
Love-her-or-hate-her singer and rapper Nicki Minaj said it best via video Saturday night of another polarizing figure in pop music: “There’s only one queen, and that’s Madonna. B*tch!”
Queen of Pop Madonna brought her 2012 MDNA Tour to MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday night, the first of two sold-out shows (the second was tonight), and, from her setlist (religious, thematic and stunning), staging (gothic cathedrals, chanting monks turned Chippendales dancers), singing (a lot of backing tracks and music, but she definitely sang most of the evening) and choreography (at age 54, Madonna has never looked better and was still dancing two hours later), she proved two things: Madonna is queen, and her reign is far from over.
It’s been six years since I’ve seen Madonna in concert. I missed the Sticky & Sweet Tour in 2008. I had tickets to her Sept. 11, 2001, Drowned World Tour show at Staples Center in L.A.; she rescheduled that same week, and it became the last show of her tour. I waited more than two hours before she hit the stage, and there was no opening act.
In 2004, it was the Reinvention World Tour at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, Calif. And two years later, the Forum again for the Confessions Tour, where I reviewed her concert for the first time for work. I nearly knocked over Nicole Richie walking back to my seat, and I admitted to being a Madonnaholic.
It would be a mistake to ever miss her concert again.
Saturday night’s highlights (and there were many): not one but five choreographed contortionists during “Best Friend/Heartbeat,” and there were audible gasps of shock and amazement from the arena crowd; the choreography and drum major costumes for “Express Yourself” and “Give Me All Your Luvin’, ” with Madonna twirling a baton and drummers suspended high above the stage; and her “forgiveness” of a gay Republican fan at the foot of the stage (“I love everybody so much that I am going to forgive you!”).
Also: her messages of acceptance, being united as one and fighting discrimination without being preachy, long-winded or condescending; a very sexy, slowed-down, sultry, cabaret-style “Like a Virgin” with only accompaniment from a piano; and an uplifting and cathartic “Like a Prayer” with a full choir (I nearly cried).
Two negatives in a euphoric and nearly perfect five-hour night: The increasingly impatient crowd started booing at 10:25 p.m., about 40 minutes after the opening act had ended (see below). People: This is what Madonna does. Get over it. Secondly, I disliked “Gang Bang,” in which she repeatedly shoots and kills her male dancers, and there are depictions of blood and brains on the larger-than-life LED screens. Over the top, ahem, overkill, and counter to what Madonna is all about in her music and life.
Nonetheless, Madonna’s MDNA is uh-MAH-zing, an artist and performer who is still at the top of her game. Nick, a fan sitting in front of me from L.A., saw the show earlier in the week and said the MGM show blew the L.A. show out of the water. “It was amazing here. The crowd and Madonna were really into it. The energy was perfect.”
L-U-V, Madonna, Y-O-U, you wanna? The answer is yes. Always.
“Girl Gone Wild,” “Revolver,” “Gang Bang,” “Papa Don’t Preach,” “Hung Up” (in which she impressively walks a tightrope), “I Don’t Give A (with Minaj), “Best Friend/Heartbeat” (interlude), “Express Yourself/Born This Way,” “Give Me All Your Luvin’, ” the audience sing-along “Turn Up the Radio,” “Open Your Heart,” “Masterpiece,” “Justify My Love” (interlude), “Vogue,” “Candy Shop,” “Erotica/Human Nature,” “Like a Virgin,” a striking video of mashed-up faces and images to “Nobody Knows Me” (interlude), “I’m Addicted,” “I’m a Sinner,” “Like a Prayer” and “Celebration.”
OPENING ACT MARTIN SOLVEIG
French electronic music DJ and producer Martin Solveig, in a black leather jacket and his signature headband, served as the opening act and spun and sang from 8:45 to 9:45 p.m., a surprisingly substantial kickoff set. He was fun, if a little pedestrian (I’ve had the fortune of seeing Swedish House Mafia -- my favorites right now, Calvin Harris and Deadmau5 spin in the past month, and Solveig was tame in comparison).
His setlist included “Music,” “Ready 2 Go,” “Into the Groove,” “Titanium,” “Rolling in the Deep,” “Beautiful Killer,” “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” “Like I Love You,” “Pumped Up Kicks,” “Funky Town,” “Nigg*s in Paris,” “Feel So Close” after an audience chant of “L-U-V, Madonna, Y-O-U, you wanna?”; “Love Spent,” “In My Mind,” his new song “The Night Out,” “We Are Young” and his club anthem favorite “Hello.”
Thanks to Las Vegas Sun photographer Sam Morris and contributing photographers Tom Donoghue and Erik Kabik for their fabulous photo galleries.
Don Chareunsy is editor of VegasDeLuxe.com and senior editor, arts and entertainment, of LasVegasSun.com.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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