Erik Kabik / ErikKabik.com
Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015 | 2 a.m.
“Nobody f---- with the Queen! Learn that, motherf-----!”
Perhaps not the most eloquent way to put it, especially for a family-friendly newspaper and website such as the Las Vegas Sun (hence the hyphens), but if critics have entertained the notion that superstar Madonna is past her prime and irrelevant, think again.
As a live performer, Madonna is Queen, as she reminded with the above remarks after performing “Like a Virgin.” Madonna is the performer by which all others should be judged, and her only contemporaries in this decade (and the previous decade, really) are Justin Timberlake (in stamina) and Beyonce (in fierceness).
Madonna Louise Ciccone, 57, of Bay City, Mich., brought her “Rebel Heart Tour” to MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday night, and it was a 135-minute master class of art, music, dance and performance, putting to shame fellow artists who lip sync (Madonna certainly had backing tracks Saturday night, but she also certainly sang for most of the concert) or rely heavily on technology over substance and skill.
Saturday’s notes and highlights:
Madonna descended from a cage for the show-opener “Iconic,” and to say that there was religious sub context and Asian inspiration would be an understatement. The costumes — samurai at the start and Old Hollywood glamor (think bedazzled flapper dress) toward the end — and choreography were standouts, and Madonna herself was still dancing and standing two hours into her concert.
The evening’s most shocking moment — this is a Madonna concert, after all — were barely dressed nuns (stripper nuns, actually) on cross-shaped stripper poles during a mashup of “Holy Water” and “Vogue.” Let your imagination run wild of what Holy Water is equated to during the song, and we’ll leave it at that.
The moving, slanted stage within the main stage a la Cirque du Soleil’s “Ka,” coincidentally also at MGM Grand, was used to great effect for choreography and imagery; the staircase on the floor for the “Heartbreak City” and “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” mashup also was effective in its simplicity; and her dancers perched on really flexible, bendable poles during “Illuminati” rightfully drew “oohs” and “aahs” from the arena audience.
Madonna showed her sense of humor throughout the evening. Before “True Blue,” she chastised an audience member dressed as ex-boyfriend Warren Beatty in a yellow suit from their film “Dick Tracy.” “I want to sing about love, not regret,” she quipped. After “Material Girl,” she told 21-year-old audience member Darian from New Orleans about the three rings of marriage: the engagement ring, wedding ring and … suffering.
Unlike previous “Rebel Heart Tour” setlists, Madonna added stripped-down, acoustic versions of “Secret” and “Ghost Town” two-thirds into the concert. Her performances of “Like a Virgin” and “Material Girl” — reimagined, inventive, strong and just downright fun — were surprise standouts of the night, as was her acoustic rendition of Edith Piaf’s “La Vie En Rose” in French.
One other thing that seemed different Saturday night from previous concerts: Madonna laughed, smiled and joked a lot — she looked like she was having fun onstage some 40 years into her career, and the audience was having fun with her, too.
DJ Lunice served as the opening act before Madonna hit the MGM Grand Garden Arena stage exactly at 9:30 p.m. Madonna, Lunice, her dancers et al made their way to Marquee in the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas post-concert to host an after-party, with Lunice DJ’ing, of course.
Saturday night’s more than two dozen song setlist: “Iconic” (featuring boxing legend and Las Vegas resident Mike Tyson in the accompanying video), “B----, I’m Madonna,” “Burning Up” (in which she plays the guitar), mashup of “Holy Water” and “Vogue,” “Devil Pray,” “Messiah” (video interlude), “Body Shop,” “True Blue,” “Deeper and Deeper,” mashup of “Heartbreak City” and “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore,” “Like a Virgin” and mashup of “S.E.X.” and “Justify My Love” (video).
Also: “Living for Love” (remix), “La Isla Bonita,” Spanish medley of “Dress You Up,” “Into the Groove” and “Lucky Star,” “Secret,” “Ghost Town,” “Rebel Heart,” “Illuminati” (video), mashup of “Music” and “Candy Shop,” “Material Girl,” “La Vie En Rose,” “Unapologetic B----” and, for her encore, “Holiday” dressed in red, white and blue patriotic costume with white stars and draped in an American flag.
Thanks to Mikayla Whitmore of the Las Vegas Sun and contributing photographer Erik Kabik for their photo galleries.
The five Madonna concerts I’ve seen — 2001’s “Drowned World Tour,” 2004’s “Re-Invention World Tour,” 2006’s “Confessions Tour,” 2012’s “The MDNA Tour” and this and next year’s “Rebel Heart Tour” — have all been provocative, different, creative and exemplary. Madonna, without doubt, knows how to reinvent herself.
It’s a shame that “Rebel Heart” is one of Madonna’s least-successful albums commercially because she remains at the top of her game in concert. Even with many of my favorite Madonna songs absent from the setlist — I mean nothing from my all-time-fave album, the Grammy Award-winning “Ray of Light”?! — “Rebel Heart” was still a concert that I’ll remember (from “With Honors,” natch) for a long time.
Final four words about Madonna’s “Rebel Heart Tour” stop Saturday night: Concert of the year. It is indeed very good for Madonna to be Queen of Pop.
Don Chareunsy is the Las Vegas Sun’s entertainment and luxury senior editor and has been a journalist for nearly two decades.
Robin Leach of “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous fame” has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past 15 years giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Sun Entertainment + Luxury Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
MGM Grand, a AAA Four Diamond resort, offers 5,044 rooms and suites.
MGM Grand features KÀ by Cirque du Soleil; Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club; and world-class entertainment at the Grand Garden Arena and Hollywood Theatre.
The resort offers signature restaurants by celebrity chefs including Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak, Emeril Lagasse’s New Orleans Fish House, Wolfgang Puck’s Bar & Grill and Michelin three star and Forbes Five Star restaurant, Joël Robuchon.
As part of its ongoing “Grand Renovation,” MGM Grand has remodeled all rooms and suites in its main tower and is adding several new experiences to its lineup including Hakkasan Las Vegas Restaurant and Nightclub, a new upscale dining/nightlife concept (coming in April 2013).
MGM Grand also features a state-of-the-art, non-smoking conference center, the Grand Spa, Cristophe Salon, "CSI: The Experience" and an inviting pool complex featuring the tantalizing daylife of Wet Republic.
Upscale accommodations include The Mansion, an exclusive hotel within the hotel; the luxurious two-story SKYLOFTS at MGM Grand; and The Signature at MGM Grand, a luxury all-suite, non-gaming hotel located adjacent to the main resort.