Madonna - Staples Center - 10/11/12
Better than: Pop music's current Madonna-wannabe starlets.
See also: Our slideshow of Madonna at the Staples Center last night
Madonna's MDNA tour is a mostly-dark assault to the senses, and many have focused on its controversial themes, words and antics. At Staples Center last night, we were looking at the bigger picture: No one in pop music comes close to Madonna's spectacle, her unbridled physicality on stage or her arsenal of hits. And no one better plays the sexy provocateur, even three decades on.
This point was made midway through the show when Madge, clad in the white majorette get-up from "Give Me All Your Luvin" mashed her hit "Express Yourself" with Lady Gaga's similar-sounding "Born This Way," adding a chant of "She's Not Me" to hammer home the point.
The dig was about more than the song, obviously. But she could have been singing about any of today's pop princesses: Rihanna, Britney, Christina, Pink, J-Lo, Katy Perry, Gwen Stefani, and even edgier artists such as Robyn and Peaches, and recent collaborators MIA and Nicki Minaj, both of whom appeared on giant video screens during "Luvin." The entire lot would surely admit to the queen of pop's influence.
She has obviously been influenced by her predecessors in turn; Stefani's "Hollaback Girl" really came to mind during this sequence. All would be hard pressed to keep up with Ms. M on stage, though. Madonna not only danced throughout, she had some major fight sequences, tight-rope walking, baton twirling, flipping (while tied up), kicking, and of course lots of writhing. It was maybe slightly less vigorous than her last tour, Sticky Sweet, but, then again, she's four years older.
There comes a time in every woman's life when she must ask herself: Can I pull this off at my age? Whether it be a sexy outfit or after-dark debuachery, nobody wants to be that grandma on the dance floor or the desperate, cleavage-bearing cougar grasping at their youth in the club. We're happy to report that 54-year-old Madonna comes off as neither here and she pulls off almost everything she attempts, from badass gun-toting babe at the show's start for "Girl Gone Wild" and "Gang Bang," to submissive sex kitten during "Hung Up" to androgynous vamp during "Candyshop" and "Human Nature/Erotica" to gilded rock goddess during "I'm A Sinner."
Though she looked and moved great, Madonna's vocals weren't always so great. It was beside the point during the more eye-candy filled segments, but when she attempted to get intimate and dramatic it was hard to ignore. The singing was a fairly seemless combination of recorded tracks and live vox, and she definitely sounded wobbly and went slightly off key a few times, such as during "Open Your Heart," which was already weak due to a strange musical re-arrangement.
The re-worked hits were likely a little frustrating for longtime Madonna fans. "Like A Virgin" as torch song was way too slow, and despite the star's topless-but-for-a-lace-bra garb, boring. And "Papa Don't Preach" was disjointed and off-putting, especially following the violent, blood-splattered intensity of the opening sequence. Then there were all the hits she didn't play...