Is Madonna still relevant in 2012? One could certainly make the case that the 54-year-old Queen of Pop doesn’t deserve that moniker anymore as the crown now belongs to Lady Gaga. Madge’s latest album MDNA stalled well short of platinum, and she hasn’t delivered a timeless hit single since “Hung Up” from Confessions on a Dance Floor in 2005.
She’s not aging gracefully either. Despite being just months away from Freedom 55, Madonna is still trying to maintain her sex symbol status. But just about the only thing you can think when you see her gyrating in music videos these days is “Stop it grandma, you’re making me very uncomfortable.”
Surveying the audience at the first of her two shows at Rogers Arena, it’s evident that Madonna’s fans aren’t getting any younger either. The plastic surgery adverts that frequently appeared on the venue’s screens before the Material Girl took the stage were met with receptive eyes. With tickets costing up to $350, the singer’s MDNA Tour easily could have been a cash grab by an icon that’s past her expiry date. Fortunately, this wasn’t the case, as Madonna delivered all the magic and spectacle that her amazing Super Bowl XLVI halftime show hinted at.
The show opened with an appropriately weird chant that featured monks ringing church bells, more monks appearing out of trap doors, and shirtless dancers sporting gargoyle masks. Madonna flew onto the stage in a confession box and launched into “Girl Gone Wild” off of MDNA . The crowd seemed to mimic what Madonna kept repeating as she entered, “Oh my God.” Everyone is the arena was so ecstatic to see their hero you’d have thought they were all on, well, MDMA.
When the singer was playing her boring newer material, the ridiculously grandiose stage show was more than enough to keep you entertained. At any given moment, there were backup dancers doing parkour on hydraulic LED screen lifts, marching bands dangling from the rafters, or acrobats in prison coveralls bouncing on slackline ropes.
However, the crowd snapped up tickets to this show overnight because they wanted the hits. Madonna obliged and did enough of them to satiate the most demanding of the faithful. When she was dropped “Holiday”, “Open Your Heart”, and “Vogue” it was perfect pop overload. At one point Madonna, wearing a majorette outfit, segued from “Express Yourself” into a quick and cheeky cover of Gaga’s incredibly similar sounding “Born This Way.” Clearly this Golden Girl isn’t going down without a fight.
The biggest crowd pleaser was the second last song of the evening, “Like a Prayer”. It got the whole arena on its feet and singing along—you almost felt like a member of the choir from the song’s classic 1989 video. Or, at the very least, an extra on an especially rapturous episode of Glee.
As everyone filed out of the arena, one blissed-out fan summed it up best, “That was the best Lady Gaga show I’ve ever been to.” Madonna has fallen, but she can get up. The MDNA Tour proves she’s not only still one of the greatest entertainers on the planet, but that she’ll be relevant long after she’s tooting around the stage on a Jean Paul Gaultier–designed mobility scooter.