Live Review: Madonna

21 March 2016 | 11:21 am | Liz Giuffre

"All the chatter has overshadowed her music (nothing new, there), but that's a damn shame. Her music, her show, her performance, remains spectacular."

Photos by Josh Groom

Photos by Josh Groom

More Madonna More Madonna

The thing is, it's fucking Madonna. Let's keep this shit about lateness, messiness and controversy in context. She has always said what she thought, she has always worn her heart on her sleeve (and sleeves, pants and tops were optional), and she has also done the 'inappropriate' thing when she sensed there was a sensitive spot she could spank. All the chatter has overshadowed her music (nothing new, there), but that's a damn shame. Her music, her show, her performance, remains spectacular.

Tonight she was only an hour or so late (depending on which timetable you were watching), with Michael Jackson's Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' playing her in. As Iconic played over a video montage, dancers dressed as footsoldiers marched up and down the auditorium, finally meeting Madonna as she emerged from the ceiling in a cage and onto the stage. No shit, that's 'iconic'. In case there was any question Bitch I'm Madonna played next (with a new set of dancers set up in gorgeous Japanese-inspired dress), and to follow Madonna stripped her lower half down to strap on an electric guitar and perform Burning Up. Soon three crucifixes were erected in the middle of the runway stage to act as props for pole dancing to Holy Water, complete with a teaser of Vogue for good measure.

Leaving the stage to the dancers for a short while Madonna came back in a full set and costume change for a country-inspired take on Body Shop (where rhinestone-wearing dancers moved around on a garage set). It shouldn't have worked, but it was great. True Blue on ukulele might not have been on your radar, but she did it, and it was really good — with some chat to draw us in ("You may only address me in threes," she said to the crowd. "Do you love me?", say "Fuck, fuck, fuck, yeah"). The bootscootin' continued with a strange but still infectious take on Deeper And Deeper, then the focus narrowed as Madonna and a male dancer told the story of Heartbreak City while dancing up and down a descended spiral staircase. After she pushed him watched him fall, she broke into a little of 1970s disco hit Love Don't Live Here Anymore. Awesome. Follow it up with a drawn-back version of Like A Virgin, and, well, there you are retro heaven, there you are.

After a break a Spanish/Latin-inspired bracket was next, with Living For Love, La Isla Bonita and an awesome mash-up of Dress You Up, Into The Groove and Lucky Star taking the crew up and down the runway. Stopping to chat and catch her breath, here Madonna spanked naughty dancers and made fun of the press — "I'd hate to be accused of having a breakdown. I mean, heaven forbid a mother should be missing her son," she said to cheers from the crowd. "But you've got to have a sense of humour — I'd never get by without mine," she continued, "and I want to thank the fans who have kept with me and supported me — this little bitch does not give up. I appreciate everything you do."

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After the next short break (and some amazing acrobatic work from the dancers, who were truly incredible, swinging from poles in top hats and tails), Madonna came back in an 1920s-inspired art deco/jazz set. Music sounded right at home in the genre, as did Hanky Panky and Material Girl. Coming down the front again to flirt with the crowd (this time casually asking a pretty shirtless fan if he "sucked dick"), she then dedicated a uke-driven copy of Edith Piaf's La Vie En Rose to him, before getting her Unapologetic Bitch on (complete with a guest from the crowd). Both ended up drinking a mystery liquid from a rhinestone-covered, banana-shaped hip flask, just because. "I've been accused of being an alcoholic so much in the last month, and I don't even drink — I guess I should start," she joked. For encore it was all about Holiday with an Australian flag vest and shameless local reference. We lapped it up.