After a long deliberation, my sister decided in the summer to get for my birthday (back in March) concert tickets. She gave me a choice: Janet Jackson’s Unbreakable World Tour or Madonna’s Rebel Heart Tour. It wasn’t too difficult a decision. Janet Jackson would be in Vancouver in August when I wasn’t sure I would be up for going out and I only really like Rhythm Nation and that Poetic Justice song. I also quite liked her “No Sleep” track released this year. But Madonna would be in Vancouver in October when I would be up for going out and back in summer, my sister thought she could be in town at that time (and she was!). Further, I’ve greatly enjoyed several of Madonna’s albums, starting with Immaculate Collection (the compilation album of 1990) and her studio albums Erotica (1992) through to Ray of Light (1998). I gave each of the following five albums exactly one or two listens as my interest waned. Still, the Madonna concert was the obvious choice.
As it is with me, as the concert date drew near, I got my version of cold feet and didn’t really want to go any longer. What’s the point? I gave her Rebel Heart album exactly one listen and the set list exactly one listen. I was still feeling angsty as it was approaching two hours from the 8 p.m. “start” time and it didn’t look like she was coming on soon. She came on at 9:50 and treated her full house audience to just over two hours of her music that is 55% Rebel Heart (12 out of 22 songs) and 45% old tracks.
By tracks, here are my impressions.
Iconic (Rebel Heart): After waiting nearly 90 minutes, I had to catch her entrance and it was powerful in images, words, and dancing such her very entrance in a cage lowered to the stage seemed attenuated.
Bitch, I’m Madonna (Rebel Heart): Noooo! Is she misappropriating Asian themes? I had already been prejudiced against this song because of its name. But it was a collaboration with Nicki Minaj and so sassy and kind of catchy that I find myself liking it despite my reservations. Holy Water (Rebel Heart): I was in mild shock with the blasphemous imagery and my sister informed that that it has always been Madonna’s thing. I knew that in theory, recalling the Like a Prayer video, but seeing her persistence to her “cause” IRL was a treat. To say Madonna is the original Lady Gaga is belittling – Madonna is the original. There was a Vogue snippet at this point so of course I had to get a video clip of it.
Messiah (Rebel Heart): During this video interlude, a shirtless man performed and did amazing things with a long scarf. You know I have thing with scarves/silks.
True Blue: True Blue is a track that is “before my time”, that is, it was released before I got into listening to Madonna so I was never interested in it. True Blue immediate followed Body Shop (Rebel Heart) which was a cheeky tune that piqued my interest in the song. Her dance crew were dressed appropriate for working in a body shop and being in the cast of Grease and for True Blue, they hung around discarded tires and chilled out. In a conversational snippet, we got a glimpse that she has an affectionate and fun relationship with her dancers.
Deeper and Deeper: I think it was during this song, upbeat and an “oldie”, that I admired the dancing. That is, I noticed it wasn’t anything “fancy” and in fact the dancing motif throughout the songs was a bit of a throwback. Madonna isn’t known to be a dancer, my sister reminded me, and that is fine and well.
Heartbreak City (Rebel Heart): On a simple spiral staircase that goes nowhere and with one male dancer, this heart-wrenching ballad was executed with “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” woven in. My complaints of misappropriate of Asian themes went away during the “Spanish” theme set. I loved the crazy colourful visuals.
I even caught part of it in a video.
La Isla Bonita: In outfits that suggested flamenco and something else (je ne sais quoi) that I was impressed were so versatile, this song felt like a kitchen party taking place on stage. A steamy kitchen party.
Secret: After some banter with a blonde fan who may have been drinking heavily, Madonna took a swig of whatever the fan was drinking and it went straight to her head and she decided to perform this track (which I like) instead of what she usually performed at this time “Who’s That Girl” (which I don’t like).
Ghosttown (Rebel Heart): The first track on this album is heartfelt and catchy and I really like it.
Rebel Heart (Rebel Heart): During this song, I turned my attention to the projection which was created from fan art that they received.
Illuminati (Rebel Heart): I have no idea what’s the point or meaning of this track but after the frenetic and fun act she paired with it, I like it. Once again – aerial arts capture my fancy big time.
Unapologetic Bitch (Rebel Heart): I was also prejudiced against this song based on the title (I’m such a prude) but it’s catchy, especially with the powerful backdrop that reminds me of Gatsby.
Holiday: For her encore, Madonna performed Holiday which is fun and my sister yanked me up to dance at our seats. We were the only ones in our section. It was funny to observe very early on during the show how everyone at orchestra level was standing and dancing and everyone in the balconies where we were were seated. At the end of this track, Madonna was lifted off the stage which definitely sends the message, “That’s all, folks!”
It was a real treat to take in a Madonna concert and I’m so glad that after my initial apprehension of watching a Rebel Heart Tour concert instead of a Greatest Hits concert down the road, I enjoyed myself greatly. The production has warmed me up to the album much the same way music videos and other live performs I see on television have the same effect. As a major fan in days gone by and still enjoy the old stuff, it’s just fitting to catch her in concert finally.