Madonna | 11.01.12

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In honor of full disclosure, I must admit my emotions took over and I squealed like a little girl.


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PHOTO: Cencio Boc

When my editor contacted me to see if I was interested in covering the Madonna concert I tried play it cool, but the inner gay boy in me came out and I started to run around chanting, “OMG OMG OMG.” You see, unbeknownst to her, Madonna and I have had a long-term love affair. I was with her when she was on American Bandstand proclaiming she wanted to rule the world; I was with her when she married and divorced Sean Penn; I was with her when she released her legendary documentary Truth or Dare; and I was with her in the movie theater for the release of Dick Tracy, A League of Their Own, and Evita. As long as I can remember, I have been a Madonna fan, and the fact that I was getting a golden ticket to review one of my own personal icons was not lost on me.

As I strolled around Scottrade Center, I took note of the attendees. There really wasn’t any dominating group. There were the LGBT’ers, the Madonna look-alikes, the middle-age moms, and the men married to them. There were the ladies who lunch, the younger, trendier group, and representatives from more races that I could count. That’s the thing about Madonna: She appeals to so many people on so many levels. St. Louis came out in force, and I couldn’t have been happier.

Paul Oakenfold took the stage around 8:30. This was a surprise bonus for me: I had no idea he was going to be there, and I am a HUGE Oakenfold fan. He got the crowd moving and grooving for about an hour and a half. He tended to have better success when he kicked out some old jams, but when he spun current hits, the crowd seemed to lose energy. What can I say? St. Louis loves their old jams.

At 10:30 (!), Madonna took to the stage. In honor of full disclosure, I must admit my emotions took over and I squealed like a little girl. This is Madonna—in my hometown—and I am here seeing her! One special note about the stage itself: A series of 24 square mini-stages rose and dropped to create a stunning visual effect. The first “section” of the show was filled with mainly new songs, including “Girls Gone Wild,” “Gang Bang,” and “I Don’t Give A,” complete with video duet with Nicki Minaj. “Graphic” is my word du jour to describe this section, as several of the songs had a violent feel and the accompanying images were of bloodshed and brains being blown out. Shocking, to say the least, but I wouldn’t expect less from Madonna.

The next segment of the show started off with a marching band theme—complete with baton twirling—and crowd favorite “Express Yourself,” which then morphed into Gaga’s “Born This Way.” That got the crowd worked up into a lather. We here in the Midwest do love our divas. The next performance took my breath away. Madonna segued into “Give Me All Your Luvin.” Being a band geek, I loved how her backup dancers came out beating on drums, only to be trumped by a series of drummers suspended in mid-air, keeping the beat the whole time. It was mesmerizing and entertaining, to say the least.

Once the theatrics were over, Madonna performed a tribal version of her hit “Open Your Heart.” It never ceases to amaze me how she can take a song 26 years old and give it a fresh new feel. It was after this that Madonna did what she does best: interacted with the crowd. She came off genuine as she spent time getting to know the members in the front of the audience.

As she kicked off the next section of the show with arguably one of her biggest hits, “Vogue,” I don’t know what came over me, but as the dancers strolled around the stage in glamorous costumes, I started to tear up. Madonna was killing the vocals on stage, and memories of my youth came to mind as I subconsciously sang along. And I know every drag queen in St. Louis was dying for the big leaf hat that floated around the stage. (Am I wrong, girls?) Running through a couple more hits, “Candy Shop” and “Human Nature,” the show took a turn toward the intimate as Madonna performed “Like a Virgin” with only a piano accompaniment. The performance was fragile and sincere as she once again put a fresh spin on a legendary song.

The final part was focused on new songs “I’m Addicted” and “I’m A Sinner.” This is when the show took an unfortunate turn. I was wondering if there were some sound issues during “I’m Addicted,” but then during “I’m a Sinner,” Madonna herself stopped the show. She told her sound guy she couldn’t hear herself and dealt with the sound issue for just a few moments. The crowd did become restless, but also screamed words of love and encouragement. This could have gone horribly wrong and a lesser diva would have stomped off the stage in tears, but this is MADONNA we are talking about. She apologized to the crowd, got the problem corrected, and started the song over. She then closed the show with flawless renditions of “Like a Prayer” and “Celebration.”

As I left the auditorium with the masses, I tried to listen to as many conversations as possible to get a feel for how the crowd received the show. I overheard comments ranging from “That was awesome!” to “I paid $200 bucks for no hits? That is what put her on the map!” I had to look at the fact that these tickets were not cheap and times are hard. People paid a lot of money for this show, and I do think they had a right to their opinion. But speaking from the perspective of a lifelong Madonna fan, I went to the show wanting to have a good time, which I did. By all accounts, her song selection was an even mix of new songs and old. Did she do all her hits? No. Was the show perfect? No. But as Ms. Minaj said in her video performance with Madonna in “I Don’t Give A” “There is only one queen—and that’s Madonna.”

Long live the queen! | Jim Campbell

Photo Gallery by Cencio Boc

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