Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Sticky and Sweet? I'll Take Sugar Free...

Oh, you have no idea how much it pains me to say this, but the Madonna show was...bad. Just plain bad. It was like watching her Madgesty compete in some Vegas version of a Miss Fitness competition for two and a half hours. The woman is scary buff. No, ripped. I could see her thigh muscles from my third tier seat. It could very well have been Linda Hamilton from Terminator 2 down there on the stage. And, I think Linda could have sang about as well as Madonna did. Yeesh. She kept busting out an electric guitar and it was downright awkward. She attempted rockified, six string versions of oldies and usually goodies like "Borderline" and "Ray of Light", but she shouldn't have. Someone needs to get her a copy of Guitar Hero and tell her to leave the strumming for the living room.

Listen, Madonna has enough cool points in storage for a lifetime, and will always get props for her freakish drive and ambition. However, this show lacked any of the ingenuity or artistic integrity that has always helped Madonna rise above the rest. As much as she was mindless pop, Madonna was equal parts pioneer. From her look to her sound to her incredible videos, she was an arbiter of unbelievably prescient style. But, maybe aesthetic amnesia is a yet to be discovered side effect of botox. Tours past have produced iconic wardrobe collaborations with incredible designers. This time around she wore costumes that could have been picked up at Ricky's Halloween Annex. What happened, Arianne Phillips? Did Madonna strong-arm you into dressing her like a late 80's era fourth grader? How did you convince yourself that the Swarovski crystal festooned football shoulder pads, or the striped knee-highs and heart-shaped glasses were a good look?

The highlight of the show was definitely Madonna's deft double dutch routine during an incredibly fun rendition of "Get Into the Groove". Her obviously hard-practiced jump rope skills were impressive and could have kicked any playground aged girl's booty.

The lowlight was an inexplicable Klezmer-ized version of "La Isla Bonita" featuring a fiddle. Well that, and all of the second rate, meltably cheesy computer graphics that accompanied most of the songs on giant LED screens. I couldn't figure out if it was supposed to be retro, or if they just skimped on the budget.

One last thing, her face was literally scaring me. It wasn't the Madonna that I'd known and loved for so many years on those giant JumboTrons. Instead, it was a plasticized facsimile. During an unscripted moment of stage banter she made mention of her fragile ego and insecurities, and one look at her overdone face rendered any such commentary redundant. For most people the exposure of vulnerabilities has a humanizing effect, which for Madonna would have meant a move away from the calculating, cold chill that she's always claimed is a media invention. But in this case, the physical manifestation of her insecurities has made her even more cyborgish.

The bold, brazen Madonna of years past has been replaced by a showpony who's playing tour after tour to turn a healthy profit. Which in true Madonna fashion is smart business. She nets a lifetime supply of greenbacks each time she traverses the globe, but at what cost? Her ability to inspire anything more than sympathy heart rate spikes.

This may all sound a little harsh, but as a devoted fan I feel a downright deserted. Madonna always did the thing that everyone else was afraid to do, and she usually did it with an incredible sense of defiance and wound up with aesthetically pleasing results. To see her give in to societal pressures that state that women can't age naturally is just sad. I'd like to say that as long as she's having fun she's doing no harm, but the marathon performance looked more like exercise bulimia than entertainment. If the show was judged on effort alone, she'd be taking home a Mr. T amount of gold every night. Instead, I grant her the "One More Time Around the Block" prize. Former winners include Cher and Barbra Streisand.

Here's a clip of Madonna doing it right. This is the amazing version of "La Isla Bonita" she did on the Drowned World Tour a few years back. A lovely tums for too much Sticky and Sweet.

Images: Drowned Madonna

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