Monday, October 20, 2008

Current mood:  awake
Category: Music

Last night, after arriving into Toronto from Amsterdam, my wife took me to see Madonna (Esther). We are both massive Esther fans so this is not really a review, because I am too biased.

The main thing you can always expect from Madonna is that she will put on a technically magnificent show. Mainly with visuals. The show started with an arcade theme as we watched a pinball make it’s way through the video screens. The set pieces were made out of lights and video monitors, so they could magically transform into anything: speakers, Britney Spears or even a see-through cage. This optical image was the most interesting. Inside a round cage she sang “Devil wouldn’t recognize you” while a keyboardist played a grande piano, while at the same time isolated video images of rain fell around the cage.

The set -list was good, although I would have liked to have heard more from Confessions on the Dance Floor (my fave Esther album). The only song she played from that was Hung Up, which she transformed into a hard rock song. Several times during the performance she strapped on an electric guitar and gave some of her classic songs a hard rock edge. I love Esther’s ability to transform herself, and I always knew there was a punk rocker in their somewhere. Borderline received the same treatment.

There were a lot of songs, of course, from her latest release Hard Candy. Right off the top we were treated to the title song, which has never sounded better. She’s Not Me is actually my favourite song from the album and this was performed with four other Madonna look-alikes from different periods of her career. I was looking forward to Get Stupid since it caused so much controversy in America with it’s shot of McCain. Don’t blink because you might not see it. The focus of the video is Barrack Obama which may explain why McCain hated it so much. This part of the show is not even live. It’s a video shown during a costume change. Anyway, who in a Madonna concert is going to vote for McCain anyway?

The songs produced by Pharrell were accompanied by video shots of him. This happened with all co-productions. It makes me wonder what happens if there is some kind of technical error. This isn’t like a Prince show where the band can just stop on a dime and go into another song if Prince feels like it. Instead it is a state of the art video spectacular spectacular with so many different mechanisms I can’t understand how everything works with such precision.

Of course, the dance work was incredible. She is primarily a dancer, which is why she understands the visual image better than most pop artists. She looks like she spends a lot of time working on her muscles. In fact, she looks like she works harder than anyone in showbiz. Every song was rearranged, and every song had it’s own video and choreography. How does she have time to do anything else? The answer? She doesn’t. She is married to her career. At one point she said: “Maybe I should take you all home with me tonight. I’m pretty lonely these days.”

Another great section of the show was when she played all of her songs with a Spanish influence in a row. She even had a gypsy band come out on stage with her. They looked like they were having a rollicking good time together as they downed shots.

About two hours later when she left the stage the video screens said GAME OVER. But outside in the parking lots people were still dancing and singing.


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