Dr. Blackwell's BLOG

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Concert Review: MADONNA’s Rebel Heart Tour 2016

Filed under: Performing Arts,Popular Music — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 02:15


So by now I’m pretty sure you’ve heard about The Material Girl’s bad reputation earned for her making of her fans wait an extended period of time before she decides to take the stage. And while that may certainly be a worthy criticism (and for my partner, a deal breaker to ever seeing her live again), it shouldn’t distract from her enormous talent and ability to put on one hell of a show. On Wednesday, I had the absolute pleasure of seeing MADONNA’s Rebel Heart Tour, which featured about a 65%/35% split between performances of tunes from her 2015 Grammy-less nominated album Rebel Heart and her classic defining hits at Philips Arena in Atlanta, GA

After a horrific opening by a DJ whose name I cannot nor wish to recall and about an hour break, Madonna finally took the stage around 11:05pm. Her opening number “Iconic,” featuring a guest appearance by former boxer Mike Tyson (yes—that Mike Tyson, whose collaboration has resulted in many women’s rights groups to hurl some shade Madge’s way), was energetic and fantastic! Surrounded by 15 dancers clad in Asian warrior uniforms flailing choreographed fight sequences using large cross-like staffs, Madonna made her way down from the ceiling in a cage, where she was ultimately “freed” by her enormously talented dance squad.

The show included essentially every number from Rebel Heart. Luckily for me, I find most of that album tolerable (unlike Madonna’s last album MDNA, 70% of which I disliked). But fans wishing to hear Madonna perform the older mega-hits from her catalog probably left the concert a little disappointed. But many of those classic and artist defining hits like “Material Girl,” “Like A Virgin,” and “La Isla Bonita” remained in the set list. The highlight of the performance of Madonna”s older material for me was definitely “True Blue.” The True Blue album spawned many of Madonna’s biggest hit singles (“Cherish” and “Express Yourself” for example) and was certainly nostalgic for her longest-term fans to hear. She performed the number bathed in a blue light, surrounded by her dancers. It was also different from the poppy original version, sung to a more acoustical arrangement of the music.

The staging of the show was truly amazing. Screens rose from the stage floor, shifted in the background, and complimented the performances perfectly. Large set pieces, including a three-story staircase descended mid show, providing a great set for Madonna to perform some of the more slower songs from Rebel Heart. Madonna also showed off her talent on the guitar, playing along with her band to several ballads, including the title track from Rebel Heart, which I believe is the strongest song on the album.

While Madonna was certainly the star of the show, her dancers weren’t far behind. Of all the Madonna tours I’ve seen (and I’ve seen about 6 now), I have never seen her dancers play such a prominent role in the staging.  Countless numbers featured amazingly and well-choreographed sequences ranging from steamy HOTT simulated sex acts on several beds lining the stage to acrobatic stunts played out on poles that bent dancers down just feet in-front of audience members on the floor. And while the dancers were absolutely gorgeous (one female dancer even goes topless for most of the show), they are also dripping with talent! And the closing number, punctuated by “Holiday,” one of Madonna’s biggest hits, was so fun and full of energy that the entire arena remembered why their love for Madonna was worth the price of the $800 ticket.

Despite the three-hour delay, the crowd was raucous and enthusiastically supported Madonna throughout the performance of every number. And while Rebel Heart is not my favorite Madonna album, I do believe the music to be much stronger than her previous outing, MDNA. Consequently, I really enjoyed this concert more than her last concert tour, MDNA. This particular performance was also one in which Madonna interacted with the audience more than I’ve ever seen. She spoke candidly and joked about the mistakes she’d made in her life and marriages; and she really looked as if she was enjoying her time on stage and appreciated just how much her fans cherish her.

While her Re-Invention Tour will remain my favorite Madonna concert-going experience, this Rebel Heart experience isn’t far behind. Below, take a front row look at some fan-recorded footage of Madonna performing “Rebel Heart” from her show in Turin in November 2015:

MADONNA: “Rebel Heart” Live From Turn

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