Sunday, March 13, 2016

Review & Set Lists: Madonna's Two Nights at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne

by Paul Cashmere, Noise11

Night 1

When you are the person setting the benchmark then everyone has to rise to your standards. At 57 years old, Madonna is the greatest pop star on the planet. The Rebel Heart show in Melbourne was precision pop perfection.

I’m amazed that reviews out of New Zealand last week painted this show as confused. I think the New Zealand reviewers may have been sucking down a few too many Steinlagers before seeing the show.

I admit I had reservations about this tour based on A: Seeing the new music heavy setlist (and Rebel Heart is, at best, an average album) and B: Reading the early reviews. You can cast your fears aside. This show is one of the greatest pop music events of all-time. Madonna is truly the Queen of Pop.

Every song comes alive in this show, including the messy Rebel Heart album songs. Live Madonna rules the stage. On record she has failed to challenge herself since the 2000 album Music, instead relying on the latest ‘go-to’ producer of the day to deliver her newest sounds. Live, that all goes away.

Madonna was 20 years overdue revisiting Australia. This in only her second ever tour and she knows it. “You’ve waited for over 20 years. What the fuck is wrong with me”, she told the crowd.

Using the F word frequently became all part of the performance. The show had enough “fuck yeahs”, “fuck fuck yeahs” and “fuck fuck fuck yeahs” to fill a footy show. Madonna was in party mode and that put the audience at ease. She even tried out a few jokes like “What’s a deer with no eyes?”…“No eye deer” and “How do you get a pop star pregnant?” … “You fuck her”. Well, I laughed.

The most intimate moment of the show was her call-out to Molly Meldrum who was sitting in the audience. Madonna dedicated Take A Bow to Molly. The song live is a rarity for Madonna. She has only ever performed it 13 times in total including tonight. “I fucking love you,” Molly yelled into the microphone, continuing the spray of F bombs for the evening.

The show visually itself is theatrical excellence. The sets, the effects, the dancing, the acrobatics are as good as the best Broadway musical. Madonna is not great by accident. This is a highly rehearsed, well structured, brilliantly thought through show that only months of planning and practice can produce.

Throughout the comedy and novelty there were also thought-provoking moments. Madonna takes the lunacy of the Catholic Church to task brilliantly in with her pole dancing nuns and overly fertile reverends. Its hideous practices deserve to be questioned. The music world once used to be the pulse of provoking thought. Madonna delivers her sermon about society in a way that might make you chuckle, it may make you cringe, but it certainly makes you question what we are told is the truth.

The second half of the show got a lot looser with Madonna questioning some guy in the audience called Jake about marriage possibilities. Turns out he was a singer by trade and you can’t have two of those in the family. And how the hell did reality contestant Courtney Act get on stage? Was that staged? He was the ‘unapologetic bitch’ for Unapologetic Bitch. Madonna didn’t seem to have any idea who he was so maybe, just maybe, it was for real.

The Rebel Heart tour is far greater than ticket sales would indicate. Australians were nervous about buying a ticket considering the huge time gap since Madonna’s last tour, the ticket price and the ‘on paper’ impression this setlist gives. Let me cast your fears aside. This is one of the best pop shows you will ever see. Madonna is as great now as she has ever been. Sure you won’t get the greatest hits but Madonna has never done a greatest hits show. Madonna live is about capturing where this artist is musically today and Madonna is still at the top of her game.

The Rebel Heart album may have been a dog’s breakfast of an album but the Rebel Heart tour is Madonna at her relevant best.

Night 1 Set List

Main Set

  • Joan of Arc/Samurai section
    • Iconic (from Rebel Heart, 2015)
    • Bitch I’m Madonna (from Rebel Heart, 2015)
    • Burning Up (from Madonna, 1983)
    • Holy Water (from Rebel Heart, 2015)
    • Vogue (from I’m Breathless, 1990)
    • Devil Pray (from Rebel Heart, 2015)
  • Rockabilly Meets Tokyo section
    • Body Shop (from Rebel Heart, 2015)
    • True Blue (from True Blue, 1986)
    • Deeper and Deeper (from Erotica, 1992)
    • Heartbreak City (from Rebel Heart, 2015)
    • Love Don’t Live Here Anymore (from Like A Virgin, 1984)
    • Like A Virgin (from Like A Virgin, 1984)
  • Latin/Gypsy section
    • Living For Love (from Rebel Heart, 2015)
    • La Isla Bonita (from True Blue, 1986)
    • Take A Bow (from Bedtime Stories, 1995)
    • Rebel Heart (from Rebel Heart, 2015)
  • Party/Flapper section
    • Music (from Music, 2000)
    • Send In The Clowns (Stephen Sondheim cover)
    • Candy Shop (from Hard Candy, 2008)
    • Material Girl (from Like A Virgin, 1984)
    • La Vie En Rose (Edith Piaf cover)
    • Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend (Carol Channing/Marilyn Monroe cover)
    • Unapologetic Bitch (from Rebel Heart, 2015)
  • Holiday (from Madonna, 1983)

Night 2
Madonna replaced her Molly Meldrum “love fest” with Fever at her second Melbourne show last night.

Molly wasn’t at the second show so the revolving section of the performance changed slightly with Take A Bow replaced for Fever and Like A Prayer, dropped from the previous night, was also back in the show.

Night 2 Set List

Main Set
  • Joan of Arc/Samurai section
    • Iconic (from Rebel Heart, 2015)
    • Bitch I’m Madonna (from Rebel Heart, 2015)
    • Burning Up (from Madonna, 1983)
    • Holy Water (from Rebel Heart, 2015)
    • Vogue (from I’m Breathless, 1990)
    • Devil Pray (from Rebel Heart, 2015)
  • Rockabilly Meets Tokyo section
    • Body Shop (from Rebel Heart, 2015)
    • True Blue (from True Blue, 1986)
    • Deeper and Deeper (from Erotica, 1992)
    • Heartbreak City (from Rebel Heart, 2015)
    • Love Don’t Live Here Anymore (from Like A Virgin, 1984)
    • Like A Virgin (from Like A Virgin, 1984)
  • Latin/Gypsy section
    • Living For Love (from Rebel Heart, 2015)
    • La Isla Bonita (from True Blue, 1986)
    • Fever (from Erotica, 1992)
    • Like A Prayer (from Like A Prayer, 1989)
    • Rebel Heart (from Rebel Heart, 2015)
  • Party/Flapper section
    • Music (from Music, 2000)
    • Send In The Clowns (Stephen Sondheim cover)
    • Candy Shop (from Hard Candy, 2008)
    • Material Girl (from Like A Virgin, 1984)
    • La Vie En Rose (Edith Piaf cover)
    • Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend (Carol Channing/Marilyn Monroe cover)
    • Unapologetic Bitch (from Rebel Heart, 2015)
  • Holiday (from Madonna, 1983)