I had to be dragged kicking and screaming to this one, I really did. The wife some how convinced me that spending over ₤100 each on tickets would be a good thing to do. Our seats were halfway back, up the side, and were easily worth more than all my previous Wembley gig tickets put together. I estimated I was in a 5% minority – 50% women, 45% gay men, the rest reluctant husbands/boyfriends. This was going to have be very very very good not to seem like a total waste of money, I mean, I don’t even like Madonna, save for (literally) a couple of tracks that I’ll put up with if in an exceedingly good mood.
The first thing that struck me on entering the Arena was the scale of the stage set – there was just so much of it. Walkways suspended from the ceiling, podiums, risers, platforms and all kinds of stuff that would have filled a fair few dozen trucks. She hadn’t even come on stage and already I was beginning to appreciate that she might have spent a fair bit putting this show on. Her actual entrance (fnar fnar) was a little underwhelming, I think I was probably expecting her to abseil down from roof, or fly in by personal jetpack, but she just ran on dancing, to Vogue. I have to say, I never would have thought that I would say what I’m about to say next. Ever.
From the moment she opened her mouth to the very last farewell, I was amazed, enthralled and utterly gobsmacked by how good it was. It took the concept of live performance to a totally new level for me – every song brought a different stage set, a different accompaniment, a different set of dancers and a different lightshow. Slick is not the word – a huge amount of set changes went on virtually undetected in between songs, for one song (don’t remember which) she wheeled out a troupe of skateboarders on a full size half-pipe. Her dancers (no idea if it was many dancers with few costume changes or few dancers with many costume changes) were, as you’d expect, ultra-professional, it was like the corps de ballet at the Kirov (not that I’ve ever been to the ballet, but you know what I’m driving at). The interplay between the live music and the video screen, during the one (no idea, can’t be arsed to research) featuring Missy Elliott, was just stunning. It was so slickly put together, it’s as if she was actually there.
Musically, however, the highlight for me was ‘Material Girl’. A track I usually wouldn’t give you tuppence for (like, er, all of them), Madge came out with a Les Paul strapped to her, apparently playing a new guitar riffy version all by herself. Not sure if it was merely for show, after all, she has been accused of lip-synching so miming the guitar is hardly beyond the realms of possibility, but it really didn’t matter. She rocked, the song rocked, and above all she looked great wearing a guitar. All in all, a brilliant, brilliant show, I left thinking my 100 pahnds was well spent. A bargain even, given the scale of the whole thing. Shows of this magnitude are not put on cheaply.