After 23 years, the Queen of pop music graced Melbourne’s Rod Laver arena last night in a show that was nothing more than one giant fuck you. It was a fuck you to her haters, to her critics, to her fans and even to her dancers. Fuck you bitch, she’s Madonna.
At the risk of being berated by legions of Madonna fans, I want to cut to the chase – this show was weird AF. The world’s greatest living pop star, known for forging new pathways and breaking new ground has become nothing short of desperate for controversy.
Opening the show – a comparatively respectful 45 minutes late – with a dark little medley, complete with a dirty reverend and some holy water because FY church, it was everything you would expect from a Madonna show, except for well, Madonna. Less larger-than-life Queen of Pop, what we got was a bizarre Jessica Lange/Miley Cyrus hybrid, which isn’t entirely a criticism and complete with a brand new southern accent to boot.
It was easy to get the adoring crowd on her side though, whipping us into a frenzy with a LOT of “fuck yeahs!” and even an apology for what was a disaster of a performance at The Forum on Thursday. The excuse was only having 2 hours to rehearse – ah, 2 hours and 23 years Madge, c’mon.
Never billed as a ‘greatest hits’ tour, Madonna seemed far more invested in Rebel Heart tracks like Body Shop and Unapologetic Bitch than the classics, and they’re just not great. Vogue, Like A Virgin and Music were given the Rebel Heart makeover, put through the Madonna remix machine and coming out the other side a little worse for wear. Material Girl saved the day with a sexy, half beat take on the original almost making up for the omission of Like A Prayer – the stage was a cross for God’s sake – but you know, FY fans.
Moving from a kinky nun to a fully kitted Matador, Madonna delivered La Isla Bonita gloriously, with the band and dancers surrounding her like the backyard scene in Strictly Ballroom, you know where Paul Mercurio learns the Pasodoble? Which was fitting, because the entire concert felt like a mash-up of scenes from Baz Lurhman’s back catalogue. And I guess that’s what was so disappointing, the fact that we’ve seen all of this before. The Ringleader thing, the matador, the sad clown, it’s been done to death and we expect more from this incredible woman.
It’s one thing to want to see your favourite artist perform the classics, but Rebel Heart is so jam packed with awful cliche’s and awkward banter that even they could barely save it. The superstar invented reinvention, so while there was something incredibly satisfying about seeing Madge in all her crotch-grabbing, thrusty, IDGAF glory, when you’ve paid $500 for a ticket a little appreciation and respect for the fans that have put you on that stage wouldn’t go astray, and when they’ve waited over 2 decades I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
That said, the appreciation shown for an Australian icon left not a dry eye in the house. In what was without doubt the most touching moment of the evening, Madonna dedicated the stunning rendition of Take A Bow to the “first man in Australia to fall in love with me,” a cowboy hat in the front row hiding the crying eyes of Mr. Meldrum while the crowd erupted into chant’s of “Molly! Molly!”
ALL. THE. FEELS.
I can get over the strange, stampy choreography, the bizarre and somewhat offensive dialogue and the fact that she was admittedly only here because artists “can’t sell records any more” and the only way to make money is to hit the road – ouch? – but only because I’m watching fucking MADONNA.
And perhaps that’s how Rebel Heart is best summed up, it wasn’t good but it’s MADONNA, and we had a fucking ball.
Gallery: Madonna @ Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne 2016 / Photos By Kylie Carns