Live to Tell
January 24, 2016
Live to Tell
I recall very well the last and only time that I had seen Madonna live before, it was May of 1985 at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago, as part of her first ever tour, The Virgin Tour, which promoted her first two albums, “Madonna” and “Like A Virgin”. I wasn’t a huge Madonna fan, but she had two opening acts that I really wanted to see, Run DMC and the Beastie Boys and I recall getting seats pretty close to see Madonna. At the time, I had no idea that she was on her way to becoming a cultural icon,
though she was already extremely popular. Flash forward 31 years and I never imagined I would be going to see Madonna again or that she would have maintained her popularity after all this time. But when tickets went on sale last year, I thought to myself that I really would like to see Madonna and I know that Kathy would as well, so I ordered tickets and finally, many months later we were in Miami to see the show.
1985- Like A Virgin tour
The show was at the American Airlines Arena, home of the Miami Heat, in downtown Miami. It was a crazy cold and blustery night with the temperature near 50 and high winds making it seem much colder, but inside the arena it was warm and packed crowded, as Madonna had sold out two nights at the AAA. Our seats were excellent and we settled in to watch the opening act, as it was. It was a DJ playing very loud, fairly obnoxious music with flashing lights and all the tricks, but it was just terrible. I would say the DJ was terrible, which is most likely true, but the real issue was the venue.
While DJs work in smaller venues and even in large outdoor facilities, the arena in Miami is like one giant echo chamber and the music was way too loud, with too much echo off the ceiling and walls and in something that I have rarely if ever seen, the place just about emptied out during the hour long set. It was horrible, the concourse was packed and almost impassable as Madonna fans tried to escape the DJ. I almost felt bad for the guy, but it just did not work at all.
We had been warned by numerous people that Madonna is notorious for being late to the stage, apparently last time she played Miami, she kept fans waiting over three hours, so I guess we considered ourselves fortunate when the lights dimmed and the show started just after 10 PM only an hour after the DJ stopped. The horror that was the DJ was immediately forgotten as Madonna was lowered to the stage in a cage while her many dancers all dressed as sort of Egyptian Knights of some sort performed the first of what would be many incredible production numbers.
It became immediately evident that this was way more than a concert, but closer to a Broadway Musical featuring Madonna as the star. The set was huge, stretching out the length of the floor with incredible staging complete with components that raised and lowered, numerous trap doors and all manner of the most current effects. The Rebel Heart tour, as Madonna named this current tour is her tenth major tour and you can tell she has it down. She still looks fantastic and her voice (which was no doubt aided by vocal tracks) still sounded really good.
The stage was amazing as well, One of the main features of the stage is a complex machine like structure which enables the whole stage to become mobile and assume numerous shapes and sizes throughout the show. It consists of a video screen that was interchangeable into the main stage as flooring, as well as used for creating an elevated 8 feet platform, or a vertical wall that can be tilted from zero to 90 degrees within half-a-minute, or used as an angular wall for Madonna's dancers to sway to and fro. Watching the intricately planned and performed use of the space, you realize just how amazingly difficult it is to put together a show of this magnitude.
There were numerous costume changes and acrobatics that were more like a Cirque du Soleil show than the average concert, but at the heart of it all was the music. Madonna has remained relevant and has kept releasing popular albums since her first one back in 1984 and the most recent stuff hold up remarkably well with those classic Madonna songs of the eighties. Also holding up remarkably well is Madonna herself, she sings and dances with the vigor of performers half her age and looks fantastic as well.
The setlist consisted of newer songs like the opener, “Iconic” and “Bitch I’m Madonna” to her classics such as “Like A Virgin”, “Material Girl”, “Lucky Star” and “Holiday”. Having lived for many years in Miami and having many friends at the show including celebs like Ariana Grande, DJ Khaled and Gloria Estefan, she decided to play a few special songs that are not part of her normal set including an amazing version of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” from the movie she starred in, “Evita”. She also played a great cover version of the classic French love song, “La Vie En Rose”. It was a fantastic experience and a great, great show.
Another highlight was the fact that it was the 10th birthday of Madonna’s daughter Mercy, and she was brought on stage to perform with Madonna for a song, get serenaded by the massive crowd singing Happy Birthday and to get presented with a cupcake and a huge gold chain from DJ Khaled. It was a cool moment and really seemed to humanize Madonna more than just about anything I have ever seen or heard about her.