Sunday, November 18, 2012

LIVE FROM NEW YORK: Melismatic Turns 4 with the Queen of Pop

When Madonna says 'Turn Up the Radio', you better f*ckin' do it.
If any of you have glanced at your calenders recently, you probably already know -- tomorrow marks the fourth anniversary of Melismatic in cyberspace. I know. I feel so old. My Mama Melismatic decided that was a good enough reason to celebrate a week early with, you know, just a friend of a friend of a friend that the world over knows as the 'Queen of Pop'.

Yep, that's right, ya'll. Melismatic's 4th Birthday Party was spent at Madison Square Garden with Madonna.

It was my first time seeing the Queen in concert, and it was a certainly an experience to behold. It was one of the last dates in the US of her MDNA World Tour. The night kicked off with DJ Martin Solveig, whom I best know for his collabs with Dragonette rather than with Madonna, who managed to get the crowd pretty hyped. However, the momentum curtailed a bit as after his set, the stage was empty until 10:45PM when Madonna finally hit the stage. I'm well aware (now) that Madge never really performs until past 10PM but, you know, perhaps you shouldn't mark your tickets as 8PM then so your audience isn't just sitting around waiting for almost three hours. Just, you know...thinking out loud.

Once Madonna hit the stage, however, she was unrelenting. Given her expansive hit catalog, a lot of the show was mini mashups or songs within songs. While much of the set was taken from her latest album, MDNA, many of the classics were performed in full and remained highlights for me, most notably "Vogue", "Human Nature" "Express Yourself" (complete with Gaga "Born This Way" references and "She's Not Me" kissoffs) and her closer "Like A Prayer". To see those iconic pop songs performed live (yes, really live) was pretty overwhelming -- they don't call her the 'Queen' for nothing.

The majority of MDNA went right through me when I listened to it initially, but some of my favorite bits translated very well to the stage. This was especially the case with "Girl Gone Wild" (which mixed in "Material Girl" and "Give It 2 Me") and "Gang Bang", complete with Madonna 'hiding out' in a hotel room and shooting down quite graphically her troupe of dancers who attempt to sneak up on her. The initial first act is very gun heavy, which I was somewhat expecting, but it  blurred a bit by the middle section as she spoke quite solemnly of the events of Hurricane Sandy and the recent Election. Madonna's gonna 'express herself' the way she wants to, but to me, it seemed a bit...unnecessary. 

Despite the gripes some people have with "Gimme All Your Lovin'", I felt it was another great highlight of the show, performed with cheerleader/majorette outfits not totally unlike the music video itself. The call and response "L-U-V! Madonna! Y-O-U! You Wanna?" was actually used more than a few times during Solveig's set.

Two thirds of the way in, prior to performing a slowed down, intense version of "Like A Virgin", she stripped off her pants from a prior performance and encouraged the crowd to throw money at her because "What do you do when a girl takes her pants off? You throw money at her." I'll be honest -- Madonna looks incredible and has an insane amount of stamina to be dancing around the way she does during this show. I sometimes get winded walking up my stairs, okay? But that comment was unnecessary. Perhaps I'm reading too much into it (probably), but it kind of rubbed me the wrong way. Yes, she was donating all the money "thrown" to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, but if she really wanted an impact, she could have donated all of her proceeds from that concert in New York to charity. Honestly, she wouldn't have missed it.

Pity Party Moment: I found out a day later that the show was attended by Anderson Cooper and Kelly Ripa (and her husband Mark Consuelos). I wouldn't be surprised to find out more celebs were in attendance. It satisfied me a little because while we were waiting for Madonna to take the stage, we kept dreaming what if she brought out a surprise celebrity guest performer during the show? It is New York after all, and one of the last shows in the US. Wasn't Justin Timberlake just here? Or maybe even Rihanna, who had just performed on "SNL"? Or maybe she could convince Nikki Minaj to travel back to her hometown. Alas, there was no such luck. So imagine my utter chagrin when I found out during the second show a day later, she pulled onstage none other than PSY and performed "Gangnam Style" in a mashup with "Give It 2 Me". Madonna, waeeeeeee. Waeeeeee.

Bitterness aside -- given I've seen both Janet Jackson and Madonna live in concert, it's safe to say I've gotten all of my Pop Music Mentors covered. (Considering we can't bring Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston back, at least.)

Overall, it was a reminder to me of the pop shows I had come to know, growing up with a generation who was directly influenced and inspired by Madonna herself. She knows how to create a storyline show, something few artists are able to pull off anymore -- it's a sign of a dying breed within the pop community. Not only did the show have a structure and storyline with defined "acts", it was literally non-stop. When she wasn't onstage, something else was there to draw your attentions, including slightly disturbing hypermobile dancers, dancing on tightropes a la her Super Bowl performance, a folk Afghani musical trio or her moving set pieces themselves. It was truly something to behold.

As Madonna herself sang during her encore, It was a Celebration. Here's to many more years in the pop realm (for myself, obviously -- but for Madonna, too. Ha.).

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