Madonna, Hyde Park | New music reviews, news & interviews
Madonna, Hyde Park
The MDNA tour finds Madge disastrously sapping the joy out of even her most triumphant choruses
Madonna earned her place in the pop elite many years ago, and there are many reasons for this, which needn't be reduced into a list. Certainly though, a big reason will be the obvious - how much better her fans' lives are with her songs in them. And 65,000 of them turned up in Hyde Park to see the spectacle and dance to the hits. Her latest album MDNA may be a weak, disengaged affair with singles that have failed to chart well, but with a back catalogue like no other, there was a huge expectation that its best moments may be reinvigorated for the live setting - or at least swarmed with familiar highs.
The biggest surprise was that the MDNA tour felt even more disconnected from the fans than the album. The joy was sapped out of even her most triumphant choruses, with Madonna being dragged around in the lower regions of the stage, hidden out of sight rather than forward-facing, presenting and communicating her music. The presence in the set list of largely untreasured album tracks such as “Candy Shop” felt disrespectful; sure, Madonna’s in control, but whoever thought this would have worked made a decision out of touch with the fans.
It all felt like a huge gathering of fans watching a rarities DVD
“Like A Virgin” was reworked with Abel Korzeniowski’s "Evgeni’s Waltz", a piece on the soundtrack to her flop film W.E. - there was no post-song applause as the chorus drifted away incomprehensibly and a dancer pulled tighter on Madonna’s corset strings. The ABBA sample on “Hung Up” was similarly stripped, and the song was devoid of punch. “Gang Bang”, from the new album, was presented more as an extended video than something that might work for a live show of this scale. It featured Madonna contorting on a bed, laden with a gun while huge extravagant projections lit the screen with blood-like splatterings every time she pointed it at her lover. This absence of concept would have worked had the song been strong, but unfortunately it was the template for much of the set.
While the set list was never going to please every fan, this approach lacked a consistent concept to underpin its staunch disregard of the big hitters. Largely, it all felt like a huge gathering of fans watching a rarities DVD: there was a dry lack of atmosphere and connection. An obscure rework of “Open Your Heart” reduced a cheerful song to sinister background noise.
Only untouched versions of “Vogue”, “Human Nature” and “Like a Prayer” saved this show from being an utter disaster. On “Like a Prayer” the audience danced as if it was the first time they’d connected with music. Two hours passed like a black hole, attention never capitulating even for the multi-budget set. The set-closer “Celebration” (a modest song exclusive to her greatest hits collection of the same name) said it all. Rather than bowing out on “Like a Prayer”, she chose an unfamiliar chorus which just underlined the sense of disconnection. Is an acoustic album the next sorry step?
A fan near the front films 'Like a Virgin' in Tel Aviv on the MDNA tour
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
more New music
Everything from Emerson, Lake & Palmer to cutting edge techno reviewed on plastic
Grungy punk pop’s Dukes of Hazzard bring some funk to the party
An eye-opening look at the Cape Verde’s fusion of West African and Brazilian musical styles
A sense of communion at the North Atlantic festival where rain never stops play
Young band's posthumous release is a fitting epitaph
30 years on, the electro-pop duo still joyously push the show to new places
Further bleak and beautiful ambient-classical-drone textures
The Great Cornish poet set to music
Sensational performance from Lauren Laverne's Wonder Woman
George Thompson's debut is a clever and considered communion of cultures
Another outing for the essential album by Britain’s very own New York Dolls
Subtly original showcasing of saxophone multiphonics