(seen at the performance on 5th February 2020).
Pop concert? Stage musical? Experimental Theatre? All of these, and more. Time and the tabloid press have, over the years, obscured a truth. That 24-year-old “Holiday” wonder is a unique talent that has only grown deeper and broader as decades pass. This production is, arguably, the very zenith of her experiences - astounding, astonishing and amazing in every single way.
Much has been made of this lady’s physical health as she ploughs through a touring schedule far younger artists would refuse even to contemplate. Fortunately for the monkey, not only did this date go ahead, but it was the “full show” complete with a literally riotous first sequence as repeated draft assassinations gave way to “God Control,” “Dark Ballet” and “Human Nature,” with a seriously used piano.
Two nods to classic hits “Express Yourself” (sung A Cappella) and “Papa Don’t Preach” in music, and we got to meet Madame X herself in video. That’s the key to the show; a woman can be anything she wishes to be and play many parts in a lifetime. Her exploration of the world, questioning, examining, learning, entertaining and being entertained is the journey Madonna takes us on throughout the evening. The hope is ultimately of change for the better, on a global scale.
For those seeing the “cut” version of the show, it begins here with “Vogue.” High staircases and projections, even higher energy.
A brutal interrogation in “I Don’t Search I Find” gives way to “American Life” with plenty of flags. A bit of a rest as a coffin is carried onto the stage – the party going on in the monkey's bit of the stalls suggested everybody from Donald Trump to Boris Johnston as occupants (both, was a popular vote) before highlight “Batuka” from Cape Verde featuring Orquestra Batukadeiras, an African singing / musician group.
Next, a tribute to late friend Isabel De Oliveira with a cover of “Fado Pechincha” before it all cranks up again. “Killers Who Are Partying,” a monkey favourite with slightly altered and pointed lyric, “Crazy” and to the monkey’s joy a snippet of its favourite “La Isla Bonita” then adding rhythm the pace with “Medellin” cha-cha-cha.
Total amazement then gripped the audience on this particular night as the star ordered all to sit (don’t make me tell you again – her poor kids!) and seated herself on the corner of the stage... before launching unaccompanied into “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina.” The reason became clear when she concluded by dedicating the number to one Andrew Lloyd Webber, who was in the audience that night. Unforgettable, and worth more than the ticket price for those moments alone.
Plenty still to come, with “Extreme Occident” picking up the pace before some talented backing performers provided a break during “Rescue Me.”
A projection of daughter Lourdes dancing kept the audience seated in hushed awe as through the scrim her mother chilled with perfect “Frozen.” The transition into “Come Alive” carried it through before projecting “Future” and the safe ground of “Like A Prayer.”
Taking us there, to the end? Almost... with curfew threatening, Madonna still had one number to go, and she wasn’t going anywhere without letting us hear it. www.instagram.com
The curtains coming across, the lights going up, the microphones switched off... nothing could stop “I Rise,” as we sang the lines as one. The entire cast flowed up the aisles to leave a satiated audience – most of whom would probably have sold their souls to repeat the experience.
Last year, the monkey saw several huge and impressive concerts in venues large and small, including the Palladium. Over the years it has always maintained that “Who’s That Girl” – Madonna’s 1987 tour was the greatest it has ever seen. This was easily its equal. Not a weak moment of dance, scenery, projection, lighting, sound or energy. Each moment considered for maximum impact and delivered as if it was the first and last time it would happen.
For those who can still obtain a ticket, this is one of those moments that will live forever in music and Palladium history. One woman, total control, a lifetime of skill creating perfection.
5 stars, standing ovation.
P.S. a nod to her "warm up" act getting everybody singing along to all the favourites, and also to the Lady herself for banning phones. We chatted, we bonded as we waited for the show to begin. Result, our corner of the stalls was "party central," truly "making" our night out perfect.