Madonna Wails on Sarah Palin
Madonna‘s final show at Madison Square Garden Sunday night — her last of four for the “Sweet and Sticky Tour” — was nothing if not wild and controversial. Madonna knows how to get a crowd talking and how to get attention. Having already taken shots at Sarah Palin earlier in the weekend, she came roaring back again.
Muscularly worked out to look like a female Jack LaLanne with a face lift, Madonna took an electric guitar, put it on a low rumble, and announced, “This is what Sarah Palin’s husband’s snowmobile sounds like when it won’t start up in the wintertime.”
Earlier, she mock yelled at the crowd for its apathy during a song: “Are you friends with Sarah Palin or something?” she shouted. The crowd roared with delight. Madonna knew it would wake them up.
A couple of days earlier, she’d said something similar, telling her New York audience: “Sarah Palin can’t come to my show!”
Palin didn’t come to the last show, but Kelly Ripa sure did. If she’s not on “Live with Regis and Kelly” Monday morning, it’s because she’s still singing at the top of her lungs to Madonna’s music in the front row. Around 11 p.m., Madonna briefly let her sing into her mike, too.
Also in the audience: Lindsay Lohan and Samantha Ronson, who sat still for most of the night. Chelsea Clinton arrived a few minutes before the show began, to cheers of “They should have elected your mother!”
How Kelly made it to the end will be interesting to hear, too, since the two-hour show, called for 8 p.m., didn’t begin until 9:45 p.m. When the show ended at 11:45 p.m., it meant all the union workers at the Garden received time-and-a-half pay for the extra time. This is why shows at MSG always end by 11 p.m. For Madonna, it was the fourth night in a row.
“We’re happy about it,” one of the regular security people told me with a big smile.
So what is “Sticky and Sweet” all about? It’s part gypsy caravan (“Isla Bonita”), animated Keith Haring cartoon (let’s hope his estate is paid for that), a little Kabbalah and light religious overview, plus Madonna stages a tribute to her own career as a faux Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute.
It’s also Madonna as a fashion designer, with a very complex stage set comprising a runway with moving walkway and a second “floating” stage that juts into the audience complete with a revolving turntable and 360 degree video screen hovering over it.
Yes, you see, money has been spent like crazy everywhere. The costumes, the lighting, the videos themselves — they’re all spectacular. And you get to see so many Madonnas — the one from “Evita,” another as Courtney Love, physical fitness trainer (she jumps rope wearing Linda Ronstadt‘s hot pants from 1976) and so on. She even sings “Borderline” as it has been interpreted by Rob Thomas on tour. It’s the endless presentation of a chameleon at work.
But what starts out as exciting and provocative becomes numbing after a while. For one thing, Madonna cannot sing. The whole show is done to complicated tracks, with hard-working backup singers really earning their pay. When she does take a chance, Madonna’s unprocessed voice is a helium confection right out of “Singing in the Rain.” Luckily, she only tries to “Sing” one song, “You Must Love Me,” from “Evita,” It was the one real moment of poignancy from the whole evening. And whoever mixes it live deserves a Nobel prize.
Still, you can’t help but admire her tenacity, her work ethic and stamina. On the video screens you can see the toll it’s taken on her body: she is zero percent body fat, with muscles pulsating out of other muscles. Her arms are roped with veins from weight lifting. Madonna wasn’t much appreciated by her dance instructors in school. Well, she’s taught them! Look at her now. She’s outdone everyone. No one else puts on this kind of spectacle.
By the way: Live Nation should have no trouble recouping their $120 million investment in her. It’s clear that Madonna’s future is live performance. And she’s evolving. Much of the show is about her body covered up in costume. Even she knows that it’s time to pass the torch. She should be able to do three or four more tours like this in this decade, with CDs as loss leaders. The audience is never going to leave her if Sunday night was any indication.