Madonna kills it at United Center

Photo: Kevin Oliver

Balancing newer hits with vintage pop killers must’ve been difficult for the people who put together Madonna’s setlist for her recent tour. And at Wednesday night’s show, fans heard most of MDNA and managed not to skip a single classic. No fan left dissatisfied. Cutting many songs to only two choruses made room for more performance, more magic and more impact. So the two-hour set was jam packed with power, never enduring a dull moment in the nearly sold-out venue at the United Center.

With most of the crowd of fans from the Celebration generation, hits from Confessions on a Dancefloor and latest MDNA weren’t so enthralling. The stage was laced with black and white and red for “Vogue,” when the United Center finally filled with noise and motion. The show’s other peak happened as cheerleader Madonna stomped and twirled to “Express Yourself,” mashing partly with “Born This Way.” Whether in jest or in disdain, the moment wasn’t to be missed.

Opener, DJ Paul Oakenfold didn’t have much capacity to rev up the crowd, house lights still lit and top-40 remixes uninspired, so it was up to the Queen of Pop to energize the audience and get them excited.

“I haven’t had any Red Bull,” she said sarcastically, and paused. “This is all me and caffeine.” If this is Madonna high on caffeine, we never want to see her come down. She was revved up, and at age 54, showed no signs of slowing, even at the two-hours-long show’s finish. It was astonishing how she kicked just as high and never skipped a beat or paused to breathe. The diva went on stage after 10 p.m., but still livened the crowd, many of which had surpassed their bedtimes.

For the most celebrated pop star of all time, this woman acted less like a superstar and more like a voice with a platform. She’s known for her snooty character and fame-induced antics, but on Wednesday we were lucky to see a looser and more talkative Madonna.

Responding to fans in the front row, she joked “Hi, I love you too. Buy a T-shirt. I have four kids.” It’s rare for her to say much of anything to the crowd, and Wednesday’s attendees got to hear Madonna telling stories and empowering concertgoers with some words of advice: “Do me a favor and don’t vote for Mitt Romney.” She even said goodbye to the crowd after final song “Celebration” and a fiery dance break in high-tops. Madonna never says goodbye!

Holy Hell, was the “MDNA Tour” a spectacle. No image fell short of mesmerizing, no move was less than passionate and no lyric sung without meaning. Madonna clearly hired the greatest dancers, the most talented designers, and the best-equipped production team to put together this tour. She had multiple costume changes and set changes, from church scenes (“Girl Gone Wild”) to motel shootouts (“Bang Bang”) to avant-garde cabaret shows (“Like A Virgin”). The concept was ambitious, and though somewhat disconnected, extremely entertaining.

A Midwesterner herself, Madonna poked fun at our neck of the woods before slowing down to perform “Masterpiece,” another MDNA highlight. “I’ve always loved the way you people say words like ‘car,’ ‘shop,’ … “Madonna,” she embellished. At this point, the Queen had successfully engaged the crowd with her energy and amused folks with her sense of humor. Not halfway in, every fan’s dollar was well-spent. The rest was a shock-value show that couldn’t be priced.

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About Jason Radford

A lunatic for pop music. Gay Chicago resident imported from the Twin Cities. Visual designer, recent graduate and writer. Left handed.