Madonna may have toyed with dominance and submission on this year’s Hard Candy, but there was no question who was carrying the cane at the first New York City date on her Sticky & Sweet Tour last night (the trek’s second stop in the States). Emerging on a throne to the thumpy sound of “Candy Shop,” the 50-year-old singer kicked off a tightly choreographed two-hour set designed to accentuate her physical and musical strength and flexibility.
Skipping rope during a section evoking the 1980s New York where she began her career, Madonna pranced on the DJ’s table during a beefier “Into the Groove” as colorful Keith Haring figures spelled out the lyrics on giant video screens. With some chunky power chords, “Borderline” became a Cheap Trick-style power-pop song, “Vogue” was mashed up with the funky brass of “4 Minutes” and “La Isla Bonita” morphed into a Gogol Bordello-esque hoe-down featuring fiddle and accordion.
“You know who’s not invited to my party? Sarah fucking Palin” Madonna shouted after a montage of images that included Oprah and Bono urged “Get up — it’s time — your life — your choice.” As expected, she did permit another embattled mother to share her spotlight briefly: during a punchy “Human Nature,” Britney Spears paced a stalled elevator in a video. When the song reached its final refrain of “I’m not your bitch” Spears spoke: “It’s Britney, bitch!” and the crowd erupted. Kanye West, Justin Timberlake and Pharrell also made virtual appearances.
The focus quickly returned to Madonna, of course, and her impossibly muscled body. Strutting down the set’s catwalk during a defiant “She’s Not Me,” tearing out guitar chords at the noisy conclusion of “Hung Up” or reinventing older hits like “Like a Prayer,” she made a solid argument for her continued durability as the Jumbotron showed off her sinewy arms and steely legs. (She rarely sounded winded, though she was singing live.) Unlike the Confessions tour, where her dancers and costumes stood out fantastically, Sticky & Sweet was all Madonna, all the time. It was her Candy Shop, after all, and when the lights came up after a spectacular clubland rendition of “Give It 2 Me,” “Holiday” came over the sound system, and fans danced their way to the exits.
“Beat Goes On”
– “Die Another Day” (video interlude)
“Into the Groove”
“She’s Not Me”
– “Rain” (video interlude)
“Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You”
“La Isla Bonita”
“You Must Love Me”
“Like a Prayer”
“Ray of Light”
“Give It 2 Me”