Friday, June 28, 2013

MDNA Tour - Review

So, I just spent two hours watching the MDNA tour film from Epix. And quite frankly, wow.
For a person who didn’t have the option of seeing this show, I can say that after watching this show, I feel like I have missed out.
Before I get into the nitty-gritty, I’m going to be a hypocrite. I’m mentioning Madonna’s age. 54. At this age, most singers/ artists when they put on a show, they begin to slow down, walk around the stage and shake a hip here and there if it’s a boppy number (see Tina Turner or Cher). At 54, Madonna should be commended for her ability to still put on such a thoughtful, detailed and high-energy show. Not to mention her ability to perform this show 88 times.
I did all I could to not watch the whole show on YouTube when people started posting their videos. I looked at some clips, and absorbed dozens of photos, but nothing really prepared me for the whole thing.
Madonna said of the show that it was “a journey from darkness to light”. That said, the show starts off quite…rough. Even by Madonna’s standards. She’s been known in previous tours to be edgy, or poignant on matters of human nature (not the song, though it does appear this tour) and spirituality. The first section of the show is dark. Darker than Madonna’s come up with for a long time. When I say dark, I mean thematically. And when I say rough, I mean physically. It is violent. Labelled ‘Transgression’, the first section of the show sees Madonna fighting/ killing off assassins in ‘Gang Bang’ and succumbing to torture by captors through ‘Hung Up’. You almost begin to feel the darkness.
The next section, ‘Prophecy’ sees Madonna expressing love, as in finding love in someone else as something that can save her from the darkness. She does this in a more uplifting way from throwing cheerleader’s baton and pom-poms, to guitar riffs, to doing a mash-up with French-Basque band Kalakan Trio.
The third section, my favourite section, ‘Masculine/Feminine’, begs the audience to question the roles people have in relationships and what role does sex play in society? Simplified, this section is classic Madonna reminiscent of the Blond Ambition tour (1990) or the Girlie Show (1993). This time, it’s sexier, classier and surprisingly more emotional. For me this is the emotional high-point of the show. ‘Vogue’ and the sexy mash-up of ‘Candy Shop’ and ‘Erotica’ are playful and sexy. But it moves quickly onto ‘Human Nature’ where Madonna starts tearing off her clothes, ending in a haunting rendition of ‘Like A Virgin’ and ‘Love Spent’. It feels like just the right amount of dramatic tension for the show. It would almost be as if Bette Davis had a song to sing at a piano bar in the film ‘All About Eve’, lamenting all that she no longer has, as a result of her femininity.
The interlude, a remix of ‘Nobody Knows Me’ brings us back momentarily to the first section of the show. Violence, emotional, packed in a socio-political punch. I found this interlude, both disturbing and poignant. Words I’ve already used to describe past Madonna in this review. Quite frankly, Madonna at her best.
The final section of the show, ‘Redemption’ is the culmination of the previous hour and a half. It is the light we were searching for.  It is what comes after the violence and the darkness, it is what happens once we express our love for one another, it is what’s left after breaking down the boundaries of what society tells us we are. Happiness, Joy, Spirituality. All these things bound together in amazing choreography, and high-energy.
I’ve clearly thought about the show too much. But, onto the practical aspects of the show that I picked up throughout my watching. Okay, after the schamozzle of the vocal editing that happened with the Sticky & Sweet Tour DVD, I was a bit antsy about how they were going to edit the vocals this time. As adoring fans, we must accept that as time goes on, our voice…changes. And every tour, Madonna’s voice gets a little more dubbed or auto-tuned each time. We can accept that. But while her voice is good, by the Miami show of this tour, her voice was getting close to cactus. Which is why I’m glad that this time around, there was a healthy mix between her actual voice, her purposely altered voice (such as Revolver, Hung Up etc.) and plain old editing out her vocals with the studio recording. Good work there guys. My only complaint in relation to sound is that Madonna’s vocals were too loud, as a result you couldn’t hear the music very well. Lucky for us, we already know the music by heart.
My main issue of the film and what will soon (not soon enough!) be the DVD, is the visual editing. Now I knew going in that the footage wasn’t all going to be used from the Miami shows. I guess you could say that the MDNA tour is a proper film of the show, because it takes in shots from almost all the shows. But, I honestly don’t think this has worked in Madonna’s favour. First of all, it’s confusing to see shots from Miami, an arena where 15-20,000 people are watching, and then cutting to a shot from a stadium in France, where 60,000+ people are watching. I am all about consistency, and I thought the filming of the Confessions Tour DVD was the zenith of seamless cutting between shows to create a perfect DVD.
I guess the problem with Madonna is that she is too much of a perfectionist. Trying to use as much footage as possible. It’s like she’s cutting between 5 different shots for the same 3 seconds, just so we know that the footage is there.
Speaking of using footage, I was horrified to see my favourite performance/song of the show be mutilated in editing. The song of course was Candy Shop/Erotica. I cannot understand why they used footage from the L’Olympia show in Paris. The stage and set pieces were different to the rest of the tour, and so the endless cutting between the two gave me a headache. The stage for the L’Olympia show was tiny in comparison to the rest of the shows, ruining the atmosphere the stage was supposed to create. I guess the use of the L’Olympia show footage annoyed me more because it’s footage we have already seen. Everyone who is a fan of Madonna has seen the L’Olympia show. Recycling that for the DVD seems…cheap? I want my DVD to have footage that I haven’t seen before.
The only other real complaint I have in relation to the footage, is the insertion of the photo stills from ‘Like A Virgin’ and ‘Love Spent’. All I’m going to say is unnecessary. We’re already watching you do your thing, if we want photo stills of it, we’ll screencap it and reblog it endlessly on Tumblr.
Editing aside, I love this show. Madonna once said that her job was not done if people didn’t leave her show feeling any different; that if people needed to wake up. “It’s not enough to wake people up, they have to be given a direction. If they aren’t given a direction, they’re just going to fall asleep again.”
I think this could be her most consistent show to date and her most brutal attempt at waking us up.