Wednesday 18 July 2012

Madonna - MDNA Tour @ Hyde Park

"Immortality" is brazenly splashed across the huge screens.  It may seem bombastic, but Madonna's music has undoubtedly reached immortal levels - she's probably the most famous one-named music artist in the world.  "There's only one queen and that's Madonna" claims Nicki Minaj on I Don't Give A.  And in a cheeky nod to her contemporary rival, Madonna's performance of Express Yourself was mixed with Gaga's Born This Way followed by a swift "she's not me" - surely the musical equivalent of a middle finger.  Even son Rocco made an appearance, paraded on stage to represent the future of the Madonna clan.

Yet her MDNA tour, her first gig in the UK for four years, was far from a testament to her legacy.  As expected, the majority of the setlist was taken from her recent album and contained only a handful of the classics her eager fans were hoping for.  When she called for the audience to sing along to Turn Up The Radio, few knew the words.  Instead, they just left early, dejected.  And when Like A Virgin eventually did come, albeit in melancholic, slowed-down form complete with striptease, it did little but expose her incredibly weak vocal.  The atmosphere was one of betrayal rather than elation.

The anti-discrimination views and gospel preaching are Madonna's primary agenda, along with the production values.  Fittingly, following the release of her recent film W.E, the show had a flare for the cinematic, delivered episodically on the backdrop filling screens through impressively rendered graphics.  The religious opening, with bells tolling and Madonna arriving bathed in celestial light, led us into hell with Girl Gone Wild - undoubtedly the most popular of her most recent songs.  Gang Bang followed, complete with gun shots, monologues (taken from the song and now making cinematic sense) and choreographed fighting straight out of a Tarantino film.  The video for Give Me All Your Lovin' clearly inspired the next section with its cheerleaders and marching band suspended in mid-air, whilst Vogue marked a return to her monochromatic 90s sexual sophistication.  After some Bollywood ethnicity came the neon-soaked Celebration encore that was all modern disco.

The athletic choreography, rope dancing and technical effects served only to cover up Madonna's waning talents.  Much of the (occasional) singing was unashamedly autotuned, jarring with her guitar playing and attempts to be taken seriously as a musician.  Even her dancing consisted mainly of being dragged around on the floor by the other performers.  The show's lowpoint, though, was Masterpiece which slowed the show down to a crawl, complete with clips from W.E that only highlighted her pretentious vision.  Most criminal of all were the sound levels which were far too low.  This may have ensured the quieter, out of tune moments were thankfully hushed, but the louder beats lacked the impact they deserved.

Clearly immortality has a price - especially where tickets are concerned.  As Madonna continually strives to reinvent herself for the younger iTunes market looking for a quick 99p thrill, the live crowd is filled with older money-earning fans - fans who just want to hear Like A Prayer; fans who, above all the pretence, seriousness and religious views, want to see Madge let loose and have fun; fans who sadly left Hyde Park sorely disappointed.


Watch: The MDNA Tour continues across Europe and America for the rest of the year.