By Brian Ives
“Are you here to take risks?” Madonna posed this question to a packed crowd at her concert Saturday Night (October 3), noting that they were, after all, in Atlantic City (the show took place at Boardwalk Hall). Whether or not the audience were feeling risky — and many of them surely were not — Madonna certainly was.
At this point in her career, she could play to that crowd, and do it in her sleep: it would be the easiest thing in the world for her to do a greatest hits show, and add a perfunctory song or four from her latest album, throw in a few dance routines, and let the money roll in.
But bitch, she’s Madonna.
Her new album Rebel Heart is more than just a centerpiece around which she builds a tour and marketing campaign. Her new album is her artistic statement of the moment. Any older songs that happen to make the setlist, make it because they fit in to the narrative she’s building around her album. It almost feels like her classics have to audition for the show, along with her dancers and backing band. Nothing’s there unless it fits.
She’s been categorized, of course, as a pop artist, which is understandable because she’s logged an insane amount of top 40 hits over her career. But when it comes to the way she structures her show, she’s more like Bruce Springsteen or U2. It’s about the message of the moment, not about fulfilling the fans wishes. There’s no song she “has to” play.