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Concert Reviews:
Madonna Returns Triumphant At Ford Field

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Wednesday, November 19, 2008

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DETROIT -- Towards the end of her concert Tuesday night (Nov. 18) at Ford Field, Madonna beseeched her fans to keep clapping in time as she vamped out of her 1998 hit "Ray of Light."

"I don't come home very often," the Bay City-born, Pontiac- and Rochester-raised multi-media star shouted. "So please, make a big deal out of it."

But the big deal was really made by Madonna and her opulent Sticky & Sweet Tour production, a nearly two-hour song, dance, light and special effects confection that lived up to its billing as "a rock-driven dancetastic journey" and made for a happy homecoming party indeed.

Tuesday's show was the 50-year-old Madonna's first in the metro area in more than seven years, since her Drowned World Tour played two nights in August of 2001 at the Palace of Auburn Hills. The absence combined with the cold, hard reality of Detroit's current economic climate certainly put a chill as stiff as the outside temperatures on the event; the crowd of 30,000 was a far cry from capacity, and the football stadium's upper level was curtained off, with fans who bought the cheap seats relocated to other abundantly available areas.

But that didn't seem to dampen anybody's spirits on Tuesday -- least of all Madonna's, as she took several opportunities during the show to profess how happy she was to be back in the city she left 30 years ago for New York and subsequent superstardom. Early in the show, during the song "Human Nature," she announced "Why should I be sorry? I'm from Detroit!" Later, as she began Evita's "You Must Love Me," Madonna noted that "I want to take a second tonight to say there's no place like home" -- though a row of fans in front of her responded with signs declaring "Toronto Loves You."

And during the "Ray of Light" vamp she proudly told the crowd "see, you can take the girl out of Detroit but you can't take Detroit out of the girl, 'cause a Detroit girl don't take s*** from anybody!" Despite an unconscionable start two hours after the posted 7:30 showtime, the Ford Field crowd certainly made Madonna and her entourage -- a five-piece band, two singers and 16 dancers -- feel welcome, and in return she delivered a spirited and inventive evening of Sticky & Sweet's aural and visual candy.

Each of the 23 numbers were just that, elaborate production pieces employing strenuous choreography and dazzling visual accompaniment that ensured there was something to see from every angle of the stadium. Madonna and her troupe flitted between the main stage and a second platform that they reached via a sleek white roadster during "Beat Goes On" and by conveyor belt during "Heartbeat." Though she sang that "my sugar is raw" in the opening "Candy Shop," the show was all about precision and polish as she tauntingly danced among four vintage Madonna wanna-bes during "She's Not Me," sang "Devil Wouldn't Recognize You" atop a grand piano while encased by a circular screen and joined the Romanian Kolpakov Trio for gypsy-styled renditions of "La Isla Bonita" and "You Must Love Me."

The show was without the gratuitous sexual provocation that was once Madonna's stock in trade -- and didn't suffer without it -- while in the wake of the U.S. presidential election her politically charged video interlude "Get Stupid" was shorn of images of George W. Bush and John McCain but ended with a photo of President-elect Barack Obama. She also brought some of the individual songs' guests -- including Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, Timbaland and Justin Timberlake -- to the show via video duets.

The musical performance held its own amidst the visuals, too. "Vogue," "Music" and "Like a Prayer" were dressed up with clubby, remix-style beats, while Madonna -- taking periodic breaks from dance routines that would tax someone half her age -- played guitar on a rocking treatment of "Human Nature," a punky-styled "Borderline" and a moving "Miles Away," among others. She also held a playful "request" segment, checking out signs that fans brought in bearing their wishes before leading a call-and-response rendition of "Material Girl," commenting afterwards "How did I become known for THAT song? I am SO not..."

After sporting nine different outfits during the show, Madonna had one more oldie up her sleeve at the end of the night; 1983's "Holiday," her first her first Top 20 hit and a call to "celebrate" -- a fitting close for a prodigal's return after staying away for far too long.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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