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Concert Reviews:
Madonna celebrates Obama, Detroit in homecoming concert

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Friday, November 9, 2012

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DETROIT -- A Madonna show is usually a pretty reliable party.

Bring her back to her home town and it's even moreso.

And have it the just after a presidential election that her candidate won and, in the Michigan native's own words, it's time to celebrate.

The Bay City-born Rochester Adams High School grad told the near-capacity crowd at Joe Louis Arena on Thursday night, Nov. 8, that she was "ecstatically happy to be here" -- and not just because it was a homecoming. An outspoken supporter of President Barack Obama throughout this year's campaign, she exulted in his victory during the show -- a characteristically theatrical song, dance and visual spectacle -- telling the crowd "Let's embrace him. Let's be happy." And Madonna had something to say to those who didn't feel the same way -- and let it be known with clearly audible boos.

"What's so great about the United States of America is we live in a democracy," she admonished. "You can boo all you want, but...I've been around the world, and there are a lot of countries out there fighting for that right. Whether you got who you want or not in the White House, at least you had the privilege of voting. That's what makes the United States of America great. We can choose...Don't be haters."

She also noted that her father, Tony Ciccone, was in the arena; "We don't have the same political opinions and we still love each other."

Nevertheless, the two-hour show was mostly a love fest between Madonna and her fans -- who hung in despite a late start time (10:45 p.m.) that was unconscionable for anyone not named Axl Rose. The latest stop on her worldwide MDNA Tour showed that nearly 30 years after she first titillated pop culture Madonna still has the capacity to provoke in the most entertaining fashion, with a carefully paced, opulently staged and intricately choreographed series of production numbers, most of which showcased Madonna's 24 dancers -- including son Rocco Ritchie, who did breakdanced during "Open Your Heart."

The show began in "church," with Gregorian chants and confession rituals blasting over the P.A. while dancers dressed as monks prepared for Madonna's arrival. After a thumping "Girl Gone Wild" that included snippets of "Material Girl" and "Give It 2 Me," Madonna pulled out the guns -- literally -- for "Revolver" and "Gang Bang;" the latter, with a blood-splattering body count that would make Tony Soprano proud has been causing worldwide controversy but was actually one of the show's less remarkable moments, dragging on well after Madonna made her point. A stripped-down and slowed-down "Papa Don't Preach" was also a speed bump, but "Hung Up," with Madonna and her dancers nimbly slacklining, was a dazzling, athletic exercise.

The first real high point was "Express Yourself," a marching-band-on-steroids exposition with a baton-toting Madonna leading a huge ensemble that included drummers hanging from the ceiling -- and slyly slipped in a bit of Lady Gaga's "Born This Way," which Madonna has widely criticized as a lift of her song. "Give Me All Your Luvin'," which followed, was another martial-rhythmed delight, and the center of the show also stayed strong on the musical tip with a trio of musicians from Afghanistan's Kalakan village bringing a fresh, central Asian flavor to a rhythmic "Open Your Heart" and "Masterpiece," which included video footage from "W.E." -- the Madonna-directed film she wrote it for -- and which she dedicated "to all my fans in Michigan because this place made me who I am, a hard workin' girl."

"Human Nature" featured Madonna dancing around a half-dozen moving mirrors, while "Like a Virgin" and "Love Spent" found her stripping down to her lingerie on the point of the stage that jutted into the middle of the Joe Louis floor, encouraging fans to throw money just like they would for any stripper -- except in Madonna's case it was going to be donated to superstorm Sandy relief. An exuberant "Like a Prayer" put the whole company in choir robes, while the show-closing "Celebration," with the dance troupe playing like DJs, was another Obama moment with everyone sporting special Election Day T-shirts from Madonna's show that night in Pittsburgh.

Madonna did, by the way, declare it was great to be home and predicted that "Detroit is going to come back -- I feel it in my bones," which will certainly curry favor for the next time she chooses to make another trip home.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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