By Corey Reed
The Air Canada Centre, in the heart of Toronto, was abuzz on the evening of October 5th. The soggy, foggy weather shrouding the skyline did nothing to dampen the spirits of nearly 15,000 excited concert-goers, who held tickets for one of the most hyped, heavily anticipated shows of the year. After her successful MDNA Tour in 2012, Madonna had recorded and released her 13th album, Rebel Heart, and was now touring in support of the explosive record.
Staff at the Air Canada Centre were simply not prepared for the cascade of energetic Madonna fans that had literally overtaken the arena – at least half of whom were dressed in costumes mimicking the complete spectrum of different eras of the Queen of Pop’s career. Once 7 pm rolled around, the gates opened and security scanned dozens of lines of attendees. Walls upon walls of Madonna merchandise were eaten up and yanked off the shelves. The sound of wallets opening and debit machines pinging nearly drowned out the excited chatter of the ticket-holders.
Arriving at their pre-selected seats, ranging in price from $110 to $1500, attendees were greeted with a truly monstrous stage, consisting of a rectangular main stage with a catwalk that took over nearly the whole floor of the arena. It formed the shape of a cross in the middle, and the far end consisted of a giant heart-shaped second stage, all lined in vivid multi-coloured lighting.
At 9:45pm (forty-five minutes late, as is typical Madonna fashion), the packed arena suddenly grew dark, much to the overwhelmed screams of the audience. Before they knew it, they were witnessing Madonna descending from the ceiling in a giant metal cage, surrounded by video screens and more than 20 backup dancers clad in samurai armour. Opening with the brand new track Iconic, she stepped out of the cage to an explosion of screams and cheers. Strutting the expansive catwalk surrounded by the samurai dancers wielding and twirling staves with crosses at the end, she sang flawlessly – it was clearly not playback. Then, to the pleased cheers from the audience, she was handed a black electric guitar, ripping into a heavy rock version of her classic hit Burning Up. Falling to the catwalk floor on her knees, she shredded a fiery solo in the faces of delighted fans.
Throughout the night, there were countless memorable moments – much of the time akin to a Michael Jackson or Cirque du Soleil spectacle. Literally everybody rose out of their seats, mouths agape, when she performed her new cut Holy Water, surrounded by scantily clad stripper nuns (yes, you read that right). At one point, Madonna herself climbed to the top of a cross-shaped stripper pole, smirking before landing (in black stilettos) on one of her nun dancers who had suspended herself halfway up. Literally surfing a spinning stripper nun, she continued to sing, breaking into classic smash Vogue before heading to the main stage to re-enact The Last Supper – where she was on the menu. It left heads shaking in awe.
Nobody was questioning Madonna’s vocal ability when she pulled out a ukulele and performed a heart-warming acoustic version of her smash hit True Blue. The same went for when she grooved down the catwalk to the heart stage during Deeper And Deeper, clad in rockabilly attire and backed by a small army of precision dancers.
The most powerful, striking moments of the evening were saved for the final hour. Climbing a giant spiral staircase that had descended from the ceiling to land on the heart stage, she belted out the new power-ballad Heartbreak City as a male acrobat flung himself about, yanking Madonna around as she sang while hanging over the rails into oblivion. Later on, after belting out a soaring performance of La Isla Bonita, came a Latin-infused rendition of Dress You Up, mashed with verses of Into The Groove and Lucky Star, complete with Frida Kahlo-inspired video backdrops and outfits.
Towards the end of the night, Madonna powered through Material Girl, which was performed live for the first time ever. She brought out the ukulele again for an incredibly intimate rendition of Edith Pilaf’s Vie En Rose that received a standing ovation. No playback here.
Clad in nothing but Swarovski crystals, she invited Nelly Furtado, who was attending, on stage to spank and fondle while performing new track Unapologetic Bitch. Closing out the show was her first ever hit, Holiday. Draped in a Canadian flag, she danced around the catwalk and stages flanked by countless partying dancers.
It was a night to remember. For all of the negativity regarding this music legend, it is understandable to have a biased opinion on Madonna already. This woman was performing as if her life depended on it, and enjoying every moment of it. Once you attend one of her spellbinding shows, however, you’ll gain the knowledge that she is performing purely out of love and talent. No auto tune. No trickery. Just Madonna as she has always been – whether you like it or not
Photo Credit: Corey Reed
An Ottawa-based writer, born in Cobourg, Ontario. A shortlisted winner of the 2014 National Capital Writing Contest, Reed is currently studying Professional Writing at Algonquin College to further hone his skills. His passions include ocean liner history, Art Deco design, fiction writing and everything to do with Stevie Nicks.