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Concert review: Too much ‘Rebel Heart’ mars an otherwise engrossing Madonna show

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Madonna, performing Saturday night at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Photo: Mikayla Whitmore

Three stars

Madonna October 24, MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Madonna remains the ballsy legacy act that routinely—and generously—favors her most recent songs over the safe-and-easy greatest hits show. For this year’s trek, however, playing 10 songs from this year’s Rebel Heart was too much. The dominance of new material worked for 2001’s Drowned World tour, which almost exclusively spotlighted two of her best albums, Ray of Light and Music, but given Rebel Heart’s inconsistent songwriting and mismatched stylistics—Madonna’s vocals sound like a square peg being hammered into the trap, dubstep and dancehall tracks—it pockmarked an otherwise compelling and well-executed October 24 show at MGM’s Grand Garden.

Madonna’s ‘Rebel Heart Tour’

Four weaker Rebel Heart cuts especially plagued the first of the show’s four acts—the standard narrative structure of a Madonna tour—only memorable for the singer’s reliably fearless interpretation of religion and specifically her love/hate relationship with it. During the second act, visually represented by nostalgic motifs, her recent ballad “HeartBreakCity” got little attention and drew tepid applause, unlike the roars that greeted the first two lines of her 1984 cover of “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore.” Later, boring bonus cut “Rebel Heart” inspired more audience chatter, and the only satisfaction that came from “Unapologetic Bitch” awkwardly ending the main set was the arena airing of local duo Shelco Garcia and Teenwolf’s production work.

That said, Rebel Heart’s best (and best-received) song, “Ghosttown,” proved to be a new classic, partly due to Madonna’s full-throated performance. A few backing tracks aside, the singer generally displayed impressive vocal chops despite the show’s 135-minute duration and her 57-year age. She created genuinely intimate moments with her ukulele versions of “True Blue” and Edith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose,” each preceded by hilarious banter with the audience. And she also defied her age with assured footwork throughout, by her lonesome during a spare, hip-hop-influenced version of “Like a Virgin” and with her sizable dance troupe during rousing versions of favorites “Deeper and Deeper,” “La Isla Bonita” and “Dress You Up.”

It’s a shame the energy in the seats rarely matched that onstage, and Madonna frequently, and rightly, made her frustration known. Just what we’d expect from both Vegas’ comp-heavy crowd—and pop’s unapologetic bitch.

Setlist:

“Iconic”

“Bitch I’m Madonna”

“Burning Up”

“Holy Water” (mashed with “Vogue”)

“Devil Pray”

“Body Shop”

“True Blue”

“Deeper and Deeper”

“HeartBreakCity” (mashed with “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore”)

“Like a Virgin” (mashed with “Justify My Love” and “Heartbeat” samples)

“Living for Love”

“La Isla Bonita”

“Dress You Up” (mashed with “Into the Groove” and “Lucky Star”)

“Secret”

“Ghosttown”

“Rebel Heart”

“Music” (mashed with “Give It 2 Me” sample)

“Candy Shop”

“Material Girl”

“La Vie en Rose”

“Unapologetic Bitch”

Encore:

“Holiday”

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Mike Prevatt

Mike started his journalism career at UCLA reviewing CDs and interviewing bands, less because he needed even more homework and ...

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