Elvis, for most of his life, was Elvis –– until he became, in the impudent vernacular of amateur historians, Fat Elvis, almost a separate entity and a symbol of talent in sad, lumbering decline.
Based on Monday night’s lively concert performance at AmericanAirlines Arena there should be no fear that its 54-year-old headliner may soon transition into anything other than Madonna, just Madonna.
In an astonishing display of stamina and sexy provocation, the singer ran through a fast-paced two-hour set of more than two-dozen songs in a performance that included multiple costume changes and daring dance numbers in which the star was tossed and contorted into shapes that would challenge the body of someone half her age. As she strutted the catwalks jutting into the audience, or popped out of a hole in the stage in a new, skin-baring outfit, Madonna again displayed the sexy muscularity, energetic showmanship and boundary-pushing cheekiness that have been her trademark for nearly three decades.
There may have been some added pressure on Madonna to bring her best for the show, which will be repeated at the AAA on Tuesday night. The concert was being shot in 3-D for an upcoming DVD, and the extra energy the film crews sought was in short supply when the singer finally hit the stage just after 11:20 p.m. By that time, nearly two unconscionable hours after opener Paul Oakenfold had finished, the spaces between each time-killing song on the arena sound system were being filled by impatient boos and a chant of “Bullshit! Bullshit!” You can only watch gay men in skinny jeans bumping rumps with carefree cougars to “Sexy Back” for so long.
Madonna arrived on a stage filled by a mystical haze of smoke, robed monks and the deep rumble of Gregorian chants. But the singer quickly exploded this solemn scene with the frisky dance number “Girls Gone Wild,” from her new “MDNA” album. Clad in towering black heels, black leather top and rock-hard legs seemingly painted in black lacquer, with six bare-chested male dancers dragging her through a series of sexy poses, Madonna as fashionable, powerful, but vulnerable sex toy was an ongoing theme for the night.
The singer leaned on “MDNA” for about a third of the set list, with many of her biggest hits getting quick medley treatments or new, modern renditions. She had help from Kalakan, a trio of Basque singer-musicians from northern Spain, most notably on their treatment of “Open Your Heart,” which evolved into a spirited gypsy hoedown. It was one of many songs in which the singer’s extraordinary team of dancers and choreography was on fine display.
Other highlights included a poignantly reimagined version of “Like a Virgin,” with Madonna in nylons, briefs, corset and an architectural bra that suggested Gaultier’s famed dual cones. Astride the instrument as a lone pianist played the pop trifle as a solemn elegy, Madonna laid bare all the emotion of being “touched for the very first time.” Many catcalls and sexy whistling ensued.
A stylish version of “Vogue” got an enthusiastic response, as did the tortured “Love Spent,” in which Madonna’s strip-tease prompted fans to throw many a dollar bill onstage. There also was a spirited “Express Yourself,” with its sexy drum major motif and drummers hanging from the rafters (and, yes, Madonna can handle a baton).
At around 1:15 a.m., when fans’ stamina seemed to be flagging, Madonna followed a Kalakan-aided version of “I’m a Sinner” with a rousing gospel take on “Like a Prayer,” with three dozen singers swaying behind her as she raised the dead. As the lights came up the crowd took to their feet in unison for a moving, sing-along, clap-along moment. The power of “Prayer.”
IF YOU GO
The singer performs a second sold-out show on Tuesday at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, with opening act DJ Paul Oakenfold. Tickets: $62.50-$386.50. Info: Ticketmaster.com.
Sun Sentinel photo/Robert Duyos