1. Quote of the evening: Madonna, to muscle boy at foot of the stage: “Oh honey, you’re gonna have to go to the gym more if you’re gonna wear a shirt like that.” At this point, Madonna’s physique is beyond reproach — the python arms, the thighs that would crush your skull like a grape, an ass that’s stunning even from Section 106, so she’s certainly got room to talk. But it bears noting that the now 50-year-old pop goddess kept press photographers way back near the sound board, ensuring flattering mid-range shots of her face. Sayin’.
2. The set list leaned on the sweat-worthy, (“Into The Groove,” “Music,” “Candy Shop,”) and included an outstanding reworking of “Borderline” that turned the 80s megahit from a lovers’ plaint into a power-pop asskicker. Madge does well enough with guitars as musical accessory, but I still don’t quite buy her as a guitar player. Over two-plus hours, she led a dozen dancers through acts that included a Tae Bo striptease, Double Dutch in sky-high heels, and a gypsy hoedown, and a prowl around the stage in knee-high lace-up Christian Louboutins and red satin gym shorts.
3. For this Madonna lifer, the clear highlight was “She’s Not Me,” which turned from a spurned lover’s fuck-you to an ode to the diva’s own legendary metamorphoses, from “virgin” in a wedding gown to Marilyn wannabe to pinup girl to androgynous chanteuse. By the end of the song, she stood at the end of the runway-style stage surrounded by dancers dressed up as those various stages of Madonna, and dispatched them all one by one, as if casting off chapters of her own past, the women she’d been in other lives. It seemed fitting that this happened hours before Madonna’s divorce from Guy Ritchie was finalized, leaving her a single (if staggeringly wealthy) mom.
4. The camera has been Madonna’s only constant lover over her nearly three-decade career, and video screens rolled through an extensive library of iconography showcasing images of the many faces of Madge, cryptic Scripture quotes, groovy waterfall effects, even co-stars. Britney (bitch) made a digitized appearance on “Human Nature,” Pharrell cooed along to “Candy Shop,” Mr. West and Pharrell showed up for “Beat Goes On,” and Justin dropped in for “4 Minutes.”
5. There were precious few slices of spontaneity, but the unscripted moments were worth it. First, a shoutout to Philly-born drummer Brian Frasier-Moore, then an audience request from a pudgy dude who asked for “Dress You Up.” She delivered it, acapella, accompanied only by a clapping audience, and it was a refreshingly clean moment amid all the Hard Candy production. — AMY Z. QUINN
MADONNA: She’s Not Me
BONUS: That YouTube of Madge getting down with Gogol Bordello on “La Isla Bonita” at the Live Earth concert? Awesome. Last night’s way too-long, weirdly pan-cultural version with the Kolpacov Trio? Nyet!
BONUS BONUS: Yes, that’s Laura in the picture wearing the T-shirt she bought when we went to Madonna’s first Philly concert, back in 1985. You can’t see it in the pic, but she’s also rocking the BOY TOY belt buckle. Her 17-year-old daughter, who went with us, was appropriately embarrassed.