“I still believe in love — even if Barack Obama didn’t come to my show,” Madonna teased near the end of Saturday night’s concert at the Verizon Center. “Maybe I’m too provocative.” Like all her tours, Rebel Heart had its fair share of provocation, chiefly through repeated sacrilegious references to God and Catholic iconography.
But that’s always been Madonna’s cross to bear (and her bread and butter). This time out it was confined to the opening numbers. If you could look past it, as well as her overuse of war and violent imagery (Madonna is seemingly forever fighting someone, from God and Gaga to Guy and the media), you probably left charmed by the evening.
The Rebel Heart Tour finds Madonna at her happiest and most personable, and also in her best voice. In past tours she seemed to be performing on auto-pilot, but not on Saturday.
Edgy and sassy and unapologetic, Madonna once again proved her predominance in pop performance. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like her new album, even though it accounted for nearly half of the two-hour set. The truth is, few others working in pop today put on such a compelling and sensory-rich, top-notch theatrical production from beginning to end. Madonna makes her concerts feel like celebrations.
Near the concert’s end, Madonna settled, with a guitar, on a raised platform and sang the French classic, “La Vie En Rose” — which she dedicated to Obama — as if she were a bona fide chanteuse. “Everybody sing along!” she cooed playfully. She didn’t need the audience assist, as she perfectly conveyed the emotions of the song. It was just one example of how significantly Madonna’s musicality has improved over the years, even if her music has not.