Madonna prides herself on being called a performance artist, the singing-dancing star whose shows are more musical theatre than rock concert. In recent years though, the singer’s star quality has dimmed with lazy, imitative and uninspired performances like 2008’s Sticky and Sweet Tour and 2012’s Superbowl Half-Time Show, to name a few.
It’s a relief then that Madonna’s latest tour, the “Rebel Heart” tour, which she performed last Wednesday at Vancouver’s Roger’s Arena, is a rich, colourful and engaging experience. She opened to the march of samurai soldiers in “Iconic,” set the stadium ablaze with her electric-guitar solo of “Burning Up,” seduced the crowd with “La Isla Bonita” and gave “Music” an old Chicago jazz cabaret twist.
There was video, blasphemy and acrobatics galore, but it was in her more stripped down moments where Madonna really connected. Her performance of the new ballad “Heartbreak City” followed by 1984’s unreleased “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” held the audience rapt. Guitar in hand, she strummed the strings of the audience with “Secret,” “Rebel Heart” and her playful 1986 hit “True Blue.”
Her moralising on smoking and some of her cracks may have misfired, but this was a warmer Madonna wanting to have fun with her fans. The Ciccone sass is still there after 32 years. So too is her status as the leading performance artist of our generation. In closing with the perennial “Holiday,” the hit which first made her in 1983, Madonna proves to fans and critics alike that there is still more to this rebel heart.