Last Night: Madonna at Dolphin Stadium

Last Night: Madonna at Dolphin Stadium

Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Dolphin Stadium, Miami Gardens

I am writing this to you at 2 a.m. exactly, which is the time you get home if you live in Wilton Manors and go to Madonna concerts in Miami. Madonna does awful things to the Golden Glades Exchange. Madonna makes "lanes" meaningless and turn signals invisible. Madonna puts a look of terror on the faces of tollbooth attendants, who do not understand why 50,000 metrosexual, giddy, semi-drunk motorists should materialize simultaneously on the horizon at a few minutes past midnight.

But I understand. Now I do, at least. I've never been a big Madonna fan: I think her lyrics are stupid and self-serving at precisely the moment when she's trying to sound smart ("American Life"), and until tonight I didn't think she was much of a dancer. I thought she danced like your average Broadway chorus girl. Well, so much for that.

Madonna began the Miami show of her Sticky and Sweet tour at 10 p.m.,

about two and a half hours later than expected. My boyfriend and I were

in the tenth row, a little to the left of the catwalk, and between the

two of us we were already $63 in the hole: $30 for parking, and $33 for

three hot dogs, a pretzel, a Pepsi and a Bud Light. I remember

thinking: No way this is gonna be worth it. I felt vaguely resentful

right up until showtime, and even then I might have been skeptical for

a minute or two. But that's all. Writing this to you now, I'm

half-convinced that the Madonna show was the most astonishing concert

I've ever seen. Not in any musical way -- the mix was painfully

bass-heavy, at least where we were sitting, and during the dancier

numbers Madonna sang like she might have a chest cold -- but because of

the lady herself.

At 50, Madonna's body isn't merely in shape. 

After decades of ruthless discipline, Madonna's body -- just like her

career, persona, hair, and Western Civilization in general -- is less

something she was born with than something she has fashioned from whole

cloth, through nothing but the wermacht-like application of her will.

Her torso is tiny, a compact command center for her extremeties. Her

legs are the platonic ideal of legs. Her skin is perfectly smooth and

her face lovelier than ever. But a good look at any part of the package

will reveal the shifting bulges of massive muscle that lay just beneath

the surface, muscles bigger than nature intended. The muscles in her

thighs resemble big racing canoes, covered over with a membrane of

milky, feminine skin.

The concert hadn't been underway for

five minutes before I realized that these muscles are not for show,

like a body-builder's, but that they constitute part of the same

Madonna support-system as her hyper-competent, suit-wearing backup band

and dozen-plus genre-defying backup dancers. She cultivated them so she

wouldn't have to worry about them, so that her 50-year-old legs and

50-year-old arms would do precisely as she wished, no matter how

punishing her wishes might be. And they are very punishing. Madonna

came out dancing tonight, and she didn't stop until long after the

ordinary rules of biology would have dropped any sane performer.


Sticky and Sweet tour gives special emphasis to Madonna's new,

urban-influenced record, Hard Candy. I've heard it only once, so much

of the material performed tonight was only vaguely familiar. But in

keeping with the clubby, bump-and-grindish vibe of her latest songs,

Madonna's outfits on this tour are skimpy, and more sexual than

anything she's worn since the Erotica days. And the beats are fast. She

begins the concert from a chair, slowly unveiled from behind a series

of huge moveable television screens (which ultimately cohese behind her

band to form the backdrop of the whole set), and then she's up,

dancing, singing, dancing, singing, through a medley of songs so

energetic, with choreography so demanding, that she's plainly daring

her body to fail. Then she's gone, after a tricked-out version of

"Vogue" and twenty minutes or so of constant movement (that's a guess;

time loses meaning at a Madonna show). During the brief intermezzo, two

of her dancers, dressed as boxers, stage a gorgeously choreographed

match while DJ Enferno fucks around with "Die Another Day." She's

absent for only a minute or so, and then I see her beneath the stage on

a hydraulic lift. She's jump roping, out of sight of the audience,

expending energy with no clear purpose, suicidally confident that she's

got plenty to spare. The lift brings her up into full view, where she

jump ropes in front of the audience a bit before leaping into more

hyper-athletic dancing, at one point executing some a viciously complex

routine while double jump-roping with the apparatus held by two of her

dancers. This looked so difficult I assumed she'd have to fuck up, but

she didn't. It was like a little bit of Cirque du Soleil at Dolphin


There's lots to be seen at a Madonna show. The mostly

computer-generated background vids are busy and compelling (one of them

was done by Keith Haring), especially after Madonna temporarily slows

down mid-show to focus on singing. At the end of the stage's long

catwalk, there is a huge, hollow, cylindrical television screen, and

often Madonna or her dancers are half hidden within it while various

species of psychedelia pulse across the surface. There is the moment

when two dancers, dressed as samurai, execute a fiendishly difficult

pop'n'lock routine in perfect synchrony during "Devil Wouldn't

Recognize You." There is the old, apparently Mexican guitarist who

joins Madonna onstage for a long Latin-infused medley built around "You

Must Love Me" and "La Isla Bonita," and there is the flamenco dancer

who briefly accompanies him. But just like the demands of Madonna's

choreography, it's hard to see all the pomp and circumstance as

anything but an elaborate dare: in a stadium as huge as Dolphin, in a

crowd of 50,000+, will your gaze be drawn by the pretty lights, or will

you have eyes only for their tireless architect? Tonight, everyone

opted for the latter.

-- Brandon K. Thorp

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