By Manning Harris
The most famous woman in the world is coming to town. Madonna will appear at Philips Arena on Jan. 20. Atlanta is one of the final stops on her Rebel Heart World Tour.
I know, we can debate the “most famous” label, as well as almost everything about this singer, dancer, lyricist, and performance artist; it seems controversy and adulation have surrounded this performer for most of her 30-plus year career. But I’m in no mood for debate; I’m too excited about seeing her live for the fifth time.
“Rebel Heart,” the name of her latest CD, is her tenth world tour. She is the most successful solo artist in history when it comes to tours; for example, her 2008 Sticky and Sweet Tour is the highest grossing tour ever by a solo artist; and the second highest grossing tour of all time ($408 million in ticket sales).
From whence comes such success? I would say there are two reasons: To borrow Donna Summer’s phrase, she works hard for the money. Madonna is a perfectionist. Everything about her shows, from the lights, sound, choreography, set, concept, to the dancers (whom she considers actors) and execution is all flawless. Always. You know (if you’ve seen her before) you will get your money’s worth.
The second reason is that Madonna is, first and foremost, a showgirl (this is her favorite description of herself). She loves to perform, and until you’ve seen her live, you really haven’t seen the real Madonna. She started her professional training as a dancer, and the strict discipline that art form demands informs all her artistic choices.
In recent days Madonna said, “Seeing David Bowie changed the course of my life forever,” and she went further in her homage to one of her true idols. She saw Bowie when she was 15-years-old, and a whole new world opened up to her. One of the ways he influenced her was that Bowie saw music and performance as theatre. So does she. “I like to create personas and then the persona changes and grows into other things.”
I first saw her in August 2001 in her “Drowned World” tour. I remember the impact of seeing Madonna live was stunning; at first you’re overwhelmed by her sheer “legendaryness” and being that close to the star of all those amazing MTV videos, the best of which (“Vogue,” “Express Yourself,” “Like a Prayer,” you pick) are truly state of the art.
For the current “Rebel Heart” tour, she usually performs several numbers from the album (I still call them that), such as “Iconic,” “Bitch I’m Madonna,” “Holy Water,” “Body Shop,” “Devil Pray,” and “Messiah.” And then she reaches into her vast catalog of hits and selects certain favorites. These inevitably turn out to be crowd favorites, especially for long-time fans.
There are those who say Madonna is past her prime and should just hang it up. I say poppycock. Anyone who saw 2012’s MDNA Tour (I did) would say that’s pure foolishness and age prejudice. She’s in fantastic shape; her voice is clear and strong; and she’s the consummate performance artist (the showgirl, remember?). I for one can’t wait.
For ticket information, visit Ticketmaster.