Saturday, at the first of two concerts at San Jose’s HP Pavilion, Madonna showed the near-capacity crowd exactly why she was the most enduring star of the video age. For nearly two hours, the 54-year-old dynamo out-performed the gaggle of dancers half her age (and sustained a forehead gash from her guitar in the process) and outshone the varied multimedia spectacles that accompanied each song, from the murder-noir hotel set of “Revolver” to the catwalk-video combo of “Vogue”.
In fact, her palpable charisma alone seemed to buoy the performance, which leaned a bit too heavily toward her recent, mostly homogenous EDM material, especially her dark, divorce-inspired MDNA selections. Any artist deserves kudos for living in the now, but Madonna only offered up a handful of actual hits, including a rare “Everybody” to commemorate the debut single’s 30th anniversary and the show’s highlight “Human Nature”, which ended with a g-string-revealing strip tease downstage.
Sadly, the other few fan favorites were squandered in new arrangements, like the lone piano telling of “Like a Virgin” that never achieved liftoff. Shrieks of joy that met the beginning of “Papa Don’t Preach” became groans of disappointment as the classic was cut short, Prince-style, before the lyrical payoff “I’m keeping my baby” was even once uttered.
Yet all was forgiven by the penultimate number “Like a Prayer”, which got the crowd jumping with its live choir and Victorian high drama. The iconic pop singer still knows how to satiate an arena-sized audience with the just the right mixture of high-energy choreography, theatrics, and live singing. But with three decades of hits—and the expectation that comes with $375 tickets—Madonna needs to start flexing her repertoire muscles as much as her impressive biceps.
Photos and review by David Sason