Madonna then and now: impressions of a Straight staffer

I have to admit, I haven’t paid that much attention to Madonna lately. Other than the singles "Hung Up" and "Ray of Light", I’m pretty much in the dark about her music since—and surely I’m dating myself here—about 1989. So it was with a little bit of trepidation that I trundled off to the big show at B.C. Place last night.    

While I wasn’t familiar with a lot of the newer songs, the show was certainly an extravaganza. There were fantastic sets, great costumes, and amazing video with innovative projection screens. It was like a Broadway pop musical on steroids (fitting, considering she did manage to get in an Andrew Lloyd Webber tune, "You Must Love Me"). And whatever the evening lacked in spontaneity, it more than made up for it with grand spectacle.

Last night’s production was a fairly big contrast to the first time I saw Madonna live, at Seattle’s Kingdome in 1987. While she managed to put together quite a spectacle even then, it paled in scope with last night’s production. Even so, I found the earlier concert had more heart. The ”˜80s Madonna seemed much more open to the audience, much friendlier, and much more into having fun with the whole experience.

Last night’s Madonna came across as quite stern, and much less fun-loving. Perhaps being at the top of the pyramid for 20-plus years takes some of the fun out of it—not to mention being in the middle of a very messy and very public divorce.

Last night did have plenty of great moments, though. "Like a Prayer" was an impressive crowd-pleaser, as was a gypsy-themed version of "La Isla Bonita". The high point for me, however, was the reworked and hard-rocking version of "Borderline". Imagine Madonna channeling Joan Jett, then crank it up to eleven. It very nearly blew the Teflon roof off the joint, and it showed that Madonna can still rock out with the best of them.

And while she may not have played all the old stuff I was hoping for, I sure got my money’s worth.