Madonna at Xcel Energy Center, 11/3/12

Categories: Last Night
Photo by Tony Nelson
With Paul Oakenfold
Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul
Saturday, November 3, 2012

Nothing came easy while Madonna performed at Xcel Energy Center Saturday. For anyone other than the ticket-holding masochists in the crowd, it was two hours of uncomfortable boot-licking. The few, hard-won pleasures came between long blocks of befuddlement and languor. And, maddeningly, it appeared to be completely by design.

"It's been a long time, Minnesota," she told us, in one of a few less-structured spoken passages. "It's been too long, Minnesota. Sorry it took me so long to come back." This was the first of two MDNA World Tour stops in St. Paul -- her last performance in the Twin Cities came in '87 -- and the 54-year-old pop icon had all of her stage faculties in order. She could still sing, move, proselytize, and churn up a crowd more ably than 99 percent of the today's Top 40 offerings, but often didn't deliver when it came to song selection or presentation.

See Also:
Slideshow: Madonna at Xcel Energy Center, 11/3/12
Madonna urges Minnesota fans: "Vote No on the Marriage Amendment!" [VIDEO]

Not to say that the two-hour expedition through Madonna's artistic stream-of consciousness was dull. Straight out of a Dan Brown wet dream, the ever-reconfiguring stage began as a cathedral with incense smoke puffing from a dangling golden censer almost as big as a Smart Car. The motifs on massive video screens and the rising stage platforms later shifted to a noirish Paradise Hotel room, a war zone tripwire-meets-tightrope set, a saccharine combo of marching band and Sunday comics, a melange of spooling cassette tapes, a tropical hut, a darkened cabaret, a cemetary, jostling VW buses, among other visual ephemera. And sometimes as many as a couple dozen dancers and musicians helped fill out these elaborate visions.

It was an absolute bludgeoning of costume changes, of motion, of the creative power of Madonna. "Don't go for second-best baby," is her telling line from "Express Yourself" -- one of the few songs in the set that traced back to the singer's first decade as a star. This was during the drum line portion of the evening (and when City Pages was permitted to take photos) and with a baton twirling in hand, she roused the crowd with a jubilant red-and-white troupe and even a little booty-clapping.

Photos by Tony Nelson
There was was nothing second-best about this moment in the night's chameleon act, but an intentional slide into the lyrics from Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" -- very similar melody, as you might recall -- planted the presumed heiress to her Madgesty's throne in mind from then on. Yes, it's known that Gaga's lifted liberally from this specific pop template for her whole career, but who wants to think about that when witnessing the resilient queen mother?

Sponsor Content

Now Trending

Minnesota Concert Tickets

From the Vault