Madonna embarked on her Rebel Heart World Tour in 2015 and she performed an amazing 82 shows across North America, Asia, Europe and Oceania. The tour was her 10th to date and was in support of the album of the same name, which featured the singles Living For Love, Ghosttown and Bitch I’m Madonna featuring Nicki Minaj. Various stops on the tour were filmed and fans can now relive the epic show in the comfort of their own home by picking up the Blu-ray and DVD release.
When it comes to touring, Madonna always puts on a spectacular show. She’s unparalleled when it comes to the sets, choreography and surprises throughout her performance. Some critics would like to have you believe that Madonna is a shadow of her former self and that’s simply not true. As a performer she continues to push the envelope and redefine what it means to be a successful woman in a male dominated industry. The Rebel Heart Tour is now different and the show is full of religious imagery (which of course proved controversial), bad language, simulated sex acts and of course fantastic music.
The set list for the most part is pulled from the Rebel Heart album. Madonna peppers it with selections from her back catalogue but the performances of those songs are remixed to fit into the overall theme and sound of the show. Vogue is mashed up with Holy Water, True Blue is given a ukulele makeover and Like a Virgin is almost unrecognisable musically from its original form.
The show opens with Iconic, a song that features a spoken part from Mike Tyson and it’s one of the boldest songs from the Rebel Heart album. It’s a superb start to the show and the spectacle kicks in immediately with detailed costumes, impressive choreography and stunning sets. Highlights across the performance include Rebel Heart, where Madonna performs while playing the guitar, a spine-tingling rendition of HeartBreakCity that takes place on a staircase as Madonna spars with one of her male backing dancers, and La Isla Bonita, which is turns the stage into a party.
Madonna splits the show into segments with the icon taking on a variety of roles including a samurai, a geisha and a jazz lounge singer. As always she fully embodies whatever character she’s playing and she has a lot of fun with it. I was a bit baffled however as to why one of the female backing dancers performed with her breasts on display for the majority of the show. I’m not being a prude but I didn’t see what it really added.
While the show is very good and Madonna is on top form, the editing and some of the directorial decisions are a bit odd. Frequently throughout the show there are unnecessary slow-motion moments, which jar the performance from the audio and make it look like Madonna isn’t actually singing. Projections flash up on the screen frequently and they are very distracting. There are also several moments that splice together performances of the same song from different shows and I found that a bit bizarre. Madonna’s costume and hair would change within the span of a verse.
Perhaps the most disappointing part of the release is the sound mix. Half the time it doesn’t look like Madonna is actually singing and there are so many effects on her voice, you can’t really hear her. Having seen Madonna live before I know that she sings live these days but it’s hard to tell through much of this show save for the moments where she’s playing guitar or not surrounded by dancers.
Extras on the release include an excerpt from Madonna’s Tears of a Clown show and a bonus performance of Like a Prayer.
There’s no denying that the Rebel Heart Tour was a true spectacle but I don’t think this release wholly does it justice. The stylisation is distracting and adds nothing to the show. Maybe I’m old-fashioned but I would have preferred to just see the performance without all the bells and whistles. Madonna is an incredible performer and she doesn’t need the level of fancy editing that’s been applied here. A straight performance from one date of the tour would have been a better watch. Rebel Heart Tour is still an entertaining watch but sometimes less really is more.
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