In an uncharacteristically unadorned segment around two-thirds into the kickoff of her Rebel Heart Tour, Wednesday at the Bell Centre, Madonna announced she was “going to sing a little song here on my guitar — back to where it all began.”
Before she could spark a flamenco-tinged Who’s That Girl, a fan’s interjection caught her ear. “Yes, I know I played drums first. But who can see you behind the drums? I’m a Leo. We like to be the centre of attention.”
So she’s still self-aware. And in a spare-no-expense theatrical spectacle that artfully flowed from showstopper to showstopper, she proved once again that she doesn’t just crave the spotlight — she owns it.
Montreal accidentally got the first look at the Rebel Heart Tour after five shows were postponed for extra prep time, and the kinks were ironed out before Wednesday night. (OK, 99 per cent of them were: “This costume is treacherous,” the singer exclaimed when she got snagged by some bejewelled fringe.) Consisting of four loosely thematic sections broken up by costume changes, with almost every song benefiting from its own tailor-made staging and with a small army of dancers gracefully executing intense choreography, the show hit all the marks.
Those included the expected provocation. Anyone hoping Madonna would smash new taboos would have left disappointed; but then, she’s already shattered most of them. Still, the first segment’s slightly confused rebellion was built on a load-bearing mash-up of familiar themes: sex, salvation, religion, oppression.
The introductory film positioned the star as both outsider and leader, with images of Madonna — and, why not, Mike Tyson — in captivity, and talk of “too much creativity being crushed beneath the wheel of corporate branding. … It’s time to wake up.” Ignoring the fact that Madonna long ago became a corporate brand unto herself, it was thrilling to see her descend from the rafters and break out of her cage. With a battalion of armoured warriors falling under her command, Iconic was insanely theatrical, Broadway-worthy, and just the beginning.