Madonna has been around for three decades, but this doesn’t mean her live shows are predictable (unless you’ve been reading the latest raving reviews). Her latest outing with “Rebel Heart” is a two hour party with lots of stunning choreography, shimmering costumes, a Britney Spears lookalike, and flashy set pieces. Leaning heavily on material from her newest album,Madonna entered the stage from above in a cage and launched into “Iconic” as soon as she was set free. In a flowing red kimono and surrounded by armored dancers, she snapped, locked, and twirled in tune with all her significantly younger dancers. After the hyperactive “B****, I’m Madonna,” she threw longtime fans a bone with an electric guitar rendition of “Burning Up.” Standing in the middle of the crowd on her cross shaped stage wielding a guitar made for a great photo op.

The singer was up to her old tricks regarding religion and sexuality during songs like “Holy Water,” which had scantily clad nuns twerking and twirling on stripper poles and “Devil Pray” where she rolled and gyrated on a table that was previously used for a sexy rendition of The Last Supper. Some say she was trying to be shocking, but fans knew it was nothing but classic Madonna and they ate up every second. During mellow sections where she belted out “Heartbreak City” mashed with “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore,” she traversed a spiral staircase, yet never missed a note. It was during these points where you could really hear how much she’s improved as a singer. Take that everyone who thought she was too nasally.

Unlike some of her other tours, this one focused heavily on her latest album with just about half the set list coming from “Rebel Heart.” It was great to hear stellar tracks like “Living for Love,” which recreated the matador vs bull setting from the video, “Unapologetic B****,” and the haunting “Ghosttown.” The magic of Madonna is she made the questionable tracks, such as “Body Shop,” “Iconic,” and “Holy Water,” featuring scantily clad nuns spinning around stripper poles, sound better than they did on the LP. If you didn’t love these songs before the concert, you couldn’t get them out of your head afterward.

To the disappointment of many, there was no “Like a Prayer” or “Express Yourself” and a snippet of “Vogue” during “Holy Water” wasn’t nearly as satisfying as hear the entire song, but she did sing some classics with a new flair. “Like a Virgin” presented one of the few times Madonna was on stage alone, bumping and grinding to its new reggae beat, while “La Isla Bonita” kept it’s original Latin flair, Madonna took the opportunity to apply the flamenco guitars and hard stomps for a medley of hits that included “Lucky Star” and “Into the Groove” that breathed new life into the songs. She performed “Who’s that Girl?” in similar fashion while she played an acoustic guitar. “True Blue” saw her playing a ukulele and “Material Girl” was done in a new jazzy style that both jaunty and a lot of fun.

Madonna proved to be more than physically fit as she never missed a beat with her younger dancers and she sounded so amazing you began to wonder if she was indeed lip syncing. You couldn’t miss the big smile spreading across her face as she twisted and shimmied her toned body. She was in good spirits and showed nothing but love for the Chicago crowd, where she reminded them she filmed a “baseball movie” here once. Though there were slow, heartbreaking moments where she sang “Heartbreak City” mashed with “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” the show ended a high note with “Holiday.” At the end, Madonna was lifted into the air and disappeared behind the LED screen while waving goodbye to the crowd. She may be on to the next stop on her tour, but Chicago is still buzzing from her show.

Four out of Five stars

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