The Gist: “Artists are here to disturb the peace,” goes the James Baldwin quote, and Madonna seizes on that call to action — to testify, to bear witness, to force people to look — as the launch point for her Madame X stage show. As a video montage presents different versions of Madonna, her voice over posits the myriad roles of a woman in society: “dancer, professor, a head of state, a housekeeper, an equestrian, a prisoner, a student, a mother, a child, a teacher, a nun, a singer, a saint, a whore…a spy in the house of love.” And with that, the first sequence begins, a medley of the strident Madame X track “God Control” cut with “Human Nature” from the 1994 album Bedtime Stories. Marching, dancing cops with police shields are gradually replaced onstage by a group of women with raised fists (“I’m not sorry…”), a group that includes Madonna’s young twin daughters Stella and Estere, and the entire thing organically shifts into an a capella, audience-participating retelling of “Express Yourself” from 1989’s Like a Prayer. That’s a 30-year span of disturbing the peace in the space of 20 minutes.

From there, the Madame X show rolls into another classic, “Vogue,” which finds Madonna fashioning herself as a kind of secret agent in a Broadway noir, with lots of trench coats and typewriters and the omnipresent Madame X eyepatch. There are stretches of audience interaction interspersed, too, either with Madonna engaging in a bit of Storytellers-style essaying of her motivations for the Madame X material, or lighter moments, one of which involves the singer suddenly sitting in the front row with Dave Chappelle. (The two profess their adoration for each other’s work.) The fado-inspired portion of the Madame X album involves the transformation of the stage into a lively Portuguese street/cafe scene, and before long “Killers Who Are Partying” spins into the Ray of Light standout “Frozen,” which features Madonna singing before a video projection of a dance routine performed by her daughter Lourdes Leon.

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