Defending “Celebration” and “Revolver”

It’s looking more and more like I won’t do a full on review of the two MDNA shows I saw, but suffice to say they were experiences I will never forget.  After whoring myself out shamelessly on Twitter to Guy Oseary, I managed to score two tickets to the Golden Triangle aka the pit for the Kansas City show for my friend Jeff and me.  Never in a million years did I ever expect to be that close to Madonna, but we were.  We staked out spots along the right hand catwalk and had better-than-you-can imagine views of her Madgesty.  At several points during the show, she was but 6 feet from us.  It was exhilarating and beyond anything I ever expected to happen in my life.  There were so many mega fans in the pit as well – they knew all the words to all the new songs which stood in stark contrast to the people who sat around us at the St. Paul show.  I’m convinced that the last Madonna album many of them purchased was The Immaculate Collection.

As usual for Madonna, the shows were heavy on new material and light on the classic songs that many of the casual fans know and love.  Had they known that, they probably would have thought twice before shelling out $350 for prime seats.  One lady walking behind us as we exited the Sprint Center in Kansas City muttered “I will never pay that much for her ever again.  I only knew like three songs!”  Granted, the arena really came to life during well known songs like “Papa Don’t Preach”, “Vogue”, and most especially “Like A Prayer”, but Madonna is not one to dwell in the past, regardless of how strong her back catalog is – and I defy anyone to find an artist from that era still performing today that has a back catalog that full of instantly recognizable hits as Madonna.

It mattered not to us, because as long time fans with Madonna fandom integrated into our DNA, Jeff and I knew every song as well.  Even though Jeff could have done without “Human Nature” and we both agreed that the slowed down “Like A Virgin” brought the show to a screeching halt from which it struggled to regain its momentum, I felt that the show was one of Madonna’s strongest shows, second only to my all time favorite tour The Confessions Tour.

The thing that really surprised me was the inclusion of both of the new songs from her 2009 retrospective, Celebration – “Celebration” and “Revolver.”  Despite both being released as singles, neither was a hit of any significance.  Many fans cried foul at the lyrical simplicity of “Celebration” and that the vocodered-to-the hilt “Revolver” felt like a Britney Spears cast-off.  But my argument is that both songs deserved their spot in the show, and although I have always been fond of “Celebration”,  the widely-hated “Revolver” especially deserved to be in the show.

As I mentioned, “Revolver” is widely criticized by many Madonna fans as being beneath her.  Clearly, it does have a bit of a “ok, let’s hurry up and record this shit so I can get back to directing a film” feel to it, and when I first heard it, I went along with the crowd in deriding it.  Then Heidi used it in a soundtrack for a book she was writing (Double Blind) and her constant playing of it made me realize that the people crapping all over “Revolver” were missing the point.  It’s SUPPOSED to be a throwaway track, a cheeseball tune that is deliberately raunchy and simple.  After I dropped my pretensions and realized that it is, after all, just pop music, I was finally able to truly appreciate Madonna’s love being a revolver and her sex being a killer.  When we heard rumors that the opening act of the MDNA tour was going to be all about guns, there was no doubt that “Revolver” would make the cut.  And the performance, complete with a vocodered microphone for Madonna to sing into, was nothing short of brilliant.  Although I’m sure it didn’t hurt that Madonna pointed the gun and WINKED AT ME on her descent down the catwalk.  I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

I’ve always been of the opinion that the opening set of The Confessions Tour is the best live set Madonna has ever done, but the bloody and violent opening to the MDNA tour might edge it out by a nose with “Gang Bang” being the high point.  Never has a song so matched its live performance and the intricately choreographed “killing” of the dancers hunting Madonna was thrilling to watch.  If only they had included “White Heat” from True Blue…missed opportunity.

Taking the place of “Holiday” in this tour as the show closer (or “close to the end” song) was “Celebration.”  I’ll admit that when I heard this was the last song of the show, I was beyond excited.  Even though a lot of fans didn’t particularly care for “Celebration” because, again, they felt it to be beneath Madonna, as I said when I included it in my best-of-2009 list, “The lyrics could have been written by an eight year-old and it left my friend Jeff and me asking the question ‘do we really need another Madonna song telling people to get on the dance floor?’ But it also wiped that nasty Hard Candy taste right out of my mouth and provided a good look back while giving a glimpse of what may be yet to come.”  Its retro feel and lyrical throwbacks always made it feel like one of the most perfect latter-day Madonna songs.  “Celebration” is one of those songs that I categorize as the effortless pop that Madonna does so well.  We hadn’t heard it from her in so very long, having suffered through the Hard Candy era, it was a breath of fresh air.  And that’s how the end of the show felt.

The MDNA Tour DVD is being filmed in Miami tonight and tomorrow night.  I can’t wait for it to be released.  Having seen the show both up close and personal AND from the arena makes it special to me – both vantage points allowed us to see the show in different ways.

And I will never EVER forget being in the Golden Triangle (which Jeff and I kept referring to as Madonna’s Golden Tw*t.)  My feet hated me the next day, but I would do it again in a hearbeat.

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2 Responses to Defending “Celebration” and “Revolver”

  1. Jack Vornberg says:

    My experience in “The Pit” here in St. Louis was very similar. It was surreal that she was so close, I knew all the songs (as did, it seems, the rest of the pit) and by the time I got home my feet were killing me. I estimate that I stood for six hours straight. I expected the late start because I had read that all the previous shows had started late. So why did the reviewer in our local paper have to chastise Madonna for starting late (and THEN bring it up again in his review of the Paul McCartney concert ten days later)? It’s attitudes like this that make acts like Pink and Maroon 5 not add us to THEIR itineraries. They think we’re a bunch of hicks who insist on being in bed by 10:30. But I digress. I’ve liked “Celebration” and “Revolver ever since the album came out and even more since seeing them performed live. I agree that many concertgoers were disappointed that more “old stuff” wasn’t performed but a lot of these people have to be first-timers (old-timers?) to a Madonna concert because every new tour has concentrated on the most recent album. “Gang Bang” was a highlight for me, as was her speech and “Masterpiece”. During her speech she encountered one spectator that apparently wasn’t going to stand up just because Madonna told them to (from my vantage point I couldn’t tell if the obstinate one was a man or a woman) and Madonna asked him/her, “Are you passing judgment on me?” Almost all of Madonna’s interactions with the audience were funny, thereby contradicting her public persona of being an icy bitch. Personally, I love when she’s bitchy. All in all, the night was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never be able to replicate. Unless I was somehow able to win a Golden Triangle ticket for the Rio show. Hmmm. P.S. I LOOOOVE Hard Candy! Give It 2 Me is one of my ringtones.

    • Dan says:

      Definitely agree with the your assessment of Madonna’s interactions with the audience. She does have this public persona of being ice cold (which I think it somewhat justified), but she has seemed very happy and engaged on this tour. Also, she legitimizes the word “motherfucker” like no other performer. Whenever she says “fuck off motherfuckers!” we just say “oh, she just said that she loves us!”

      I think that time will ultimately be kind to “Celebration” and “Revolver” – like most of Madonna’s work, most people will not breathe a word of her brilliance until she’s dead, and then they will fall all over themselves.

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