This surreal moment turned out to be a hysterical highlight of the singer’s two-hour gig on Wednesday night. As the dancehall rhythms of 'Unapologetic Bitch' bounced around the arena, Madge pulled up Schumer, the two twerked their magic, and the singer then anointed the comic with the title of 'Unapologetic Bitch of the Evening.' For this, she was awarded a sock puppet and a banana, which Schumer then pretended to enter into the one part of her body normally reserved for exiting.
It was enough to make even the Queen of Shock look a little uncomfortable, and she duly exclaimed 'you’re going straight to hell!' In the context of the rest of the show, it was easily one of the most risqué moments. Sure, there were pole-dancing nuns, half-exposed buttocks, and the insinuation of oral sex at the Last Supper, but these aren’t sights that make Madonna fans gasp anymore. The bigger surprise was the sight of the usually inscrutable megastar exposing herself emotionally.
This year’s 'Rebel Heart' album didn’t set the charts alight but those who listened close heard the 57-year-old sounding wounded and reflective, and it’s where the 'Rebel Heart Tour' is often most arresting. The Catholic guilt (complete with a melancholic priest) came to the surface again on 'Devil Pray' and during the delicate ballad 'HeartBreakCity,' Madonna let the pain of her failed relationship with dancer Brahim Zaibat flow into night. 'I sound cynical about love because I have good reason to,' she explained at one point, and the way these songs were delivered made it hard to doubt.
But even Madonna’s biggest fans don’t pay to watch a pity party, and Madonna (as she always has done since she first played the Garden 30 years ago) put on a show that was entertaining to the last. A giant cross-shaped walkway connected the main stage at one end of the arena, to a smaller, B-stage at the other end, and every inch was well used. The blood and guts approach to her controversial 'MDNA' tour in 2012 was nowhere to be seen. Instead, Madonna relied heavily on impressive set-pieces, elaborate costumes, and tightly choreographed dance numbers, the best of which turned out to be a fabulously vibrant, flamenco-themed medley of hits such as 'La Isla Bonita,' 'Into the Groove,' and 'Everybody.' It’s moments like these that prove Madonna’s version of nostalgia is more inventive than most artists’ version of contemporary. That’s why we still need her, now more than ever.
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