Madonna in top form on live CD/DVD
Nearly everything gathered on this scrapbook from the highest-grossing concert tour ever performed by a solo artist, is electric and winning, a rock star's return to grace.
Photograph by: Getty Images, Getty Images
Review: Sticky & Sweet Tour
Rating: Four stars out of five
Madonna doesn't speak with a British accent on her new live CD and DVD. Instead, the 52-year-old pop music icon from Michigan wields a guitar on nearly half of the 26 songs and turns tracks like "Borderline" and "Ray of Light" into songs that could've been cut by Joan Jett. The effect, like nearly everything else gathered on this scrapbook from the highest-grossing concert tour ever performed by a solo artist, is electric and winning, a rock star's return to grace. There's no Lady Gaga without Madonna and, for that matter, considering her prominence during the MTV-era, no worldwide devotion to Michael Jackson, George Michael or U2. But hitting the road in support of Hard Candy, her 11th solo album, Madonna is not resting on her laurels - she's celebrating them, and the result is a blast.
Of course, anything Madonna does is as much a visual production as an aural one, and there are as many costume changes as musicians onstage. Designers from Karl Lagerfeld to Kangol are flaunted, but the music never takes a back seat. Many songs, such as "Die Another Day," "4 Minutes" and "La Isla Bonita," are reimagined as parts of larger medleys, with Madonna giving shout-outs to techno, flamenco and old-school R&B influences. The set's highlight is "Into the Groove 2008," which features the singer playing double-dutch jump rope before a series of Keith Haring paintings and referencing classic hip-hop records like "Jam On It," "Apache" and "It's Like That" by Run DMC. The disc was recorded in December 2008 in Buenos Aires, and thus the Andrew Lloyd-Webber songs from Evita receive cutaway shots of people crying in the stands. (Madonna hadn't performed in Argentina in 13 years and, as the making-of DVD helpfully explains, people slept outside the venue to buy seats.)
Guests pop up throughout, including Kanye West, Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears, and one quibble with the DVD is that they only appear on the onstage video screens. Since the stars all took the stage at various points in the tour (which was seen live by more than three million people and grossed more than US $400-million in sales), why not include those live performances here? Certainly, Madonna wasn't afraid of being upstaged.
Whether she's performing the techno version of "Like a Prayer" or referencing ABBA at the show's climax in "Hung Up," the singer looks and sounds as good as she did when "Like a Virgin" first made her a star.
OK, there are some embarrassing bits. The film's overly sexual opening is a bit like watching your mom flirt on Facebook, and it's a little cringe-inducing hearing the singer drop f-bombs. But Sticky & Sweet is a document of a woman in her fifties who actually started peaking after most people thought she was through. Madonna doesn't speak with a British accent on her new record. But even if she did, it wouldn't really have mattered: Most of the stage banter is drowned out by the crowd's roar.