Madonna at TD Banknorth Garden, October 15, 2008
Madonna’s calves are a thing of wonder. It’s not till you see her dancing in real life that you can appreciate the sculpted nuances that are her leg muscles, these enormous flexing protrusions that are there not only to help her shake her booty but to remind you that her journey to the top, and her subsequent effort to stay there, has been one fraught with vigor and hard labor.
When she took the Garden stage a week ago Wednesday, to the pounding rhythm of “Candy Shop,” the mid-song breakdown was significantly harder-edged than it is on Hard Candy. As she flexed those muscles across an enormous stage, her repeated shouts of “My sugar is raw!” pretty much summed it up: far from mellowing with age, Madonna hit us with wonderfully mean-spirited aggression wrapped up in a misleading sexual come-on.
For a good third of the show, she had some kind of guitar strapped on. An early highlight was “Lucky Star,” which found her chugging along with manic muted bar chords and the drummer reworking the song into a pummeling frenzy. Near the end of the set, she grabbed her ax again for a new-metal-ish “Hung Up,” standing in platform boots, coaxing screaming feedback from her Orange stack while giving us the devil’s-horns salute.
In Ms. Ciccone’s old country, of course, that’s the cuckold sign. At the Garden, amid the news of her impending divorce from Guy Ritchie, everything seemed to take on added significance — though her introduction to new song “Miles Away” (“This song is for the emotionally retarded”) was the only explicit reference. Whether she was dancing on a stripper pole to an “Into the Groove” festooned with a Bronx-circa-1981 Keith-Haring-was-here vibe or dry-humping the floor to a Gypsy-tango mish-mash of “La Isla Bonita,” it all seemed like the defiant frolic of a liberated woman. “I’ve never felt so free,” she sang on “Heartbeat,” and as the final thumps of “Give It 2 Me” dimmed at the closing, you knew she wasn’t just saying it.
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