“Oh my god.”
As these lines, the opening exhortation from “Girl Gone Wild,” the opening track from MADONNA’S new long-player, MDNA, reverberated around the cavernous environs of the TD Garden, and a large digital crucifix adorned the Jumbotron onstage, and cloak-covered minions toiled onstage amidst the swinging of an enormous thurible with frankincense bellowing out, most in attendance probably thought they knew what they were in for: some light blasphemy, a circus-smorgasbord of dancing, and a smattering of hits from the Material Girl’s three-decades-deep catalogue.
And they would be kind of right, but mostly wrong. And I could even pinpoint the moment we all realized how wrong we were, easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy: it was when Madonna herself emerged to begin the opening lines of “GGW,” decked out in all-black everything, holding aloft a massive machine gun pointed at the air. As the song bled into her little-heard 2009 jam “Revolver,” and then into MDNA curiosity “Gang Bang” — well, let’s just say Madonna took the capacity crowd into a dark place that few were expecting minutes earlier from this queen of ’80s pop music.
Before I delve into the nasty details, though, let’s back up and get some perspective on what we’re talking about here: this is Madonna, who is, yes, a pop music artist with more Number 1 hits than Elvis. But she is also an artist who, for most of her career, or at least since she has had complete control of her aesthetic and output, has strived to confront and provocate not only a society that has misunderstood her, but an audience that has attempted to reign in her most outre impulses, wanting nothing but poppoppop. Madonna’s career, especially in the past 10 years, has been a matter of giving the world the pop they crave, but with an aftertaste of shock and awe, of upping the ante of shock as she grows angrier and angrier. read more →
Madonna’s MDNA Tour stops by the Air Canada Centre for two shows tonight and tomorrow. The show trekked through Europe and Dubai this summer, creating the expected media whirlwind — from a nipple slip, to brandishing fake machine guns, to championing LGBT rights in ultra-conservative Russia. These incidents make the time when Toronto police threatened to arrest her if she simulated masturbation on stage (which she did anyway) during 1990’s Blond Ambition Tour, seem tame.
Controversy aside, this tour is also one of her most technologically-intricate productions. Madonna collaborated with many of the same people behind her dazzling Super Bowl halftime show from earlier this year, including Cirque du Soleil’s Michel Laprise, who returns as show director.
Montreal-based multimedia production studio Moment Factory was also brought back. “The whole process started right after the Super Bowl. The day after we finished that show, everybody put their minds on the tour,” says Johanna Marsal, a producer at Moment Factory. The company has also worked with many other artists including Arcade Fire, Celine Dion, Jay-Z and Tiesto.
Their mission for the MDNA Tour: Create content to shape the universe, enrich the choreography and intensify the drama of 12 of the show’s 22 songs – including classics “Express Yourself,” “Like A Prayer,” “Vogue,” and recent hit “Hung Up,” where Madonna and her dancers walk across a slackline.
With four months to bring Madonna’s vision from concept to reality, the Moment Factory team created 2D and 3D animation pieces, including a 3D photo-realistic ornate cathedral that serves as the dramatic backdrop for the show opener “Girl Gone Wild.” “The cathedral took us more than a month and a half to create. She really wanted to have a dark and magical beginning,” says Marsal.
The team also co-ordinated video shoots in Montreal, New York and they even shot a kaleidoscopic train ride through India, which serves as the backdrop for “I’m A Sinner” in the final act of the show.
Madonna describes her show as a journey that moves from darkness to light, as exemplified by the violent first act – ‘Transgression’ – which includes the Tarantino-esque track “Gang Bang” from her recent album and lots of bloodshed in the background courtesy of Moment Factory.
In keeping with the philosophy of movement, Moment Factory leveraged the state-of-the-art stage, which contains 36 motorized cubes, all covered with LEDs and constantly morphing through the show. The technology, Marsal teases, is brought to the brink in the full throttle, assault-on-the-senses finale.
Throughout the process, Marsal’s team had to ensure their content integrated seamlessly with the choreography, lighting, and other elements, which were all being conceived, revised and finalized at the same time. “The amount of communication and co-ordination in this project was insane,” says Marsal.
At the heart of the project was ringmaster Madonna, who has a reputation for being very hands on and detail oriented. These qualities may push some over the borderline, but Marsal and her team appreciated the experience. “It was a pleasure to work with her, because she was very involved in every level. We would know right away if we were going in the right direction or if we should rework the concepts. She made sure all the departments were in synch. I was surprised by her energy and talent.”
Working on the Super Bowl was good training for the tour, says Marsal. “There were plenty of things that we wanted to put into the Super Bowl that we couldn’t, because we only had 12 minutes. So the tour was a great opportunity to showcase all the ideas and everything Madonna wanted to showcase.”
As multimedia technology continues to evolve to greater heights, Marsal says the future of the concert experience also lies in the participatory aspect. Earlier in June, Moment Factory worked with singer and dancer Usher on his London show. Audience members got the opportunity to live tweet and their tweets materialized on the stage backdrop.
After months of hard work, Marsal and her colleagues enjoyed the fruits of their labour when they attended the MDNA Tour’s opening night in Tel Aviv in May and its Montreal stop on August 30. “When we saw the show for the first time and saw the public react to it, it was an amazing sensation,” says Marsal. “For me, the best part was when the show came to Montreal, and the fact that we could share our work with our colleagues, collaborators and community; it was a completely different feeling.”
After 3 sold out shows, (including two at the Yankee Stadium on September 6-8 and one at Madison Square Garden on November 12th) we are happy to announce that Madonna has just added a fourth and final New York show to her MDNA Tour itinerary. The new show will take place at the Madison Square Garden on November 13th!
Tickets will go on sale at 10am local time on September 14th, while a devoted Icon pre-sale will start on September 10th, at 10am local time for Legacy members / 11am local time for Live Pass members.
Please note that Icon will e-mail Lifetime Legacy members with pre-sale codes one hour before the fan club pre-sale begins. If you are not an Icon Legacy member, you may participate by purchasing the Icon Live Pass. All Live Passes will be offered on Ticketmaster for this pre-sale. Simply go to Ticketmaster.com on Monday morning @ 11am local time and purchase the Icon Live Pass Bundle, which will give you access to the pre-sale (4-ticket limit) and the Live Pass tour gift.
Picture/Video courtesy of boyculture