Review —Madonna Proves She’s Still the Queen of Pop at Ball Arena

History has officially repeated itself: Madonna is on a stadium tour, and Mike Tyson is in a prize fight. It’s the 80s all over again. On March 19th, Madonna turned Ball Arena into a time machine as she took a wild and colorful crowd through a celebration of every era of her career, reminding all in attendance that the Queen of Pop still reigns. 

Though she didn’t arrive until fashionably late, around 10:30, perhaps a nod to her early bar-playing days, the energy in the crowd remained electric—after all, it was Madonna. The night unfolded as a true celebration, with fans donning iconic attire ranging from fishnet gloves to nun outfits, paying homage to the pop queen’s diverse looks.

The lights dimmed and a spotlight hit the concert’s host/hype-person, Bob The Drag Queen, as she emerged in a light pink Victorian-inspired dress, the outfit almost exactly the same as the one Madonna wore in her iconic “Vogue” VMA performance. Bob strutted down the floor, interacting with members of the audience and asking about their best Madonna experience. Her quick-witted jokes and subtle roasts had the audience dying. This unconventional narrator was the perfect emcee for the night, introducing an instant level of flair and theatricality that was present the whole time. The stage itself was a testament to Madonna’s iconic moments, with abstract representations of Manhattan’s neighborhoods and a centerpiece reminiscent of the wedding cake from her VMA performance of “Like a Virgin.”

Rocking a glam punk-pop outfit, Madonna made her way to the left stage wing and took a moment to catch her breath. Madonna put on a guitar, playing just as she started in NYC all those years ago. This portion of the show could’ve gone on all night, a showcase for her iconic voice. However, there were often portions of the show, specifically dance numbers, during which she would lip sync. This didn’t deter the crowd, as evident by the crowd’s roar when Bob said, “Some of you have been waiting 40 years to see Madonna,” making it clear that the night held a lot of history for both the artist and fans and that showed right away. People were screaming, crying, and hugging. Some people along the side of the stage even asked her to spit on them, requests she happily fulfilled.

Transitioning off her club-era visuals and dance numbers, she moved into a passionate tribute to her fallen friends and artists lost to HIV/AIDS. Madonna stepped into a glowing frame which took flight through the arena as the singer gave an impassioned performance of the ballad “Live to Tell,” As she floated above, phones flashing photos, her backing screens showed images of young artists like Freddie Mercury, Eazy E and Keith Haring. Madonna has refused to live silently throughout her career and has long been cemented as a highly vocal proponent of the LGBTQ+ community.

There were downshifts in energy throughout the show, with parts of the set when she referenced darker visuals from her career. The interlude from her 2004 Re-Invention World Tour, “The Beast Within,” still made some of the faces in the crowd noticeably uncomfortable. Provocation and a willingness to dive headfirst into controversy are essential aspects of Madonna’s career, and since the show was a celebration of that career, it would feel a little empty if it didn’t contain points that still resonated as controversial. She also ran a slideshow of photos of her exes, proving she’s still not afraid to get messy.

The show transitioned into an acoustic guitar showcase as Madonna donned western wear that hearkened back to her Music era. The stripped-down “Express Yourself” built triumphantly to “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina.” She powered through the lyrics while Ball Arena sang along. This moment was a symbol of her political involvement and defense of human rights. She was joined by a dancer portraying herself in the “American Life” era tour with “no fear” tattooed across the back.

The show was a full-blown reference to Madonna’s entire career, with many small and intricate details you’d miss if you weren’t looking and many you still might if you were. Containing elements from iconic live performances, music videos, remixes, and many other facets of her career, it’s an audio and visual biography of Madonna’s life. Even small things flash on the screens, like the paintings by Tamara de Lempicka, which were shown during the
Open Your Heart” segment. The show was a lovingly made self-tribute that doesn’t shy away from any part of her story. It was a Madonna super fan’s dream come true and a true homage to her career.

All Photography Courtesy of Ricardo Gomes