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Concert review: Madonna disappoints with uneven show at Chicago's United Center

Madonna performs at an earlier stop on her current tour.
Madonna performs at an earlier stop on her current tour.
Jeff Fusco, Getty Images

Madonna's Thursday night (Sept. 20) concert at Chicago's United Center, her second there in as many nights, was a surprisingly hit-and-miss affair that placed way too much emphasis on material from her latest subpar album, "MDNA."

It's hard to begrudge an artist the opportunity to play songs from her most recent album in concert. After all, that's the record she just spent the last few years putting together.

But in Madonna's case, opening the show with "Girl Gone Wild," perhaps the single worst song of her entire career, was not the way to get things off to a flying start. Nor was following with "Revolver," which featured an absurd amount of Auto-Tune and a Lil Wayne video screen cameo, or the third track, "Gang Bang," which found Madge ripping off Slim Shady-era Eminem as she ran around the stage with a gun, screaming, "Die b----, die!"

Though the first 30 minutes were entirely worthless, things finally warmed up about six songs in when Madge and her dancers put on the marching band uniforms and performed the classic "Express Yourself." But she ruined it near the end when she sang part of "Born This Way" and then said four times, "She's Not Me."

The obvious Lady Gaga diss was unwise for two reasons: First, by and large, Madonna's fans are Gaga's fans, so she's not going to get a ton of support for ripping the "Born This Way" singer.

Second, bringing up Gaga at all just reminds everybody how Gaga has blown past Madonna in terms of relevance and current chart success. When Madonna sang, "She's not me," the proper response was, "No, she's not. She's better."

There were a few highlights, including an exotic, mystical-sounding version of "Open Your Heart," a fantastic vocal performance on the ballad "Masterpiece," and a nifty medley of two of her most underrated tracks, "Erotica" and "Human Nature."

Madonna's dancing was stunning throughout the set, and her excellent closing pairing of "Like a Prayer" and "Celebration" was exactly the kind of moment everyone showed up for. But then she disappeared without an encore, leaving fans to head home feeling unfulfilled, having only heard a tiny portion of the singer's many hits.

Check out more of my Chicago live music articles.


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