DVD/Concert Review: Madonna, Rebel Heart Tour

Madonna, Rebel Heart Tour
Genre: Pop
Musicianship: 3.5
Songwriting: 2.5
Production & Engineering: 4.0
Vibe: 3.0
Overall Rating: 3 Stars 3.25

 

The Rebel Heart Tour concert DVD/Blu-ray and CD is fantastic in its own right, but it’s definitely a polarizing release for Madonna fans depending on your age. Focused primarily around Madonna’s 13th studio record, Rebel Heart, this concert event is extremely short on classic Madonna material and full of her most recent songs, many of which her life-long fans are relatively unfamiliar with.

The performance is a tremendous theatrical production, and the video production is as much of a visual treat as the concert experience must have been. However, despite her pioneering pop work in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, most of Madonna’s recent songs fall into the disposable club music category… big on beats and loops, formulaic, short on memorable songwriting and expressive performance.

There are a lot of backing tracks at play in the show, and it was a bit annoying watching Madonna perform one part while listening to her prerecorded voice covering other parts including lead vocals. That said, the gem of the concert—and a truly fantastic number—was the acoustic rock performance of “Rebel Heart,” easily one of the best songs Madonna has written in the past decade (and perhaps one of her finest and most personal songs, ever).

While much of the musical performance credit must be directed at the band’s musical director, Kevin Antunes, and second keyboardist Ric’key Pageot, a big shout out goes to the unsung hero of this tour—guitarist Monte Pittman. Yes, the shredder. His acoustic work in particular on various songs during the show was fantastic, and despite all of the electronics at play, his clean, funky guitar parts and occasional lead work were also on display throughout the show. We love when players like Pittman reveal the depth of their capabilities by covering vastly different styles of play than their most familiar work. We wish this concert video showed a bit more of the actual band, but this show was clearly all about Madonna the performer, not Madonna the classic hit maker. To her credit, though, she does a fine job with acoustic guitar and ukulele here and there.

If you’re a millennial, perhaps you’ll enjoy this ninety minute club spectacular. But if you’re a fan of classic Madonna, you may not get past the second or third song before growing bored. Instead, if you’re over 35, get your hands on a copy of the classic Blond Ambition Tour, 1990.  In that concert, you’ll see the band integrated into the stage show and find Madonna truly singing her ass off, along with demonstrating all of the other performance hallmarks that earn her high praise for being one hell of a performer. Madge, we love you. Now please stop chasing trends and start setting them again.

—SK

 

 

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