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Review and photos by Andy ArgyrakisIf there was a single moment when Madonna asserted her position in today's pop world during the first of two shows at Chicago's UnitedCenter, it was during her smash hit from yesteryear "Express Yourself." Besides updating the arrangement as a current club banger, she covered a bit of Lady Gaga's "Born This Way," but rather than celebrating each song's similarity in sound, her Madgesty defiantly segued out of the mash-up with a few lines from the ever so appropriate "She's Not Me."
At 54-years-old, Madonna is obviously not Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry or any of the latest crop who may possess varying degrees of talent in their own right, but won't likely be able to match the longevity this global icon still possesses. With over 300 million albums sold since the early Ô80s, she's hands down the best selling female recording artist in history, but 2012 finds her more than merely seeking fun flashback status. Instead she kicked off the year with a Super Bowl halftime appearance, dropped her 12th studio disc "MDNA" (yet another chart topper) and found her global tour generally selling out (though at press time, a handful of tickets remained for her second show in the Windy City on Thursday, September 20).
Given the new project (which boasts collaborations with Minaj, plus fellow tastemakers M.I.A. and LMFAO), it wasn't surprising that the set list featured practically the entire project, which asserts itself as an unabashed electro-dance collection. Though the pulsating (and sometimes a little too juvenile) nature of the material might be more appropriate for someone half her age, the superbly chiseled Madonna had no trouble keeping up with dance floor dominators like "Girl Gone Wild," "Give Me All Your Luvin'" and "Turn Up The Radio."
Thankfully though, "The Material Girl" did sprinkle in a few more radio regulars than usual, from the relatively recent "Hung Up" and "Celebration," to era-defining gems like "Papa Don't Preach," "Open Your Heart," "Holiday" and "Vogue." Even more impressive was a completely rearranged version of "Like A Virgin," which found Madonna singing along to simply a sparse piano, changing its focus an anthem of sexual liberation to a dirge mourning lost innocence. However, a true to form take on "Like A Prayer," augmented by a glorious gospel choir, truly lit up the night and had no trouble living up to its reputation as a perfect pop song.
Of course, no Madonna show would be complete without plenty of pageantry and symbolism, which she certainly supplied on overdrive, alongside sensual chorography, campaigning for human rights and personal political opinions. Indeed the two hour extravaganza was just as much textbook Madonna as it was a statement on her ageless evolution, which unequivocally confirmed the queen of pop still sits atop the throne.
Madonna returns to the UnitedCenter Thursday, September 20 with additional dates and ticket information available at www.ticketmaster.com or www.livenation.com.
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