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Music Review

The dance floor is still Madonna's

Madonna is joined by Justin Timberlake during a 35-minute free show Wednesday in New York. Madonna is joined by Justin Timberlake during a 35-minute free show Wednesday in New York. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Sarah Rodman
Globe Staff / May 2, 2008

NEW YORK - Madonna's new album, "Hard Candy," was released on Tuesday, and the very next day she celebrated by unleashing her latest creation into its natural habitat: the nightclub dance floor.

Hard was the operative word for the pop diva's brief but kinetic set - just six songs in 35 minutes - at the Roseland Ballroom Wednesday. Her punishingly sculpted hard body was in fine form as she boogied in formation with her dancers to the hard-hitting beats - courtesy of collaborators Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, and Pharrell Williams, and pounded out by her hard-working band. Each part of the package helped to rile up the 2,000-plus crowd of Madonna fanatics who ran the gamut from drag queens to soccer moms.

The audience, some of whom camped out for more than 48 hours to nab wristbands for admittance to the free show, was primed by an energetic DJ playing early MTV-era hits, many by artists long left in Madonna's dust. At the appointed moment, the DJ platform swiveled to reveal Her Madgesty brandishing a scepter on an "M"-emblazoned throne.

Clad in black tails, satin track pants, and high-heeled boxing boots, Madonna shimmied off her perch and from the first downbeat of the throbbing "Candy Shop" got into her groove and rarely paused for breath, reveling in the cleansing powers of her first love.

She may be turning 50 in August, but AARP membership will have to wait as the latest Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee danced with a vigor that would shame performers half her age. (Although she sang live throughout, all that aerobicizing meant that Madonna relied on the assistance of prerecorded vocal tracks as well as back-up singers.)

After a quick hello, she segued neatly into "Miles Away." The five video screens - one central and two smaller pairs flanking the stage - featured quick-cut images of air travel, boarding passes, and airports. The backdrop underscored the disco-fied lament about long-distance love affairs, which Madonna sang while strumming an acoustic guitar with a sparkly silver strap.

When Timbaland's image appeared on the central screen, the already-frantic crowd whooped even louder. As the band rocked the synth line and martial tempo of "4 Minutes," a duet with Timberlake, the side screens began to slide across the stage, their frames filled with images of speakers shuddering under a booming beat.

As Timberlake's visage appeared on one screen, it revolved to reveal the man himself clad in a white jacket and black scarf. The pair teasingly orbited each other in tight choreography, then let loose with a jubilant freestyle dance that was the high point both for the crowd and seemingly Madonna herself. For all her admirable perfectionism, Madonna rarely acts like she's having any fun.

Scurrying offstage to grab an electric guitar, Madonna returned strumming the opening lick of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and asked the crowd if they were there to see the Rolling Stones. When they answered emphatically in the negative, she said, "Yeah, [expletive] that." She then thanked Timberlake and called herself the "luckiest girl in the world" to have worked with him, Timbaland, Williams, and Kanye West on the new album. But, she declared, she had had enough of the present and was now venturing into the past.

The very recent past, it turned out, as she dedicated a near-metallic rendition of 2005's "Hung Up" to those in the crowd who had spent the night waiting for tickets. Citing her famous impatience mid-song, she simulated what waiting sounds like in her brain by coaxing a cacophony of noise from her guitar.

An even nicer gesture of thanks to those indefatigable fans would have been to play for longer than 35 minutes to justify their love.

Sarah Rodman can be reached at srodman@globe.com.

Madonna

At: Roseland Ballroom, Wednesday night

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