Madonna’s “Sticky and Sweet” tour, which kicked off its North American run in New Jersey on Saturday night, seems to be all about muscle — from the ripples marking the singer’s biceps to the sinewy beats permeating most of the songs in the two-hour perf. Rather than mellow with age, the 50-year-old has toughened up, replacing some of the frothiness of her pure pop days with a bracing physicality.
Yes, Madonna’s long accentuated the visceral aspect of performance, outfitting her shows with elaborately choreographed setpieces — like the whirlwind version of “Candy Shop” that opened this perf — but in recent years, she’s proven the ability to go well beyond the same old song and dance. On this trek, that translates into extensive, extremely clever use of original video clips to further individual songs.
That trope worked better when employed in unconventional ways — the faux surveillance tape that unspooled during a funked-up “Human Nature,” for instance — than in rote “guest appearances” by Kanye West and Justin Timberlake, both of whom reprised their “Hard Candy” performances in canned form.
Madge leaned surprisingly heavily on material from that album, offering up nine of its beat-centric tunes, but did a fine job of cherry-picking her hits — going as far back as a take on “Borderline” that was chopped and channeled into postmodern form via the interpolation of a metallic guitar line. She injected a similar intensity into “Ray of Light,” which had a decidedly more rock edge than in its original incarnation.
Perf could’ve used a few more cool-down moments. About the only time the singer offered aud a breather was during a breathily pretty rendition of the “Evita”-culled “You Must Love Me,” but Madonna didn’t seem as interested in displaying her breadth of scope as her depth of energy. To that end, the perf — which closed with a one-two salvo of “Hung Up” and “Give It 2 Me” that had the same force as the opening songs — had to be seen as an unqualified success.
Madonna performs at Dodger Stadium on Nov. 6.