Earlier this year, and in an unprecedented move, Madonna announced her plans to do the same tour twice. The first leg of the Sticky and Sweet Tour began in the summer of 2008 in support of the album Hard Candy. The tour was conceived right after Madonna's history-making deal with concert promoter Live Nation in which a ten-year contract for 120 million dollars was signed giving the company unfettered control over Madonna's music, merchandise, concerts, films, and pretty much any other media venture that can turn a profit.
When the original Sticky and Sweet Tour played to audiences in the continents of Europe, North America, and South America in 2008, ticket revenues surpassed both of her previously record breaking tours for the Confessions Tour (2006) and the Reinvention Tour (2004), once again securing her position as the solo artist with the highest grossing tour in concert history. So naturally, it made sense for Live Nation to want to get the most out of their investment in agreeing to arrange another slew of dates for 2009, emphasizing the European market (there are only two dates outside of Europe, both in Tel Aviv, Israel).
Because Madonna concerts are like heroin to me, I decided to go to the Milan date (credit cards are still magical despite the economic limitations afflicting various companies right now) and see for myself what changes had been made in comparison to the show I saw at Dodgers Stadium in 2008.
The first noticeable difference was the setlist. Only a few minor changes were made, but allowed for her to fill the void with more classic songs that audiences seem to crave. Instead of "Heartbeat" (from Hard Candy) after "Into the Groove," she sings "Holiday," with hints of her new song "Celebration" at the beginning and a "My Sharona" infused version of "Dress You Up." "Bordeline," which used to follow up "Heartbeat," was taken out altogether (an unwise decision as it far outshone the replacements). The surprise of Madonna taking out a song featured on Hard Candy (as she's usually prone to promote the new instead of the old) was not nearly as flooring as the inclusion of "Holiday"--yet again. It is by far the most frequently used song at a Madonna concert, but she still just can't let it go in favor of a less lauded song (read: "Who's That Girl").
Other changes in the song selection included "Frozen" being performed after "Like A Prayer" instead of "Ray of Light" and the extraction of "Hung Up." Previously, Madonna would use the time before "Hung Up" as a request section for the audience. Some of the songs she would sing were "Dress You Up," "Sorry," and "Causing a Commotion." Michael Jackson's death less than a month before the tour began prompted Madonna to include a commemorative section to the artist wherein one of her dancers (dressed in MJ attire) emulates the choreography from the hits of "Billie Jean," "Beat It," et cetera.
Unfortunately, the one element I would have liked for Madonna to axe was the Britney Spears segment featured during "Human Nature." Madonna, do not attach yourself to that crazy train. You're better than that. My personal contempt for Britney Spears aside, I found the modifications to the Sticky and Sweet Tour generally pleasing. "Frozen," in particular, was a great addition to the show. Its fast tempo, remixy persuasion, combined with snippets of "Open Your Heart" made for a great build up to the end of the show, as usual, closing with "Give It 2 Me."
By far the best part of the show is when she speaks to the crowd in the moments leading up to "You Must Love Me." For the Milan show, she told the audience, "I always feel such warmth and love when I come to Italy." She pauses for applause. "Yes, thank god my dad's from Italy."
The trek from L.A. to Milan is a long one, but I feel it was debt worth incurring. I got to see what it was like to smoke cigarettes in a stadium, I got to see the people on the floor coalesce into a mass of dancing bodies when Paul Oakenfold came on before Madonna, and I got to see Madonna in her homeland, decorated in adoration by her countrymen.