For anyone who has ever had the good fortune of briefly possessing a burgeoning bank account and, resultantly, being able to see Madonna live, you know that it is a sight that warrants the loss of all funds. Because when Madonna does something, she fucking does something. Where all other imitators have irrefutably failed is in the touring spectrum (yes, even the much touted Monster Ball tour). As M says in the behind the scenes footage of the tour, she will always inevitably be drawn back to the grueling grind of touring, regardless of her avowals never to go through it again, claiming, “I’m a gypsy at heart.” Two years after the tour actually took place, the DVD is finally here to remind us of yet another pivotal moment in the career of a seemingly ageless pop star (I’m choosing to ignore Gawker’s latest epithet for her as a “Crimean war survivor.” I have to give credit for the regenerative insult though).
While I have never wavered in my devoutness to the Queen, I have admitted when certain professional choices have left me in a state of bafflement (Gap ads, exalting the names of Lady Gaga and Britney Spears, doing a duet with Ricky Martin, and having her last album produced by a slew of names that M previously would have turned her nose up at in favor of promoting someone with a more original sound, as in the Stephen Bray, Shep Pettibone, William Orbit days). It took me some time to come to grips with the idea that Madonna is a very of the moment person. While many have been led to believe that she is the one to stay ahead of the curve, her real skill lies in being unabashed about contracting a trend and making it her own. That is probably why The Sticky and Sweet Tour is so chock full of performance cameos, including (why, Madonna, why?) Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Timbaland, Pharrell Williams, Kanye West (onscreen), and, somewhat more esoterically, Eugene Hutz from Gogol Bordello.
The setlist for the 2008 Sticky and Sweet Tour were not quite as pleasing as if, say, Live Nation and Warner Brothers had chosen to use the setlist from the 2009 Sticky and Sweet Tour, which included a fucking amazing version of “Frozen,” switched out “Heartbeat” and “Borderline” in favor of “Holiday” and “Dress You Up,” and showed Madonna paying homage to the then recently deceased Michael Jackson.
Apart from choosing the 2008 version of the tour, the only other somewhat disappointing factor in the S&S release is the accompanying music component (I can’t really call it an accompanying CD because no one buys anything in tangible form). The songs that were chosen to be on the, fuck it, I’ll just say it: CD. As I was saying, the songs that were chosen to be on the CD leave out some of the best live renditions, namely the interlude remix of “Die Another Day,” “Into the Groove,” and “Miles Away” (the most shocking omission of all). The first of the aforementioned tracks appear on the supplement for I’m Going To Tell You A Secret, the documentary chronicling the 2004 Reinvention Tour. There are fewer extras on the DVD for Sticky and Sweet than on IGTTYAS or the Confessions Tour, but it somehow leaves you more fulfilled, and also wondering how Madonna kept herself from making a comment about one of her crew members wearing a Meat Is Murder shirt, considering Morrissey’s ire for the Detroit Diva is widely known.
Although Madonna’s tours continue to set the bar for annoying wannabes who shouldn’t even try, there will never again be the same fearlessness she used to have in daring to be obscure. This is a woman who wore cone bras and referenced Metropolis and A Clockwork Orange in The Blond Ambition Tour. And while S&S incorporated a few moments of abstruse pop culture, such as Keith Haring artwork throughout “Into the Groove” and recycling the forgettable early 80s R&B song “Last Night A DJ Saved My Life,” there is a more pronounced level of safety in M’s choices. Now, her primary concern is relevance, which it really needn’t be as her rank in pop music is immoveable.