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Madonna: Sticky & Sweet Tour(2009)
The Sticky & Sweet show was filmed in Buenos Aires over four days to a crowd exceeding 256,000 screaming fans. The concert includes a memorable show stopping moment when Madonna performs a historic "Don’t Cry For Me Argentina" to a thunderous response from her Argentine fans. The Blu Ray and CD set features many of Madonna's classic tracks, including "4 Minutes", "Like a Prayer", "Hung Up", "Ray of Light" and several hits from her most recent studio album Hard Candy, which debuted at No.1 in 37 countries.
For more about Madonna: Sticky & Sweet Tour and the Madonna: Sticky & Sweet Tour Blu-ray release, see Madonna: Sticky & Sweet Tour Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on April 12, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
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Madonna: Sticky & Sweet Tour Blu-ray Review
The Material Girl needs some better material.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, April 12, 2010
Madonna Louise Ciccone is one of those performers whose output is next to impossible to divorce from her image. Would anyone have really paid attention to the nasal, thin voice of at least early Madonna without her provocative music videos? In fact, Madonna was one of the first music stars of the 1980's to completely understand the power of the music video as opposed to the purely aural experience of listening to an album or CD. Even before she started to push the envelope lyrically with such tunes as "Like a Virgin" or "Papa Don't Preach," she was already exulting in the visual propensities music videos offered her. Madonna has not been shy about reinventing herself every couple of years in an attempt to keep that very image fresh. We've seen her consistently reemerge as "serious artist" (vocally in such pieces as her album True Blue and decades later as an Actress—emphasis on the capital A—with Evita), which she then tends to discount with her more lurid and sensational side in such efforts as her coffee table soft porn extravaganza Erotica. While Jewish scholars and others who have spent decades studying the arcane world of Jewish mysticism laugh out loud at Madonna's simplistic and seemingly PR-influenced love affair with Kabbalah, that spiritual fling (for wont of a better term) also brought Madonna headlines worldwide. In fact Madonna has extended her fifteen minutes of fame so many times that she seems destined to be our first octogenarian sex symbol, should she manage to keep the flame burning for another thirty years or so.
And so when one attempts to "review" a Madonna live concert performance, one is struck by the disparity between the purely theatrical element, which is often viscerally exciting, and the musical content, which can be downright lamentable. I frankly have never been an outright fan of Madonna's musical endeavors, despite enjoying large swaths of her releases, from the aforementioned True Blue to the Kabbalah influenced Ray of Light. If she often seems pre-packaged to an almost incredible degree, she's at least well produced, managing to make the most of rather limited vocal abilities. With the whiz bang visuals drawing attention away from the music itself, Madonna's undeniably forceful charisma and stage presence can probably often seem more riveting than it might if simply listening to the concert without the visuals, despite the audience's obviously rapt attention and acclaim.
This Sticky and Sweet concert was filmed over four days in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a place Madonna waxes nostalgic about in a rather nice opening voice over before the concert actually begins. I assume she feels a relationship to the place due to her involvement with Evita, as well as performing there personally. What she brings to her adoring fans is over two hours of virtually nonstop aerobic virtuosity, flinging herself into one high octane tune after another. The concert plays out to a sometimes astounding variety of projections, some of which literally spill out over the stadium to the delight of the crowds. While there's more than a whiff of narcissism to the proceedings here, with multiple images of Madonna in her many guises serving as backdrop to the actual, bone fide item, what can't be denied is the enormous energy this 50-something still commands. Madonna jumps, Madonna maybe or maybe doesn't play guitar (all those quick cuts defy an anal retentive viewer from seeing if she's actually fingering the right chords), Madonna actually jumps rope and sings simultaneously. It's an amazing display of physicality and it obviously keeps her fans enthralled throughout this concert.
Where the performance at least falls partially short is the music itself. There are several standout moments here, including a really brilliant reimaging of "Rain" with the Eurythmics' "Here Comes the Rain Again," but too often these remixes feature that same standard 180 beats per minute percussive backdrop that soon begins to resemble aural wallpaper. The woman is in amazingly good voice, however, with a nice richness having at least partially offsetting her tendency toward unattractive higher nasal sounds.
Aiding and abetting Madonna are a crack team of backup musicians and dancers, though one does have to wonder how much pre-record is going on in a lot of these tunes, especially when Madonna's semi-dulcet tones can clearly be heard in the backup vocals as she sings along live over them. The projections and stagecraft here are truly amazing at times, and frequently are featured full screen, giving the concert a filmic sweep and scope. Kanye West manages to make a video cameo without mentioning Beyonce, and Justin Timberlake and Timbaland do similar service later in the show.
This is an energetic, if ultimately kind of hollow, romp through Madonna's now close to 30 year music career. She works through her catalog, both old and new, with the energy and vigor of a woman half her age, which is surely to be commended. The problem is, the audience itself is now 30 years' wiser about Madonna' antics, including the many overtly lascivious elements in this concert, and so are less likely to be either wowed or shocked by them, for better or worse. The stagecraft here is awesome; unfortunately, the music isn't.
Madonna's set list consists of:
Intro: The Sweet Machine
Candy Shop Medley
Beat Goes On Medley featuring Kanye West
Die Another Day 2008
Into the Groove
She's Not Me
Rain/Here Comes the Rain Again
Devil Wouldn't Recognize You
La Isla Bonita Medley
Me Darava/Doli Doli
You Must Love Me
Don't Cry for Me Argentina
Get Stupid Medley
4 Minutes featuring Justin Timberlake and Timbaland
Like a Prayer 2008
Ray of Light
Like a Virgin
Hung Up Medley
Give it 2 Me
Madonna: Sticky & Sweet Tour Blu-ray, Video Quality
Madonna: Sticky and Sweet arrives on Blu-ray with an often audacious AVC encoded image offered in 1080i and in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. There is simply no way to separate the live performance footage from the projections and other film elements thrown into the mix here, because they are blended together so seamlessly that it's often hard to tell exactly "where" you are, image wise, as the concert progresses. Colors here are astoundingly brilliant and beautifully saturated. There are several literally breathtaking moments. I was especially impressed by the Chinese triptych sort of silk screen moments in the "Rain/Here Comes the Rain Again" Medley, where a beautifully array of greens and blues were on display. But the entire concert looks really, really good, with Madonna looking downright unreal for an almost 52 year old. Every fly away hair on her blonde tresses is easily visible. There was one brief moment of video noise on what looked to be an overly processed shot of the stadium audience in the dark, but aside from that, no artifacting of any kind was noticeable. There are several different sources used here, from film to video, with a lot of CGI and other techniques employed, so be prepared for some "texture" differences to show up repeatedly. Contrast and black levels are both exceptional, and this is one concert that should delight most videophiles purely on an image quality standpoint, divorced from the actual content of those images.
Madonna: Sticky & Sweet Tour Blu-ray, Audio Quality
You may not like all, or even some, of the music presented here, but the DTS-HD 5.1 mix, as well as the LPCM 2.0 fold down, are unbelievably strong and robust. Your subwoofer kicks into high gear almost immediately with the dual low frequencies of the audience stamping their feet and clapping and the ominous growl of the synthesizers announcing Madonna's immanent arrival. In fact you might almost think you're about to watch a typical summer blockbuster, so overpowering is this low end assault kicking off the concert. Things are just remarkably clear and precise throughout the two plus hours of Sticky and Sweet, with absolutely top notch clarity from the frequently thumping bass to the spacier high synth voices. Madonna's voice easily cuts through the band's mass and the lyrics are always easily heard. Surround channels perhaps reveal a bit too much of the audience's roars from time to time, temporarily drowning out the music, and so for that reason some more sensitive listeners may actually prefer the 2.0 mix, which is considerably narrower and keeps the audience sounds distinctly in the background. The 5.1 mix does offer a much grander soundfield, including much more noticeable reverb at times.
Madonna: Sticky & Sweet Tour Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Behind the Scenes (30:27) is a high-def featurette (with both audio options) that contains backstage footage intercut with various other footage and offering Madonna's pseudo-philosophical musings on what being a superstar is all about. Unlike the concert, the featurette does offer subtitles in English, Spanish, German and French, Italian and Portuguese.
Madonna: Sticky & Sweet Tour Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Madonna's tried Serious Actress. When is she going to go for Serious Musician? She's proven she has the ability, but this particular concert is much more about stagecraft and visual awesomeness than it ever is about the music.
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