September 08, 2013

Album Review: Escape the Pain of Life That You Know - Madonna Makes it Fun on 'MDNA World Tour/Live 2012'

Say what you will about whatever bizarre stunts or statements she makes in a seeming effort to shock. Madonna knows how to entertain.  After 30 years, her continued ability to put asses in arena and stadium seats is all but incomparable. And while her latest studio album, MDNA, didn’t sell like some of her past blockbusters it nevertheless inspired a massively successful concert tour. In fact, the 88-date trek netted the superstar $125 million, landing her on top of the Forbes 2013 list of top-earning celebrities. 

For those who attended and those who wished they had, MDNA World Tour/Live 2012 (Live Nation/Interscope Records), which is culled from back-to-back nights (November 19 and 20) at Miami’s American Airlines Arena, suitably justifies their love. 

Madonna is as much a video star as a music one—a DVD and Blu-ray of this title is also available—and her concerts are accordingly packed with multimedia extravagance. In the context of a live album, though, certain visual elements and interludes don’t translate all that well—some interlude segments get a bit tedious—but such is a negligible criticism for the sake of continuity, which is a primary concern for just about any live recording. 

For the most part, the album is a treat. Of the MDNA songs, “Turn Up the Radio” and “I’m a Sinner” are the obvious standouts, with fervent audience sing-alongs turning them into party anthems. Older ones like “Papa Don’t Preach” and “Open Your Heart” are radically reinvented to complement the show’s overall vibe with its nearly nonstop, techno-throbbing soundtrack. This is a meticulously constructed set from start to finish; Madonna doesn’t take requests like Springsteen or stop what she’s playing on a dime to play something else like Prince. Every second of this performance is rehearsed to regimented precision, but the unflinching vitality Madonna exudes throughout—and especially on warhorses like “Express Yourself,” “Vogue,” and “Like a Prayer”—makes listening to it a whole lot of fun.