Madonna’s Celebrations Tour Transforms a St. Paul Tuesday Night into a Saturday

Madonna pulled out all the stops at the Xcel Energy Center last night as part of her career-spanning Celebration tour and managed to make a Tuesday night in Saint Paul feel like a Saturday. It was very un-Saint Paul.  

The makeup of the crowd wasn’t surprising in the least. I don’t know how else to explain this, but the retail manager vibes were super strong. I think I spotted three women I used to work for over the years. I also saw my dermatologist, who usually wears a lab coat (obviously), but tonight, she was decked out in leather pants and a fur jacket. She looked like a rock star. That was a common theme among the attendees.  

It was a trip walking around before the show and seeing Ray of Light and Material Girl and Susan in line at the bar. It’s strangely comforting to walk around among so many people wearing sequins, metallics, and lace gloves. Me? I went all out and wore a pink shirt. With buttons. 

When is a stage more than a stage? 

Photo by Kevin Mazur, Getty Images

The first thing I noticed walking into the venue was the stage, as it was a spectacle unto itself. Rather than having the artist perform from a fixed stage at one end of the arena, catwalks branched out from either side of the stage and connected to a third catwalk that extended further into the middle of the floor crowd. 

This essentially created a grid with each cavity filled with fans, which meant no matter which way she was oriented, she was always facing her fans. When she walked along the catwalks on the sides, it put her close to so many of us. When she was in front of us, it felt like she was playing a smaller show just for you and your section. 

The stage was basically a transformer. The main rear stage featured a large circular platform in the middle, flanked by three huge LED screens behind it. Except it wasn’t just a platform. It also rotated. Later, the middle bit rose up to reveal a kind of rotating turret in which the dancers gyrated around in wearing leather masks. Later still, it was a DJ table where her daughter Estere worked a DJ table for a track. Oh, it also lit on fire. 

Photo by Kevin Mazur, Getty Images

The thing was constantly in motion for the entire two hours, with the crew dismantling one section behind her while building the next section. It was a ridiculously well-done show. 

On my drive to the show, it occurred to me that I’ve only ever lived in a world with Madonna. For as long as I’ve been walking around, she’s been there with me in one form or another. My two older sisters played the hell out of her music, and since they were older and bigger, it meant they controlled the remote. As a result, I watched “Who’s That Girl” and “Desperately Seeking Susan” about a hundred times apiece. I’m not sure that I’m exaggerating that much, either. 

Photo by Kevin Mazur, Getty Images

I acted put out, but I still joined in the choreography for my sister’s “Like a Virgin” dance routine. 

Oh my god, you guys. The dancers were so good. They did things in heels that most people would struggle with in tennis shoes or flat-soled boots. Things like dragging a Madonna reclining on a wicker chair down 30’ of catwalk or landing a jump while twisting or any part of vogueing…they’re the main reason I didn’t spend the entire show watching the stage rigging, so you know they had to be good.

Photo by Kevin Mazur, Getty Images

The dancers were also a really interesting slice of humanity and an incredible demonstration of the concept of spectrums, especially as it applies to gender. If a male is black and the female is white, then all of Madonna’s dancers were varying shades of gray. 

Madonna was the face of rebellion. Madonna was everybody’s cool older sister that they idolized. She was a sex symbol. She still is. She’s moved effortlessly from a sound of her own to a new sound over and over, for forty years. 

How do you cover that kind of ground in a single night? In two hours? If you’re Madonna, you do it with more than just your songs. 

Also, if you’re Madonna, you don’t just throw on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. No, you outfit yourself with help from Miu Miu, Gaultier, Versace, and a host of other designers. Her fashion always shifted with her sound, so it felt more like a prerequisite for a show like this.

She trudged through her catalog steadily and with a crazy amount of determination, often weaving multiple songs together. And since she was in Prince‘s town (they’re all Prince’s town, don’t be pedantic), she spoke briefly about her friendship before singing part of ‘Kiss.’

If you are anywhere along the remaining stops of the tour, do yourself a favor and buy a ticket. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

 If you’re interested in seeing exactly what she played and how it was put together, I’d recommend checking out the page for the concert. Somebody went to a lot of trouble, but it’s great to see it all laid out so cleanly.

Written by Ben Allen

I tell the story of the energy transfer between people who play music and that music's listeners. I photograph and write about festivals and concerts, which I've attended for three decades. I'm also the tall guy you probably got stuck behind at a show. First concert: Nirvana at Roy Wilkins Auditorium, Dec 1993. Yes, I am old. Tall and old.


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