NEW YORK — You've got to hand it to Madonna — she never does anything half-assed.
The Queen of Pop, whose album Hard Candy dropped Tuesday, pulled out all the stops at New York's intimate Roseland Ballroom on Wednesday night (April 30), dazzling the packed-to-the-rafters crowd — including Fran Drescher and Rosie O'Donnell — with an energetic, fast-paced, six-song set that featured a guest appearance from Justin Timberlake for Madonna's latest single, "4 Minutes."
It was an event better-suited for Madison Square Garden and one that these fans — many of whom probably had to call a sitter for the evening — won't soon forget.
The pre-gig vibe was one of unadulterated excitement, with 45 minutes of candy-themed music (Bow Wow Wow's "I Want Candy," New Edition's "Candy Girl"), compliments of a DJ stationed center stage. Behind the expansive, five-platform stage, the cover image of Madonna's latest LP flashed on the big screens. Madonna, wearing a skintight black suit and a lace top, was certainly punctual, taking the stage promptly at 10:04 p.m. ET, to thunderous applause, as the first bars of "Candy Shop" reverberated off the packed venue's walls.
One segment of the stage rotated to reveal Madonna sitting on a gold-and-black throne, wielding a golden walking stick. Images of confections flashed on the television screens flanking the back of the stage. Madonna, along with her six dancers, gyrated in choreographed harmony to the sexy club jam. This performance, even if only 38 minutes long, was production-heavy, with a four-piece band and no fat. One song seemed to blend into the next, with Madonna saying very little to her adoring fans, who hopped on the opportunity to snap pictures of the pop icon with their camera phones as she strutted across the edge of the stage.
Next, Madonna strapped on an acoustic guitar, tossed back a swig from a champagne bottle and strummed her way into "Miles Away," a midtempo number about being far from home. Images of planes taking off and landing, airports and various locations around the globe were projected across the screens behind her.
The crowd cheered at the first few notes of "4 Minutes," which mimicked its video with a flashing countdown clock. After Madonna belted out the song's first verse, Timberlake emerged from a rotating pylon, wearing a white jacket and black scarf. It was the high point of the evening, and the production value of the performance was arena-size.
Madonna paused for a moment to reflect on the talent she's been able to work with lately, including Timberlake, Kanye West, Timbaland and others. "I feel like the luckiest girl in the world," she said, before dedicating her next number to her longtime fans — the ones she'd seen "sleeping on the sidewalk" the night before in line for tickets. She then played "Hung Up" from 2006's Confessions on a Dance Floor, followed by the disco anthem "Give It To Me," with pink and green disco beams pulsating across the crowd. Madonna danced like a woman less than half her age, and her vocals were at their peak.
"Give it to me, New York," Madonna yelled. "I don't see you people dancing up and down enough."
The stage lights were reminiscent of those at a Daft Punk gig, and that didn't change during the night's final song, "Music." Madonna started out at the very front of the stage, singing the opening a cappella, and was joined by all the concertgoers, who screamed in unison: "Music/ Makes the people/ Come together." As her dancers emerged from a faux silver subway car (destination: "Freshville"), she pranced across the stage, touching the dozens of outreached hands grabbing for her attention. The show ended with Madonna racing up the stage to the subway doors, behind which she disappeared.
And at 10:38, she was done. In and out.