LA Celebrates Pop Queen Madonna’s Career: If you were to read everything that’s written and listen to everything that’s said, you could be forgiven for thinking that Madonna can’t win. She’s criticized for focussing too hard on new music (such as 2019’s Madame X) and then she’s criticized for leaning on her hits. She dances too much, and she doesn’t move like she used to. And just to highlight the vile agism and misogyny that feeds all of this bullshit, she is either aging too fast or having too much work done. So again, if you believe everything you read and hear, Madonna can’t win.

Ricardo Gomes 5

(Ricardo Gomes)

That, however, is exactly why you shouldn’t believe everything you read and hear, because Madonna is totally winning. When she did tour Madame X a few years ago, and we caught one of the relatively intimate shows at the Wiltern, we said that, “The new songs sounded great and, with the show split into five acts and an encore, time flew by remarkably fast… For the gloriously defiant encore, ‘I Rise,’ Madonna sang in front of a giant Pride flag to huge applause. She might not be one of music’s great political thinkers but Madonna has always made it clear where she stands, and that’s on the side of good.”

At the Forum on Thursday, the middle night of five that she performed at this venue on this Celebrations tour, those same themes were all present and correct. At one point, Madonna wore the Pride flag like a cape. During “Live to Tell,” the screens beamed images of souls that we lost to the AIDS crisis — a devastatingly touching part of the set.

If Madonna allows the constant criticism that she receives to get to her (and there must be times when it does — she is human), then she doesn’t let it show. She remains a force of nature — a brilliant performer and a role model to millions.

The set was magnificent, pretty much honed to perfection over the tour. “Everybody,” “Into the Groove” and “Causing a Commotion” take us back to the ’80s early on, while she cites her CBGB punk rock credentials on a riff-heavy “Burning Up.”

“Like A Prayer” is still as controversial as it is beautiful,  while Act III saw Madonna amp up her sex positivity with “Erotica,” some of “Justify My Love” and “Bad Girl.” Because fuck the prudes!

Each night of the tour, Madonna brings up a different celebrity to help her judge the “Vogue” contest between her dancers. On Thursday, it was the turn of comedian Ali Wong, who appeared to be having a riot up there dishing out “10” scores.

The highlight of the night, and the one part that saw the set change from the other nights, was the appearance of Australian pop icon Kylie Minogue. If reports are to be believed, there was a minor rivalry between the two in the late ’80s and early ’90s, but they looked delighted to be on stage together for the first time ever. “This has been a long, long time coming,” Minogue said. “I know, what took us so long,” countered Madonna.

Minogue, fresh from winning a Grammy for the “Padam Padam” single from her incredible Tension album, joined Madonna to run through Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” plus a bit of Minogue’s own “Can’t Get You Out of My Head.” The pairing felt historic.

Madonna playing shortened versions of songs was a theme of the night, and the tour. Both “Crazy for You” and “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” were cut down, but that allowed the momentum and energy to remain pumped. For dance anthem “Ray of Light,” Madonna was suspended over the crowd in a box, while “Bitch I’m Madonna” was an appropriate penultimate track — a career statement that defines her longevity. That just left the equally appropriate “Celebration” to end things on a high.

Anyone writing off Madonna as a spent force is foolish, and likely sexist AF. On this evidence, she’s just getting started.

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Madonna Setlist Kia Forum, Inglewood, CA, USA 2024, The Celebration Tour

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