Madonna was like a virgin — shiny and new all over again.
In the first full concert of her sixth decade, the 61-year-old Queen of Pop ventured into unknown terrain, launching her “Madame X” theater tour at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Howard Gilman Opera House on Tuesday night. In a 37-year career playing arenas and stadiums, after rising up from the downtown New York club scene, she was still reinventing herself.
This — the first of her 17-night stand at BAM ending Oct. 12 — was indeed uncharted territory for a woman who has done it all. Playing in such an intimate space after all these years, though, the pop diva of all pop divas was adamant about you not sharing videos and pics of her so up close and personal.
Her no-cellphone policy required you to put your device in a pouch that wouldn’t allow you access to it until after the show or at designated phone stations outside of the theater.
The Material Mom of six has gone from “Papa Don’t Preach” to “Mama Don’t Play.” She can still out-diva any opera diva on the planet.
But as fans lined up around Fort Greene’s Ashland Place to get to the opera house entrance on Lafayette Street — no doubt slowed by having to put their phones in those YONDR pouches—it was the kind of New York scene befitting a New York icon. When it was announced that she wouldn’t even go on until 10:30 p.m. — despite the 8:30 start time on the ticket — fans didn’t even blink an eye.
They knew the drill: You wait until Madonna is ready.
When she finally took the stage around 10:45 p.m. to sing “God Control,” her anti-gun anthem from her “Madame X” album, some of her old fans who had been napping on their partners’ shoulders needed to heed the song’s call to “wake up” in a very literal sense.
But just as Madonna wanted to keep it old-school with her no-cellphone policy — which was refreshing and relatively painless — the night was also a concession to the fact that she is, well, older now.
That could be felt in her most throwback moment, when she took a Polaroid selfie of herself and sold it to old pal Rosie O’Donnell — her costar in 1992’s “A League of Their Own” — for a thousand dollars.
But it could also be measured in the fact that this theater tour is not just a creative curve in a career where every move has been calculated, but it’s a reimagining of herself as an artist at a time when she can no longer do the choreography-heavy work that arenas and stadiums would demand of her.
Let’s be real: There’s only so far Madonna had to walk from one side of the stage to the other at BAM.
As shrewd of an agent as Madame X — the spy alter ego she adopted for her latest album — is, she had her dancers do the heavy lifting for her. Instead, she emphasized the performance art that has always been a part of her concerts at the expense of the moves that she honed when dance teacher Martha Graham first coined her “Madame X.”
The setting and the sensibility turned up the theatrics of “Madame X” songs such as “Dark Ballet,” which, with its nod to Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker,” came to life in a way that made it dig into your soul more than the recording could. And make no mistake, this is a “Madame X” show. A good 80-85 percent of the two-hour-plus show is dedicated to her new album.
That won’t make this tour the go-to show for the casual Madonna fan, but diehards hardly seemed to mind that she only gave you bits of faves such as “Express Yourself” and “La Isla Bonita” while concentrating on “Madame X” tracks such as “Medellín,” “Crazy” and “Come Alive” — the latter of which did just that with a gospel flourish that set the stage for “Like a Prayer” later.
“Like a Prayer” and “Vogue” were the only two straight-up Madonna classics that she really performed in full. But the highlight was another Madge hit, 1997’s “Frozen,” that she did as her oldest child, 22-year-old daughter Lourdes, did the dancing on video projections to keep it in the family groove.