When Madonna revealed the dates for “Madonna: The Celebration Tour,” a career-spanning live extravaganza, speculation surrounding the setlist led the conversation. Although the Queen of Pop is tight-lipped about specifics, a couple of tidbits can be gleaned from the star-studded tour announcement.
In a video that pays homage to his 1990 documentary “Truth or Dare,” the social media-savvy singer plays the title game with superstars from Jack Black to Lil Wayne. Finally, Amy Schumer dares Madonna to embark on a world tour and perform her “greatest motherfuckin’ hits.”
This is where it gets really interesting for fans. Madonna threw out song titles like “Like a Virgin” (initially in protest), while her guests suggested “Open Your Heart” and “La Isla Bonita.” It doesn’t take much to twist the perennial hitmaker’s arm and he celebrates the newly announced tour as “Bhog” blasts in the background. Assuming these four songs make the cut, that still leaves dozens of potential classics to play with.
Given the nature of the tour, which promises to highlight Madonna’s “unparalleled catalog of music spanning the past 40-plus years,” there are some no-brainers. For example, the chances of hearing at least one snippet or repeat of stone-cold classics like “Like a Prayer,” “Music,” “Holiday,” “Papa Don’t Preach” and “Who’s That Girl” are extremely high. The same goes for the seminal pop anthems that Madonna has been churning out of late.
“Frozen” reaches a whole new generation of fans with a virally sick remix, while “Hong Up” gets a reggaeton overhaul courtesy of Dominican rapper Tokischer. And then there’s the saucy Santana-assisted “Material Goarllllllllll!” — a reimagining of Madonna’s 1985 smash that debuted at last year’s New York City Pride. Other leading contenders for spots on the setlist include the mega-hits “Crazy for You,” “Live to Tell,” “Justify My Love” and “Ray of Light.”
Now comes the part where The Faithful put forward their dream setlist concept. For me, “Madonna: The Celebration Tour” is an opportunity to shine a light on songs that the 64-year-old has largely forgotten. At the front of the pack is the 1992 chart-topper “This Used to Be My Playground,” which Madonna has not yet included in the tour setlist. He was equally reluctant to perform the 1994 ballads “I’ll Remember” and “Rescue Me” from “The Immaculate Collection.” (The snippet she sang on the “Madame X Tour” didn’t quite make the cut.)
Madonna likes to throw in a few surprises and, if she really wants to “explore as many songs as possible,” it might be time to give “American Life” standout “Love Profusion” a spin, or even dig up “Erotica” and really stir things up. Deep in his catalog for an unperformed fan favorite like “Sanctuary” or the beloved “Like a Prayer” lullaby “Dear Jesse.” Hell, I’ll even take the “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” soundtrack banger “Beautiful Stranger.”
As for more recent material, anything goes. “MDNA” singles “Give Me All Your Luvin” and “Girl Gone Wild” are fairly safe bets, while “Rebel Heart” highlights “Living for Love” and “Ghosttown” should be on the shortlist. Madonna is understandably proud of “Madame X,” so “Madeleine,” “Crave,” or “God Control” aren’t entirely out of the question. I’d love to see the live debut of the recently discovered “Back That Up to the Beat,” as well as the pop icon’s own riff on Beyonce’s “Break My Soul (The Queens Remix),” which explains “Vogue.”
It’s worth noting that “Madonna: The Celebration Tour” promises to “pay homage to New York City, where her musical career began.” In that case, it’s only fitting that the “everyman” show, born out of the Big Apple’s booming ’80s club scene, begins.
Finding the right track for the final encore is a difficult proposition. Encapsulating the joy and impact of 40 years of hits is too heavy for any one song to carry. Perhaps, it would be wise to close the show with “Dress You Up”. After all, it has a nice symmetry to end with the song that opened Madonna’s first tour – 1985’s “The Virgin Tour”.