A weekend full of Madonna moments

After making Twin Cities fans wait 25 years, did the Queen of Pop justify our love? Mostly yes, but the show had highs and lows.

Apology accepted, Madonna. Now we just need a little explanation.

"Sorry it took me so long to come back, Minnesota," said the singer -- 54 years old by birth but 20 years younger by appearance -- when she finally addressed the crowd midway through Saturday's concert at Xcel Energy Center. As if to explain why she hasn't performed in the Twin Cities since 1987, she added, "It's a little cold out there. We came to heat things up and keep you warm for the winter."

"Hot and cold" is a good way of describing our lingering impressions of this weekend.

Most mind-blowing moment: She toted guns for a strangely violent dramatization of "Revolver" and "Gang Bang" near the beginning of the show. After shooting several guys, she splattered her lover's brains all over a seedy hotel-room set. Sorry, but this shock had little value.

Most human moment: A broad smile crossed her face several times in the finale "Celebration," as she got a piggyback ride from a young dancer and fell into dance-party mode. It served as a reminder of how little joy she seemed to be experiencing the rest of the night. Why so serious?

Best proof her microphone was on: She lip-synched the highly choreographed tunes -- and there were a lot of them -- but on "Like a Prayer" her voice shone through -- and so did a couple fans who had the mic thrust into their faces.

Best proof she was playing guitar: Actually we couldn't hear it. The guitar was essentially a prop for a few songs. Just put it down and stop faking it.

Best makeover: Except for "Like a Prayer," all of the classic hits in the set -- and there weren't many -- were musically reimagined. A couple were captivating, especially a slow, depressive, passionate, German cabaret version of "Like a Virgin," delivered while she writhed on the floor with piano accompaniment. A meditative redux of "Open Your Heart" with the Basque trio Kalakan was also dramatic and surprisingly enjoyable, too.

Worst makeover: "Papa Don't Preach" turned dark and was cut short after just a verse and chorus. Sorry, Madonna, but that's Prince's thing, and we hate it.

Best self-reference: Madonna also rolled on the floor while performing "Like a Virgin" at the 1984 MTV awards (in a white wedding dress).

Most political moment: It wasn't her comments urging fans to reelect President Obama, or leading them in a chant of "vote no" (she gave an impassioned argument against Minnesota's proposed marriage amendment). It was her personal assault on unemployment, with an army of more than two dozen dancers and an unusually large and often extraneous supporting cast, from the aforementioned Kalakan trio (which performed for all of a song and a half) to a small rock quartet.

Best Material Mom moment: Madonna's son Rocco, 12, was among those dancers. He got a short moment in the spotlight to breakdance during "Open Your Heart." We'll assume he opens his books, too, with a tutor hired by his mother.

Best recent song that seemed old: "Candy Shop," which she blended with bits of "Erotica," had a classic sugar-pop vibe complete with heyday-MTV choreography, mirrors and chandeliers.

Worst pandering to the crowd: Opening act DJ Paul Oakenfold, going from Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams" to Prince's "Kiss." Or was it segueing from the Killers' "Mr. Brightside" to the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction"?

Best outfit: We like some traditional Madonna, so we were delighted when she went with the classic white blouse, black tie and black pants for "Vogue" -- and augmented it with a corset/cone bra worn over her outfit. Strike a pose, indeed!

Best costume change: It's hard to top the one during "Human Nature," simply because it happened on stage, not off. She stripped out of her white blouse and pants all the way down to a thong. Now that's shock with value.

Most "oy vey" moment: Every night, when Madonna strips, she has letters painted on her back. One night it was "NO FEAR." Saturday, it was three Hebrew letters (she studies the Kabbalah): alef, lamed and dalet, which signify God and help ward off evil.

Best butt-of-the-joke moment: When she pulled her pants down, the cameras showed a close-up of her derriere with a couple of obvious bruises."I get my ass kicked a lot onstage," she said, "but if you're not getting your ass kicked you're doing it all wrong."

Twitter: @jonbream • @ChrisRStrib

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