Concert Review: Madonna - The Celebration Tour @ Barclays Center, Brooklyn

Concert Review: Madonna - The Celebration Tour @ Barclays Center, Brooklyn (12/13/23)

On December 13, 2023, at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, I had the privilege of experiencing the first U.S. show of Madonna's Celebration Tour. This event transcended the bounds of a typical concert, offering a thrilling journey through four decades of an iconic music career.

Shortly after the very late 10:45pm start, Madonna boldly proclaimed, "4 decades, motherf*ckers!" This statement perfectly captured the spirit of the evening. Bob the Drag Queen, serving as the MC, added a unique and engaging element, seamlessly tying together the various segments of the show.

The opening number, "Nothing Really Matters," was a powerful performance. Madonna, standing alone on stage with an impactful lighting display, set an epic tone for the night. She transported the audience back to 80s NYC with her debut single "Everybody," starting the show on a high note filled with nostalgia and energy.

A poignant moment arrived during "Holiday," where the initial upbeat atmosphere shifted into a moving tribute to the victims of the AIDS epidemic, highlighting Madonna's connection to the era's key social issues.

The concert was a rollercoaster of emotions and expressions. The provocative orgy reenactment during "Erotica" and the innovative musical arrangements that paid homage to Madonna's friendships with icons like Prince and Michael Jackson showcased her artistic versatility.

Despite the absence of a live band, the energy of the music was palpable. Madonna's guitar playing and her daughter's piano accompaniment during "Bad Girl" added a personal touch. While Madonna may not be known as one of the greatest vocalists of all time, she sounded strong, especially considering some soundchecking issues reported prior to the show. The use of backing tracks was noticeable but did not detract from the overall experience. The expert sound mixing enhanced her dynamic stage presence, ensuring that each song resonated with the audience.

The setlist, a well-curated mix of Madonna's hits and lesser-known songs, offered a comprehensive look at her illustrious career. While some popular tracks were missed, the inclusion of rarer pieces allowed for a deeper appreciation of her musical evolution. As much as I would have loved to hear "Take A Bow," the seamless transitions throughout the show left no room for disappointment.

The Celebration Tour is not just a testament to Madonna's legacy; it's a vivid showcase of her enduring relevance and unparalleled influence in the world of pop music. Experiencing the Queen of Pop's celebration was an unforgettable moment I'm truly grateful for.

Setlist:

  1. Nothing Really Matters
  2. Everybody
  3. Into the Groove
  4. I Love New York
  5. Burning Up
  6. Open Your Heart
  7. Holiday
  8. Live to Tell
  9. Like A Prayer
  10. Erotica
  11. Justify My Love
  12. Hung Up
  13. Bad Girl
  14. Vogue
  15. Human Nature
  16. Crazy for You
  17. Die Another Day
  18. Don't Tell Me
  19. Mother and Father
  20. I Will Survive
  21. La Isla Bonita
  22. Don't Cry For Me Argentina
  23. Bedtime Story
  24. Ray of Light
  25. Rain
  26. Bitch I'm Madonna
  27. Celebration
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On April 19th, Webster Hall was filled with “FLO Lifers” eagerly awaiting the UK girl group FLO who are currently embarking on their “FLO Live” tour. Formed 2019, FLO consists of Jorja Douglas, Renee Downer, & Stella Quaresma. The group’s style distinctly derives from R&B and Hip-Hop from the 1990’s and early 2000s. For a more in-depth analysis FLO’s sound and trajectory watch here (https://youtu.be/i18hpBoW4EU)/ <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/i18hpBoW4EU" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture; web-share" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Before FLO took the stage, Samaria, an Oakland R&B singer, opened the show. Samaria started with a simple backdrop featuring her name, keys, and drums. The audience seemed familiar with her music and if they were not, they were supportive and living in the moment. Samaria interacted with the audience well and related to them on the basis of terrible ex's and a journey through a toxic relationship. Samaria’s songs had interesting cadences, but what was  missing for us was backing vocals on the track to delineate verses from choruses. After doing some research we found that the “Out of the Way” singer has a sound also inspired by 00s R&B, with a some tracks tracks full of fun guitar licks and drum patterns reminiscent of Timbaland, but none of those instruments were present in her performance. Her backline consisted of a keyboardist and a drummer. Although Samaria sounded good, at times the keyboard’s volume was overpowering.  She worked the stage, nonetheless and  good job. 7.5 out of 10 ! ()SCORE

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https://www.instagram.com/samaria/?hl=en

samaria.lnk.to/shadyhills

Okland R&B Singer, Samaria as the opening act for FLO's tour "FLO Live." Samaria on stage singing with her band.Oakland R&B singer, Samaria performing on stage at Webster Hall as the opening act for FLO (Jorja, Renee and Stella) for their sold out "FLO Live" tour.

Next up was the much-anticipated FLO, and the girls opened with "Not My Job." They were all dressed in black with cute cutouts, and their outfits were shimmery (I love sparkle!) which was a welcome change from their wardrobe at the MOBO awards. Their faces were beat (we love a “natural glam”),

their vocals were tight, and their choreography was utilized well to highlight grooves. The chemistry between the girls was undeniable, and their vocal blend was seamless— absolutely chill-inducing. Jorja's thick vocal tone took the songs to a soulful place, and Stella's airy delivery allowed her to float at the top of the group's harmonies. Renee's smooth, warm alto voice added a coolness to their sound and gained a lot more stability in live singing. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention FLO’s band! The band consisted of some past schoolmates, which added another layer of charm to the whole set!

The absolute highlight of the show was "Losing You” In this live arrangement, the girls emoted and connected with the audience on a deeper level. Chris loved harmonized adlibs, brand new bridge and extra outdo including a guitar solo.  As a special treat, FLO performed a cover of Jamelia's version of "Superstar" by Christine Militon.  Even though a majority of the NYC crowd had no clue who Jamelia was and didn't know the song, the girls did teach the chorus before singing the song, so some fans were able to follow along. Chris and I certainly knew the song and even received compliments on synchronized impromptu choreography.

Speaking of choreo…

The girls' choreography was something we were curious to see, and they did not disappoint. They danced well, and they were given grooves as opposed to sharp movements that really complemented each member's personal style. In terms of technique, they aren’t K-pop idols so we weren’t expecting crazy formations and “point dances,” but you can tell they put in the work to provide another layer of entrainment to the experience. There was even some chair-ography for their performance of "Change," a new track about a lover's inability to "do the work" necessary to improve the condition of the relationship.

The girls did perform their latest single, "Fly Girl" ft Missy Elliot, and although Missy Elliot was present in the audience, she did not join the performance.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">.<a href="https://twitter.com/flolikethis?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@flolikethis</a> big up to Flo out here in the states on the road working hard! Keep doing yall thizzzzle!!!🔥 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Flygirl?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Flygirl</a>💇🏾‍♀️💃🏾💅🏾 <a href="https://t.co/Qtgr2f2KBl">pic.twitter.com/Qtgr2f2KBl</a></p>&mdash; Missy Elliott (@MissyElliott) <a href="https://twitter.com/MissyElliott/status/1649101483621728272?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 20, 2023</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Fans (the FLO Lifers) were absolutely living their best lives! They knew all the words to FLO’s songs—the BGV's and the ad-libs. It was a room full of genuine love and screams! FLO closed the night with their debut single, "Cardboard Box," and this performance featured a heavenly bridge section.

Overall, the show was good, and for this to be the group's first headlining tour, we were impressed with the girls’ improvement from performances like the MOBO Awards, where nerves played a noticeable factor. FLO is worth the hype for sure, and we cannot wait to see the new era of girl groups being led by FLO. For their NYC debut, we rate them a 9 out of 10! FLO Lifers left Webster Hall with unforgettable memories and high expectations for FLO's future performances.