I never in a million years thought that I would ever see Madonna live once, let alone the four times that I have actually seen her live. I always figured that my shot at seeing Madonna would be when she was reduced to playing the Iowa State Fair Grandstand. Really, I've been very lucky to have seen as many great live performances in person and not just on DVD. This got me to thinking about the best of best, and I thought, what the hell. As usual, in no particular order.
Six Best Madonna Live Performances (that I've actually seen live)
1) "Music Inferno" (Confessions Tour, 2006)
Brilliantly mashing up "Music" with The Trammps "Disco Inferno", I will never forget the massive shot of adrenaline that those opening notes gave the show, after nearly screeching to a halt under "Paradise (Not For Me)". It's nearly a full 3 minutes before Madonna comes on, but this arrangement is just fantastic. Extra credit to the "All right boys and girls, it's time to get your dance shoes on! You're listening to KUNT - it's all Madonna, all the time" spoken intro.
2) "Nobody Knows Me" (Re-Invention Tour, 2004)
The greatness of this performance was THE big surprise of the Re-Invention Tour. I had always been kind of "meh" on the song until I saw it performed live. Actually, using the word "live" is a bit of a stretch because she is at least being heavily supported with a backing track, if not out-and-out lip syncing. The choreography for this was simple and understated but fit the song perfectly. I think it's something about Madonna in boots that gets me. (see "Like It Or Not" on this list)
3) "Candy Shop" (Sticky & Sweet Tour, 2008)
Admittedly, this song is not one of Madonna's high points. But it works so well as an opener for the tour, (shown below complete with the "Welcome to the Candy Shop" opener) that I had to put it on the list. I love the look Madonna has on her face when she comes around on the revolving platform, kind of "Yeah, I'm here. What of it?" Still not my favorite tour opening (that would be this one) but, like the song, I love it in spite of myself.
4) "Frozen" (Drowned World Tour, 2001)
Since Drowned World Tour was my first Madonna tour, I was under a self-imposed media blackout re: everything about the tour. I was mostly successful - I only knew a few songs from the set list prior to going. I had two songs I really wanted to see live - "Frozen" and "Secret" and by God, both were performed. I love how bigger than life this performance of "Frozen" is, the long sleeves, the "ho-ha!" martial arts moves, and she is in fine vocal form.
5) "Like it or Not" (Confessions Tour, 2006)
I have always loved this song, although Jeff feels like it is tacked onto Confessions, and was glad that she performed it live. I love everything about this performance - the outfit, the choreography and especially the chair. For me, it's the chair that cinches the performance. There is something about Madonna performing with a chair (see "Open Your Heart", Girlie Show's "Bye Bye Baby") that is VERY appealing. My favorite part? Dragging the chair down the catwalk to the "no, no you know."
6) "Holiday" (Drowned World Tour, 2001)
After an hour and a half of album tracks and latter day hits (save "La Isla Bonita" naturally), the lights came up for the last segment of the show and the familiar opening notes to "Holiday" played and the crowd went WILD. I will never forget how the crowd just came to life for that song. And to think she almost didn't sing it on that tour! It is arguably my favorite live version of "Holiday" (Blond Ambition's version is a very close second).
Surely I have left some off, but those are the ones that really stick out in my memory.