8 p.m. Jan. 16 at KFC Yum Center, 1 Arena Plaza in Louisville. $40-$355. 1-800-745-3000. Ticketmaster.com.
“You’re gonna love this,” Madonna promises at the onset of a recent single that reaffirms her role as dance-pop matriarch. Such a greeting prompts grooves peppered by waves of electronica that stutter and strut. The video promoting it is all party mischievousness: lots of long, single shots down luxury hotel corridors with what seem like hundreds of pals at her side, along with fleeting references to the Material Girl’s past. Finally, there’s the title, a statement far more assertive than the music itself. It serves as a caution to any would-be successors, critics or really anyone who has dismissed the singer as an aged relic: Bitch I’m Madonna.
Subtlety has never been Madonna’s preferred manner of operation. As her Rebel Heart Tour moves into Louisville on Saturday, she finds herself in a place seemingly unexpected. Most dance-pop sensations, especially ones so consumed and fortified by image, play out their careers fairly quickly, or at least they did when Madonna’s self-titled debut album surfaced in 1983. Back then, she was the immediate princess of the video-pop revolution, a movement she immediately mastered to make every costume change, every makeup or hairstyle alteration and every dance move as career-defining as her music.
Fans proved loyal enough for Madonna to reshape her image and promote it in ways — some controversial — to keep her in the headlines and on the charts. To that end, she is probably the most influential female pop figure of the last half century — perhaps ever. And yes, subsequent acts — Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift — largely owe their careers to her, as much through business acumen as through music.
But what of today? Working as a pop elder might be the only aspect of Madonna’s career she didn’t anticipate. She has railed, rightly so, against the way the pop mainstream shuns women of any advanced age, but even her considerable commercial clout has been unable to change that. Madonna will always be an unwaveringly popular concert draw, but she will never return to the kinds of record sales and charts successes of decades past, just as no contemporary of hers has been able to. That corner of the pop market will forever be ruled by youth, pure and simple. That audience always favors music from voices of its own generation.
Madonna is now 57. To put that statistic in perspective, so is Prince. So Michael Jackson would have been. For anyone who has seen a performance clip of her on television, she is almost freakishly fit so as to maintain the calisthenics that continue to fuel her concerts. But far more toned is her business savvy. Madonna might not rule the charts as she did in her past, but she remains the Material Girl of the ages, a woman wielding the power of image like a saber.
Any doubters? We refer you to the song title mentioned at the beginning of this commentary. Pretty much sums everything up.
7 p.m. Jan. 16 at The Red Mile Ballroom, 1200 Red Mile Rd.. $35. 859-255-0752. Redmileky.com/events-entertainment.
No, the Bats haven’t flown south for the winter. But Lexington’s long-running rock/pop cabaret troupe has changed venues. Having been forced to vacate its previous performance home, Natasha’s, when the bistro ceased operations in the fall, the group is trying out some new digs: a supper club setting at the Red Mile.
The $35 ticket price covers a dinner buffet, a two-hour performance and a voucher for Red Mile’s new year-round wagering floor.
Walter Tunis is celebrating 35 years covering music for the Lexington Herald-Leader.