Madonna’s Top 11 Best Live Performances
|Madonna’s Top 10 Best Live Performances|
NOTE: Due to the popularity of this post & all of the great feedback, we’ve added 5 additional songs. We realize we were a bit light in the earlier tours. This has now turned into a Top 16 Best Madonna Performances list 😉
There is only one queen and that’s Madonna….b*tch. So in celebration of her 56th birthday, we have compiled a list of the the Top 11 Best Live Madonna performances. We have skipped over many of the iconic television performances (Super Bowl half time show, any of the MTV Awards performances, the acoustic Letterman performance, etc) and skipped over the iconic special performances (Live8, Live Earth, Live Aid, etc) and focused almost exclusively on her tours. Trying to narrow down the list to just 11 was much more difficult than anticipated. This is an entertainer who is largely responsible for the high production value we see in concerts today. There are many, many things to say about Madonna – which is why she’s the most written about woman in history – one of the greatest performers of all time is just another in her legacy.
Hit the jump for Madonna’s Top 11 Best Live Performances…
Nobody Knows Me – Re-Invention World Tour, 2004
In 2004 Madonna embarked on the Re-Invention World Tour – her 6th concert tour. The song Nobody Knows Me, an album track from the American Life album, was performed with just Madonna by herself using nothing more than (essentially) a treadmill. It is one of the highlights of the Re-Invention Tour – which went on to become the highest grossing tour of 2004 and sold out 55 of 56 dates for a total of $125 million.
Ray Of Light – The Oprah Winfrey Show, 1998
The second time Madonna appeared on Oprah and the first time performing was not just special for Madonna fans, but apparently everyone, as the two titans had huge ratings for the episode on May 29, 1998. It was Madonna’s first performance of Ray of Light (& the first and only performance to date of Little Star). The vocals during this performance of Ray of Light were absolutely stunning, arguably becoming her best vocals ever. Check out William Orbit playing beside her. Madonna brought the Harpo Studios crowd (& Oprah herself) to a thundering ravenous frenzy….and for good reason.
Live to Tell – The Confessions Tour, 2006
A standout performance from The Confessions Tour – Madonna’s 6th concert tour – was her performance of Live to Tell. Hanging from a disco cross, Madonna sings against a video backdrop of African children who have been orphaned by the AIDS pandemic. Just about every major religion found offense to it, clearly missing the message behind the performance which was so simply put in the final image from the performance with the quote from the Bible’s book of Matthew, “For I was hungry and you gave me food. I was naked and you gave me clothing. I was sick and you took care of me and God replied, ‘Whatever you did for the least of my brothers… you did it to me.” The Confessions Tour went on to gross $195 million dollars selling out 60 of 60 shows to become the highest grossing tour of 2006, the highest grossing tour per concert, the highest grossing tour ever for a female artist and the highest grossing solo tour – all incredible feats which she would go on to break herself.
NOTE: We’ve included the “Confessions” (Interlude), which served as the powerful lead-in to Live to Tell.
Into The Groove – Sticky & Sweet Tour, 2008
Never has a jump rope been as entertaining as it was in this performance of Into The Groove for the Sticky & Sweet Tour in 2008. The tour was Madonna’s 8th and sold out 85 of 85 dates, grossing $408 million. Breaking her own records, Sticky & Sweet Tour became the highest grossing tour of the year, the highest grossing female tour of all time, the highest grossing solo tour of all time and became the 2nd highest grossing tour of all time behind The Rolling Stone’s A Bigger Bang Tour. Interestingly enough, The Rolling Stones played 147 dates on that tour to Madonna’s 85.
Virgin Mary / Girl Gone Wild – The MDNA Tour, 2012
Madonna’s continues her streak of absolutely stunning openers with the Virgin Mary / Girl Gone Wild, opening song of The MDNA Tour. The MDNA Tour – Madonna’s 8th tour – was another smash success selling out 88 of 88 shows and grossing $305.2 million. Once again, Madonna’s tour was the highest grossing of the year playing out stadiums and large arenas around the world. It became the 12th highest grossing tour of all time (of which Madonna owns 4 of the Top 20 slots) and the 2nd highest grossing female led tour of all time (of which Madonna’s Sticky & Sweet Tour owns the top spot).
Hung Up – The Confessions Tour, 2006
Madonna had one of the biggest hits of her career with Hung Up, the neo-disco song from Confessions on a Dancefloor that helped to usher in a whole new vibe to pop EDM. As the closing to The Confessions Tour, Madonna sexily commands the sold out arena to get up and dance. One of her sexiest – and coolest – performances ever.
Gang Bang – The MDNA Tour, 2012
Violent and artistic, the performance of Gang Bang, an MDNA track is a Quentin Tarantino film come to life as performance art. It is a highlight during a tour full of absolute highlights.
Don’t Tell Me – Drowned World Tour, 2001
Don’t Tell Me was yet another smash hit off of Madonna’s Music album. For the performance during the Drowned World Tour, her first tour since The Girlie Show in 1992, she largely followed the hit video. Making line dancing cool once again, Madonna decks out in a sexy cowgirl outfit and challenges the incredibly good looking crew behind her to keep up.
Music (Inferno) – The Confessions Tour, 2006
Taking the #1 smash hit Music from Madonna’s Music album and mashing it together with Disco Inferno was a stroke of pure genius. Add 70’s style video backdrops, tight choreography (& screen time for rock God Monte Pittman – Read our review of Monte’s amazing album) and then put it all on roller skates and you’ve got a brilliant performance.
She’s Not Me – Sticky & Sweet Tour, 2008
There is nobody else like Madonna – from records broken to pure impact on pop culture – she is unrivaled. For an artist such as herself, who rarely looks back, when she actually did decide to acknowledge her past, she did it in the way only Madonna could – absolutely brilliantly! During her performance of She’s Not Me, from the Hard Candy album, Madonna looks back at some of her iconic looks while acknowledging she’s had many imitators and many that have tried – but NONE are even in the same league (Sorry, Beyonce)
Masterpiece – The MDNA Tour, 2012
One of the highlights on the excellent MDNA album is Masterpiece, a beautiful, nearly acoustic song about love and loss. This performance from The MDNA Tour perfectly captures the emotion of the song and proves that Madonna doesn’t need all the bells and whistles to be completely entertaining. (Bonus with all of the Monte Pittman guitar work!)
EDITORS NOTE: Due to the OVERWHELMING response to our Top 11 Best Live Madonna Performances, we’ve decided to add some classics that were cut. It was VERY hard to narrow this list down to just 11.
Agree with us? Disagree with us? Tell us why in the comments!
Vogue – Sticky & Sweet Tour, 2008
Very rarely does Madonna redo something she’s already done. While some may be angered by this, it’s really a treat for die-hard fans who’ve seen every performance. When Madonna does an “oldie but goodie” fans get to see them in a fresh and new way. It also keeps Madonna herself from being bored by 5, 10, 20, 30+ year old songs. One awesome example of this is the Vogue / 4 Minutes mashup from Sticky & Sweet Tour. Taking two of her big hits and mashing them up in this way was nothing short of a stroke of genius.
Like A Virgin – Blond Ambition Tour, 1990
Madonna took Like A Virgin, one of her early signature hits, and completely reinvented it into a middle eastern romp in the bedroom (literally) for the Blond Ambition Tour. This performance caused the Pope to ask the general public not to attend the tour. It didn’t work. At the time, the tour broke box office records around the world and spawned a record breaking HBO special and a documentary “Truth or Dare” which went on to break records itself.
Material Girl – Who’s That Girl World Tour, 1987
One of the most underrated things about Madonna is her humor. That humor shown brightly in her performance of Material Girl during the Who’s That Girl World Tour. The tour, Madonna’s 2nd tour and first world tour, supported the True Blue album and the successful soundtrack to the box office disappointment film Who’s That Girl. The tour became the second highest grossing female tour of 1987 and saw Madonna stepping up the production value of her show after The Virgin Tour.
Like A Prayer – Sticky & Sweet Tour, 2008
Re-inventing one of Madonna’s definitive songs is a tough challenge….but she pulled it off successfully with this mash up of Like A Prayer and Feels Like Home (itself a re-worked cover of Like A Prayer). A house inspired version that got the entire arena jumping and dancing, this performance of Like A Prayer didn’t bring the masses to the club, it brought the club to the masses.
Erotica / You Thrill Me – The Confessions Tour, 2006
An absolutely beautiful re-working of the 1992 #3 hit Erotica, and actually follows the original demo for the song. This performance of the song, Erotica / You Thrill Me is absolutely breathtaking. From the choreographed, smooth dancing, to the slinky piano line in the background, this is what Madonna performances are made of.
NOTE: The audio is off synch from the video on the DVD version of this tour, which is where this video was taken from. SUCH a shame!
Agree with us? Disagree with us? Tell us why in the comments! Do you hate us? Are we snobs to “earlier Madonna era’s?” Tell us what YOU think!