Madonna's "Rebel Heart" tour delivered a night of expected controversy, but also an unexpectedly overwhelming sense of joy.
Sure, there were half-naked nuns on stripper poles and the talk of which body parts of her Kanye West likes best. And yes, her opener Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden was raucous Rockville Centre-raised comedian Amy Schumer, star of the summer smash "Trainwreck," who threw in some jokes about the sex lives of the Obamas and the drinking habits of Hillary Clinton.
However, Madonna's "Rebel Heart" tour, which continues Thursday night at Madison Square Garden and Saturday night at Barclays Center, may also be her happiest, most straightforwardly musical tour in decades.
While there were plenty of high-flying acrobatics, the most memorable moment may be a lovely acoustic version of "True Blue" -- a rare bow to romance, the sweetest of Madonna sentiments. "I'm feeling very nostalgic," she said, adding that she first played the Garden 30 years ago.
Though the focus of the two-hour show is to attempt to give her underappreciated album the chance it deserved, it also recasts her older songs in a new light, from a Latin version of "Lucky Star" to a more trap-influenced "Material Girl" to an acoustic, stripped-down version of "Who's That Girl?" The EDM version of "Like a Virgin," bouncing along on a freestyle-era, 808-beat, was an inspired thrill.
"Rebel Heart" was plagued by a series of leaks that forced Madonna to push up its release several months, but many of its songs find her at her most resilient. In concert, the title track was a pretty, no-nonsense declaration of survival, while the sped-up remix of "Living for Love" was dramatic and inspirational.
Madonna brought Schumer onstage to receive her "Unapologetic [Expletive]" award of the night, lifting up Schumer's dress to spank her onstage and then giving her a sock puppet and a banana. "Your underpants are awesome," Madonna told her, after complimenting Schumer's opening set.
Schumer can add the moment to the incredible year she detailed in her 35-minute set.
"I don't know why I've been labeled a sex comic," said Schumer, who announced that she will headline the Garden on June 23. "It's not fair."
She then went on to discuss the nicknames of her favorite sex acts. Schumer, who also announced that her series "Inside Amy Schumer" has been picked up for another two seasons, rolled through observations about her new role as a celebrity, including an imaginary relationship with Bradley Cooper that she concocted after the pair shared a 30-minute conversation at an awards show.
Schumer said she had worried about opening the show for months, joking: "Who better to open for Madonna than me? The answer: literally any band."
However, Schumer won over the crowd, who gave her a standing ovation at the end. "That is the best feeling I have ever had," she said.
SETLIST: Iconic / [Expletive] I'm Madonna / Burning Up / Holy Water > Vogue / Devil Pray / Messiah / Body Shop / True Blue / Deeper and Deeper / Heartbreak City > Love Don't Live Here Anymore / Like a Virgin / S.E.X. / Living For Love / La Isla Bonita / Dress You Up > Into the Groove > Lucky Star / Who's That Girl? / Rebel Heart / Illuminati / Music / Candy Shop / Material Girl / La Vie En Rose / Unapologetic [Expletive] / Holiday