Two flamboyant tours stopped in New York City last weekend: Madonna’s Sticky & Sweet Tour and Of Montreal’s latest stage show. Both artists share a flair for the dramatic, elevating their concerts to epic theatrical extravaganzas. But there’s one major difference: ticket price. The best seats at MSG went for $350, while Of Montreal charged only $23 for general admission at Roseland Ballroom!
So any Madonna fans out there who are strapped for cash, here’s why you can — and should! — check out Of Montreal’s latest gigs and still get a Madgetastic show for a fraction of the price. Here’s a breakdown of which show is better at what:
Madonna: Lots of black. Lots of top hats. Lots of shorts. Also, there’s whatever this is.
Of Montreal: Frontman Kevin Barnes dresses like a cardinal! Then, he’s a minotaur! He’s in a bikini bottom! He’s wearing a giant fanny pack! He’s covered in fake blood! He’s smothered in whipped cream! He’s dressed like Prince! Shall I continue?
Advantage: Of Montreal. Half the fun of a Madonna concert is seeing what she’s decked out in, but her latest wardrobe is a far cry from the Gaultier-designed Blonde Ambition garb. Stick with Of Montreal’s wild and outrageous “WTF ARE THEY WEARING?!?” appeal.
DO THEY LIKE BBQ SAUCE?
Madonna: Madge’s tour is called “Sticky & Sweet,” thanks to a lyric in the set-opener “Candy Shop.”
Of Montreal: Their show is literally sticky and sweet, thanks to a set piece I can only describe as “The Fruit Orgy.”
Advantage: Tie. What’s more disturbing? The thought of a 50-year-old’s “love” being described as”sticky and sweet” — or the image of three scantily clad indie-rock backup dancers eating bananas and citrus in an erotic fashion?
INSPIRED BY “EQUUS”!
Madge: Madonna’s previous Confessions Tour had the singer decked out in equestrian-inspired garb.
Of Montreal: Barnes sang “St. Exquisite’s Confessions” on horseback. Real horseback. As in, he had an actual live horse on stage. And he sang while sitting on it.
Advantage: Of Montreal. Sorry PETA, but including a live white pony in the proceedings was a breathtaking, unforgettable touch.
McCAIN ON THE BRAIN!
Madonna: One video montage cut between John McCain and Adolf Hitler (dropped from the show on Saturday night).
Of Montreal: One video montage cut between John McCain, Paris Hilton crying in a cop car and Lindsay Lohan crying in handcuffs.
Advantage: Of Montreal. Madge’s over-the-top comparison makes the singer look calculated and out of touch, where Of Montreal’s McCain references are a sly wink to the Republicans nasty political ads against Barack Obama.
Madonna: Madonna’s latest corporate tie-in involved hair-care products. Remind me again how “4 Minutes” is supposed to make me want to buy shampoo?
Of Montreal: Kevin Barnes (in)famously re-wrote the lyrics to “Wraith Pinned to the Mist (And Other Games)” to shill for Outback Steakhouse.
Advantage: Of Montreal. One gets the impression that Kevin is spending all of his Outback moolah on the band’s stage show and increasingly experimental albums. The fans win, even if they now sometimes daydream about Bloomin’ Onions while the band performs.
GET INTO THE GROOVE!
Madonna: The 50-year-old Material “Girl” ain’t doing so much dancing these days, but its OK: She has backup dancers up the wazoo. Bonus points, however, for Double-Dutch jump roping during “Into the Groove.”
Of Montreal: Kevin opened the show with a charmingly awkward sidestep and pogoed during a few numbers later on in the night, but he left most of the choreo to the professionals (dressed as ninjas, tigers and, uh, gold Buddhas).
Advantage: Of Montreal. As technically proficient and wonderful as Madonna’s dance team was, there was undeniable charm in the rotating cast of modern dancers on Of Montreal’s stage.
MESSING WITH CLASSICS!
Madonna: Madge reinterpreted her old hits in dizzying, exciting new ways. But the gypsy-punk influence on “La Isla Bonita” left a bitter taste in my mouth, only because I already saw her do that arrangement with Gogol Bordello at Live Earth last year.
Of Montreal: The band reinterpreted “That Outback Commercial Song” back to its original, awesome form. They also covered “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” which left a bitter taste in my mouth since Kevin had just faked a suicide onstage (by hanging himself) a couple songs earlier.
Advantage: Madonna. Kudos to her ability to make the 900th time she’s sung “Like a Prayer” seem fresh and new. And nobody should ever try “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” particularly if they’re a band known for cutesy antics.
Madonna: The skeletal singer is promoting Hard Candy, where the Mother of Reinvention transforms into a desperate, confused pop relic, willing to jump into the lab with any current hitmaker.
Of Montreal: The group is promoting Skeletal Lamping, a concept album where frontman Kevin Barnes transforms into a desperate, gender-confused pop relic from the ’70s, willing to jump into bed with any paying john.
Advantage: Of Montreal. Skeletal Lamping is a near-flawless record. Musically, conceptually and lyrically, it takes Of Montreal to bold and exciting new places. Sorry Madge, but Hard Candy felt like the musical equivalent of watching your mom sing a Katy Perry song.
Madonna: The “Sticky and Sweet” show is split into four distinct sections: Art Deco, “Old School” New York, gypsy party and futuristic Japanese rave.
Of Montreal: The latest tour illustrates the life, death and resurrection of Barnes’ stage persona Georgie Fruit. And at one point there was a Western saloon setup.
Advantage: Of Montreal. The always-changing set pieces were ingenious representations of Barnes’ elaborate lyrics. Madonna may have the budget, but Of Montreal has the soul. Barnes’ hanging (and re-emergence in a coffin) is a visual I won’t soon shake.
Madonna: Chris Rock, Kelly Ripa and Jerry Seinfeld were all spotted in the audience at Saturday’s Madison Square Garden gig. Kanye West and Britney Spears were among the superstars who appeared in specially produced video packages during the show. Pharrell Williams rocked out on stage for a few songs, too.
Of Montreal: Hmm…John Norris was there? And MGMT’s Andrew VanWyngarden joined the band for that embarrassing Nirvana cover.
Advantage: Madonna. Jerry Seinfeld > John Norris. That is, until John becomes a zillionaire TV star thanks to his upcoming sitcom “I’m Not Kurt Loder!” (I’ve seen the pilot episode, folks, and it’s a gut-busting, hilarious surefire hit.)
So there you have it. Yes, Madonna attracts the big A-listers (and is wise enough to let Kurt Cobain rest peacefully), but when it comes to bang for your buck, it’s hard to beat Of Montreal’s $23 ticket price.