To me, those cast of dozens, tightly choreographed dance-cum-drama extravaganzas which routinely accompany the majority of ‘live’ mainstream pop performances come across as a tacit admission of failure.
Put simply, the musician or artiste at the core of these displays fears that were they simply to sing their song the audience would drift off. Be chatting among themselves. Yawning. Stretching. Nipping for a drink/piddle, etc.
Cue Plan B. Diversion tactics.
Obviously a US innovation, the trend can probably be traced back to a mid-1980s bid to recreate the Thriller video during half time in the Superbowl, or World Series or some such dull sport borefest.
Which is not to knock Thriller. Good song. Great song, in fact. And one of those rare exceptions when wheeling out the hoofers can just about be justified.
On the other hand, 30 years hence not one sane person alive – there will, inevitably, be a few aged senile superfans knocking about – is going to be humming whatever dirge Madonna was chewing through when gravity stepped in to enliven proceedings.
The cape, the stairs, the horned dancers (still apparently obsessed with freaking out a small handful of fundamentalist Christians, my firm prediction is that approximately 10 years hence she will become a nun), et al, all contrived to camouflage and draw attention away from faded musical powers.
Then again, is probably fair to say that if any pop music merits the hoopla – although, paradoxically, if it does then it is quite likely good enough to not actually need it – much by Madonna might qualify.
Not my own taste, granted, but Material Girl and Like A Virgin, say, were songs of incalculable weight and vision compared to anything emerging from the bland sausage machine currently being ground by the industry which runs shows like the BRITS (and wider mainstream pop culture).
Suits (and black T-shirts) have reasserted their creative control of mainstream British pop in a way not seen since Tin Pan Alley times.
The end result? A parade of mostly white, mostly middle/upper middle class, largely BRIT School graduate (at the pop end), privately educated (at the ‘indie’ end) tedium.
Conservative with a small ‘c’, strip mining and vaguely retooling the past, dull, safe, mercantile...
Bring on the dancing horses.