Madonna gives new meaning to the song Disco Inferno Saturday in Miami on her tour: heavy on dance music -- and no AC.
Madonna's latest concert extravaganza takes its name from her current Eurodisco CD, Confessions On A Dance Floor, and these ''confessions'' reveal plenty about the iconic pop star
During the first of a two-night engagement Saturday at Miami's AmericanAirlines Arena they tell us that Madonna remains as famously narcissistic as ever.
For this tour, the star's latest peccadillo is to insist that the venues must stifle the air conditioning because singing in a room heated like a Bikram yoga studio is better for her voice. Or so she believes.
Perhaps the uncomfortable heat is symbolic. The stylistic theme of the tour evokes a nightclub, so, there you go: exorbitant cover charge, sweaty conditions, lavish decor and throbbing dance music inside. Think of it as the complete South Beach experience in a tidy two hours -- but without goonish bouncers and no bottle charge.
Structured in four acts and focusing on her latest CD, with a few revamped catalog songs to appease fans, these Confessions nod to gay culture, suggest a fondness for the Bob Fosse school of dance, showcase a desire for youthful follies as nimble athletic bodies fly about silver monkey bars during one exciting routine and, of course, celebrate all things Madonna.
The first act opens with Madonna's grand entrance at 8:55 p.m. as she's tucked inside a mirror ball and lowered from the rafters to the stage.
After that unforgettable entrance, the first act took on an equestrian theme inspired by the star's spill from a horse last summer. As she melds her new throbber Future Lovers with its spiritual cousin, Donna Summer's '70s hit, I Feel Love, Madonna, with riding crop, saddles atop her dancers who mimic horses. Soon, visuals are flashing X-rays of her busted bones. It's a little more of Madonna than we're used to seeing, but one guesses she has to show us more than she revealed in those art-school nudie pix unearthed by Playboy and Penthouse in 1985 during her Material Girl phase.
Unfortunately, she chose to sing the latter as Act II's misguided set piece while strapped to a mirrored cross, wearing a crown of thorns, while shots of African children orphaned by AIDS -- 12 million of them, we learn -- loom behind her on video.
This is Madonna at her worst, pretentiously shoehorning ''messages'' into her heavily choreographed concerts, seeking controversy and killing the momentum and the considerable charms her music brings. Nothing screams ''Dance!'' like images of dying baby Africans. She'd have been a real killjoy at Studio 54, don'cha think?
Still, Madonna can be rapturously entertaining. The final act features roller-skating dancers and Madonna pouring her buff body into John Travolta's Saturday Night Fever white suit to perform a mash-up of that soundtrack's classic Trammps hit, Disco Inferno with her own Music.
Rather ingenious. No, she didn't create the concept of mash-ups (blending two disparate pieces of music to create something fresh) any more than she invented voguing back when, but she still has a musical gift for improving what others originate.
Coming so closely on the heels of two similarly theatrical tours, this one lacks the surprise of 2001's Drowned World Tour and some of the better tunes from 2004's Re-Invention Tour. But she seemed to be enjoying herself more on this one and so did we. For the next one, a stripped-down Madonna, productionwise, would be totally hot.
If ever there was a definitive musical manifesto for Madonna, mistress of the modern dance floor spectacle, it would be the chorus of her Like It Or Not, delivered at the American Airlines Arena on Saturday night.
And appropriately, it was given not from a stuffy podium, but crouched seductively on a mirrored catwalk that jutted into the midst of the near-capacity crowd.
Well, we knew that. And she apparently meant that in several ways.
Madonna's Confessions tour is a relentlessly kinetic series of musical tableau featuring dancers, singers and a dizzying, constantly appearing collection of set pieces that she and the cast vaulted, tumbled and slunk over.
Of course, the happily controversial singer also talked about her "I gotta be me" persona, speaking up about issues she deems important, like the AIDS crisis, and merrily tweaking those she disagrees with. A few of those tweaks, such as the now-famous Live To Tell cross, are curious and seem sort of "nanny-nanny boo-boo."
But then again, the Madonna faithful probably didn't mind, and the people who were offended probably weren't there.
The show began amid fetish-like images on a screen of Madonna, 47, stalking through a stable brandishing a riding crop, as live dancers in leather bridles galloped on stage. The woman herself joined the party, singing Future Lovers, descending from the ceiling in a giant disco ball that split open to reveal her in an S&M-ish riding outfit. It was fairly awesome. Leave it to Madonna to turn her current real-life status as a proper English lady into another excuse to be naughty.
The flirty-naughty vibe continued beautifully with Like A Virgin, sung atop a black leather-studded mechanical horse pumping up and down like a carousel horse at an orgy carnival, and the delightful Jump, where Madonna and her dancers sprang around the stage tumbling on metal bars and platforms like urban gymnasts.
Also delightful was the campy disco portion of the show, including Music, where Madonna grooved in a John Travolta-ish white suit. The starbursts on the screen behind her during Ray Of Light were similarly wonderful.
The only times the show slowed down, in an unsatisfying way, were in the preachy moments. Yeah, I'm talking about the mirror-covered cross from which Madonna hung while singing Live To Tell. The sequence followed a curious segment featuring "Fame"-like modern dance depictions of young people conquering gang violence and feelings of suicide and preceded a disturbing but powerful presentation about the African AIDS crisis.
All very important points, and very poignant. But what that had to do with Madonna singing in a crown of thorns is, well... you tell me. And a subsequent video featuring dubious world leaders interspersed with Madonna singing her song Sorry in a pink leotard just seemed out of place. I don't mind a sermon. But when it's delivered by a woman dressed like a "Solid Gold" dancer, it seems like it's more than a little bit about her. Hmmm.
Despite those self-indulgent moments, Confessions was an exciting testament to energy, longevity and the sheer love of a beat. The only other thing: The packed house was stiflingly hot, almost uncomfortably so. Then again, so are the best discos, right?
I didn't intend for this to be a love letter to Madonna. In fact, after sitting in Philadelphia's Wachovia Center last week for about 50 minutes after her scheduled concert start time, listening to the crowd restlessly stomp, clap and -- God help us -- do the wave, my only thought was, "This [fill in the blank] better impress me."
But it hit me early, about 15 minutes in, when she was twisted backward on an airborne saddle. Singing the 22-year-old Like A Virgin with none of the immature cooing that renders the song infamous, Madonna instead handled it like a woman. An icon. The kind that just doesn't exist anymore.
The rubbery keyboards that announce that song were accompanied by a close-up video of horse hooves trotting in rhythm -- a sure nod to her riding spill last August. As her band injected the '80s synth popper with new thickness, Madonna engaged in some pole dancing -- while standing on the flying saddle -- impressive enough to intimidate any of Tony Soprano's Bada Bing girls.
Her voice was fiery, sounding stronger than her last two tours this decade. And that body... wow. It really does make your jaw drop with its taut muscularity that kept her in step nearly every moment with her much, much younger dancers.
It was all an awesome sight -- and it was just the beginning of two hours of precise spectacle that only she can do perfectly.
On Sunday, Madonna will wrap this U.S. portion of her Confessions tour in Miami. You can find plenty of reviews elsewhere and, since she isn't coming anywhere near us, there is no need to rehash what takes place onstage. Although if you are inspired to head south for the weekend (and you can surely get a ticket in the parking lot), the mash-up of Madonna's Music and The Trammps' "Disco Inferno," complete with dancing queen Madonna in a replica of John Travolta's white "Saturday Night Fever" suit, is giddy fun not to be missed.
Hers is also one of those tours that, because she is a superstar, apparently gives her the right to charge $350-plus for the best seats in the house, even if they are unusually intimate for such a massive show (a catwalk juts out halfway onto the floor). Personally, I was thrilled with my $100 seat a few rows up directly behind the soundboard -- a ticket I snagged the second they went on sale a few months ago.
But if you're going to complain about ticket prices, at least with Madonna, you know your money is spent as much on what you're seeing as it is establishing trust funds for Lourdes and Rocco's great-grandchildren.
No one goes to see Madonna expecting a traditional concert. She isn't an exceptional singer, her musical prowess extends to some decent guitar shredding on Ray Of Light and I Love New York on this tour, and even her weightier songs such as Live to Tell and Drowned World/Substitute For Love won't have Springsteen's or even Sheryl Crow's knees knocking anytime soon.
She is, though, a masterful performer. By merging some theatricality with her songs, seamlessly segueing between tracks as on her Confessions On A Dance Floor album and maintaining a sensory assault of videos, roller-skating dancers and her own cheeky persona, Madonna's shows are unparalleled.
But here's the thing. Madonna is going to be 48 in a couple of weeks. Yes, she is in the kind of shape that should embarrass the average aerobics instructor and lives a life of yoga and legumes. But, despite an unwavering need for attention, she won't be out there forever.
Cher made a tidy comeback in her late 50s with an equally spirited show -- though she's never been a Madonna-level physical performer -- and is expected to take her feather boas and sequins to the House of Celine in Las Vegas next year. Bette Midler is always good for some bawdy revelry, but her tours are fewer as she creeps into her 60s.
So who will carry the tiaras when these ladies eventually choose to sit in their mansions and watch pay-per-view all day? Beyonce? Jessica Simpson? Right now, we're stuck with "American Idol" winners with beefy voices and the stage presence of a lampshade, Top 40 successes like Nelly Furtado and Natasha Bedingfield, whom most people couldn't pick out of a police lineup, and quieter career artists such as Crow and Mary J. Blige who can sing and write, but won't have anyone chattering about their performances.
So you tell me -- who out there might be pole dancing on a saddle in 20 years? I surmise it's a pretty short list.
Apart from Michael Jackson, no one has made pop music be as much about looking as listening than Madonna.
And at the Wachovia Center on Wednesday - where the Material Mum will perform again tonight, before playing Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City on Sunday - there was plenty to see.
Many a pose was struck, starting with the world's most famous woman emerging from a disco ball in full dominatrix landed-gentry gear, complete with riding crop and horse-hair pony tail protruding from her top hat.
The song, Future Lovers, from last year's electro-groove collection Confessions On A Dance Floor, was inconsequential, though it did tantalizingly give way to Donna Summer's 'I Feel Love'. Which Madge did, from the adoring, largely female, significantly gay intergenerational audience, who didn't seem to mind the balmy temperatures, apparently the result of some air conditioning blowers being turned off to preserve the singer's precious vocal cords.
The Devon Horse Show was never like this: Before that opening tableaux was finished, Madonna had ridden bareback on one of her super-athletic male dancers, and laid in a barn with a horse in a pre-recorded video. She ran through her tepid new single Get Together and performed Like A Virgin while gyrating on a saddle anchored to a stripper pole.
For that, she was accompanied by a montage that mixed steeplechase horses and riders falling, as Madonna herself did in August - ill-timed, considering the uncertain fate of horse-hero of the moment, Barbaro. There were also X-rays of her own injuries, thus letting fans who wish to get more than skin-deep see her not only in the glorious flesh, but also the broken bone.
That, of course, was just for starters. The hyper-energetic two-hour show also included, in its most desperate attempt to shock, a disappointingly static reading of Live To Tell in which the pop star-as-Christ-figure wore a crown of thorns and was attached to a crucifix, to better absorb all the suffering caused by AIDS, gang violence and child abuse in the world.
And that wasn't the only point in the evening in which the focus shifted from Madonna's body - which despite its nearly 48 years is nothing short of fabulous - to the body politic. An interlude showing video clips of bad guys - Richard Nixon, Saddam Hussein, Adolph Hitler - was followed by the aging agent provocateur emerging in black leather and fake fur collar, electric guitar strapped on, for a Ziggy-Stardust-meets-Sonic-Youth version of I Love New York. A truly terrible song, it included an improvised, profane reference to the President.
When not weighted down by pretension, Confessions On A Dance Floor hearkens back enjoyably to a pre-AIDS disco era of innocence and sexual liberation. Musically, the most successful numbers were those free of too much high-concept staging and blessed with catchy tunes, such as Sorry, Jump, and the aerobicizing closer, Hung Up.
That went for the old hits as well, and it would have been nice if she'd done more of them. Her singing - supplemented by two backup singers and a turbaned Yemeni named Isaac - was effective all night, though whether there was any electronic vocal reinforcement going on was impossible to say.
Madonna's current musical collaborator is an imperturbable Brit named Stuart Price. He led a four-piece computer- and keyboard-driven band that tended to treat everything with an undifferentiated bass-heavy throb.
That kept La Isla Bonita from being as bouncy as it should have been, but couldn't stand in the way of Lucky Star or Music which quoted the Trammps' 'Disco Inferno', and found the star strutting her stuff in a white three-piece suit, Tony Manero-style. That was fitting - and form-fitting - because ambition, like John Travolta's character in Saturday Night Fever, has always been Madonna's main subject.
Along with a refusal to take no for an answer, at one point she scolded fans for not being enthusiastic enough: "If you're going to be my front-row bitches, you got to give it up." And on Confessions' Like It Or Not, she sounded the familiar theme that Madonna is quite comfortable being Madonna: "You can love me or leave me," she sang. "Cause I'm never gonna stop." Don't worry, Madge, we wouldn't have dreamed of thinking that you would.
Madonna may be pressing the same old ideological buttons, but the Confessions tour is a stunning musical makeover.
The '80s electropop sound of Madonna's latest permeates the entire two-hour show, and last night she tore up the TD Banknorth Garden for the first of three Boston appearances.
Emerging from a one-and-a-half-ton disco ball, Madge appeared in riding gear, complete with top hat and crop. A sly grin came over her face as the crowd gave her the iconoclastic embrace that keeps her performing - it's what gets her off. Thus truly being in her element as the center of attention, she gave us her all in return.
Bondage-noir imagery dominated the show's first quarter, featuring a fantastic cover of the Donna Summer-Giorgio Moroder classic, 'I Feel Love' between her opener, Future Lovers and latest single, Get Together. Though it's impossible to tell how much vocal management is going on during the more demanding, theatrical numbers, Madonna sounded rehearsed and on target.
The juxtaposition of her broken-boned X-rays and a video montage of equestrian accidents to soundtrack Like a Virgin isn't that much of a reach - it's a contemplation of innocence getting shattered, much the same way bones break.
Madonna spoke to the crowd several times, inviting (and even demanding) us to sing and dance with her. She teased, asked if we loved her - asked if we'd die for her. But moreover she was spirited and friendly; the Confessions show is obviously a blast for her, but it's also exhausting work.
Live To Tell featured an authoritative and impassioned vocal performance, sang from the rumored cross-and-crown of thorns stage set. The bitchy house vibe of Sorry had the entire floor jumping in a unified mass.
After a series of images that seemed to feature famed liars, (George Dubyah, Condoleezza Rice, Nixon, Chairman Mao, bin Laden), Madonna transformed herself into a punk vixen, strapped on her electric guitar and launched into a raunchy I Love New York, followed by a similarly edgy Ray Of Light.
Music got a righteous mash-up with The Trammps' 'Disco Inferno' and Maddy dressed as Travolta with a white bell-bottomed leisure suit. Her dancers sailed all over the stage on roller skates. Erotica was renewed with an updated, catchy euro-disco pulse, as was Lucky Star, which transcended the original's teeny-bopping tone.
Madonna closed with Hung Up, her vocally weakest number. But by that point, we'd have forgiven her for just about anything.
Well, if you couldn't tell at the beginning when she descended from the ceiling in a giant glitter ball, the set list of Madonna's concert (the first of three sold-out shows at the TD BankNorth Garden) confirmed she has, in fact, come back to the hardcore dance music that gave her her start.
Most people who have been around as long as she has are apologetically slipping a couple of songs from their latest album into the set list, but last night's show included 10 songs from Madonna's latest, Confessions On A Dance Floor. She applied that record's mix of early-'80s styles such as house, Eurodisco and early techno to old favorites such as Like A Virgin and La Isla Bonita as well. The conventional wisdom says 2004's American Life album was a disappointment, and if you feel the same way, this was a show for you: nothing from that record.
Of course, the experience of a Madonna show isn't complete without the visuals, choreography and costumes, and here last night's show topped the [Re-Invention tour] as well -- eventually.
The show began with Future Lovers, from Confessions (with a snippet of Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" tucked into the middle), and went into the lush house of the new album's Get Together. But Madonna, dressed up in some semblance of riding gear, punctuated the songs with dancing that looked, and felt, more like we were watching her work out. The bumped-up Like A Virgin was more of the same -- although there was humor at work in the video projections of people falling off horses (recalling Madonna's recent mishap), her own aerobic writhing in a giant saddle was designed to be marveled at rather than enjoyed.
From there, the jump-cut philosophy that made the [Re-Invention show] a weird mess took over for a while. Here's Madonna on a glitter-ball crucifix, complete with crown of thorns, singing Live To Tell while the video screen projects statistics on African children orphaned by AIDS. Here she is singing Isaac while the singer of the same name who sang on the record holds the melody and a robed dancer flings herself around a cage. Here she's singing Jump while film-student-level clips of urban decay flash behind her. Whatever.
The hinge of the show was Like It Or Not, another dance thumper but with a shuffle rhythm, which Madonna sang alone, with virtually no projections and nothing on stage but a black wooden chair. The song is a fairly simple declaration of independence, but the lo-tech setting gave her a chance to show sass rather than ice, and for the audience to relate rather than adore.
From there, the dance-floor fillers kept coming, and the accoutrements settled down into being impressive yet coherent recapitulations of the themes and vibes of the songs. Madonna slathered distorto-guitar onto I Love New York and Ray Of Light; her dance moves were purposely ungainly during Let It Will Be and her banter with the audience was truly playful before the ballad Substitute For Love, which was followed by the lovely, doleful ballad Paradise (Not For Me), from 2000's Music album.
By the time she did a virtual live mashup, singing the words and melody of Music while her band played the classic "Disco Inferno," with Madonna in a white disco suit; aped the James Brown routine of being picked up off the stage and helped into a cape (with "Dancing Queen" on it); gave even more dance thump to Lucky Star than the original; and finished by blazing through Hung Up, the first single from Confessions, the rout was on. Fun won.
Madonna is known for her many faces: Mother Madge. Dominatrix. Material Girl. Spiritual Leader. Sex Goddess. Virgin.
So it was fitting that she began her performance Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden by emerging from a shattered crystal disco ball. The Confessions tour is all about showing off Madonna's many facets.
The Queen of Pop started the show in a black riding outfit that was Mrs. Ritchie meets Erotica's Madonna. The costume was the first of at least half a dozen wardrobe changes Madonna would go through during the two-hour show.
The riding outfit, complete with hat and crop, was a nod to Madonna's recent persona as an English lady as well as a celebration of the sexiness and indomitable spirit that has remained constant regardless of her style-of-the-moment.
Scenes of horses, fallen riders, and X-rays flashed across the ubiquitous video screens during the first few songs, referencing the injuries she suffered from a recent horseback riding accident, which left her with several broken bones.
Madonna showed off just how well she had recovered when, during a later dance interlude to the song Sorry, she put her leg seemingly behind her head.
Madonna danced throughout the show along with a large troupe of athletic male and female dancers. The dancers jumped around in cages, leaped from the stage, and even - during the "Disco Inferno" mash up with her song Music - performed on rollerblades.
At one point, she even donned an Elvis-style boxer's cape with a "Dancing Queen" logo.
She brazenly displayed her political side during numbers such as the Sorry interlude, which included video of her giving President Bush the finger among other images.
She displayed her dominatrix side, riding her male dancers during Future Lovers and ordering the crowd to dance, jump and sing as she saw fit.
Her theatrical side was on view in numbers such as the '70s-inspired "Disco Inferno" mix when she wore a white suit straight out of "Saturday Night Fever."
She even showed her New York side, telling the crowd:
"If you can't let your hair down in New York City, where can you let it down? I've been [expletive] up the words and falling all over the place. I think I'm trying to hard to impress you people. But this is my home anyway. Why do I have to impress anybody?"
The crowd, for its part, didn't seem to notice any mistakes. They jumped on command, sang at the top of their lungs, and even did the wave.
And, through it all, Madonna gyrated, shook and showed why, after more than two decades on stage, one face will always remain constant: The Queen of Pop.
Madonna turns up the heat at her first of 6 shows at the Garden
Madonna turned Madison Square Garden last night into a combination of Studio 54, Las Vegas and Cirque du Soleil, emerging from a giant disco ball to perform two hours' worth of thumping, bass-driven dance music accompanied by eye-popping visuals, her usual coterie of handsome male dancers and, perhaps most importantly, a DJ.
Adding to the clubby atmosphere: reduced air-conditioning to help protect Madonna's voice. As the impressively lithe and sinewy singer moved around the stage, she wasn't the only one perspiring.
In case you're wondering, Madonna did get up on her crucifix to sing Live To Tell. Was it tasteless? Was it offensive? One thing's for sure: It was one of the show's few dull points. Being stuck to a cross doesn't allow a physical performer like Madonna to move much.
At 47, Madonna has stopped reinventing herself in any substantial way. She continues to try on different outfits -- a cowboy hat for the 2000 album Music, a militant beret for 2003's American Life -- but those are fashion accessories, not personas.
For her latest album, she has returned to a familiar role: the flamboyant disco queen. Confessions happens to be a disappointingly vapid album, a soulless spreadsheet of dance-pop cliches -- but Madonna has always had a knack for rising above her material. It's one of the reasons she remains so fascinating, and so undeniably entertaining.
Madonna devoted about half of the concert -- the first of six in a run at the Garden -- to the new album, performing nearly every track on it. She began with Future Lovers, surrounded by men dressed as S&M horses. Madonna rode one, of course, then launched into a stomping version of Donna Summer's "I Feel Love." During Like a Virgin, she mounted a saddle attached to a merry-go-round pole.
This was the "Equestrian" part of the show, and the other sections -- "Bedouin," "Never Mind the Bollocks" and "Disco" -- were equally nonsensical (and thoroughly enjoyable).
Madonna still has a knack for aesthetics, which helped some of her overly earnest new songs come to life. During Isaac (a song that raised a few hackles in the Jewish community), a muezzin-style singer in a robe trekked across the stage while images of the desert passed behind him.
The show steamrollered ahead with barely a split-second between songs, much like a DJ might string together his set. The inevitable climax was the show's "Disco" section, for which Madonna gamely donned a white suit, a la John Travolta.
Madonna may be stealing her own ideas these days, but she still knows how to please a crowd. By the time she unleashed the old-new combo of Lucky Star and Hung Up, the crowd had long been up on its feet, dancing and sweating along with her.
During her fourth song at Hartford's sweltering Civic Center Sunday night, with bare-chested men acrobatically flying all around her, Madonna paused ever so briefly.
Instrumentals for Jump blared as the slight-yet-domineering superstar turned toward audience members mere feet away, and smiled.
It was a knowing smile. A smile that said: Yeah, I know I've got you enraptured, hanging on my every move and word to see what comes next.
Madge knows her power.
And therein lies what has made Madonna the icon she is, a 47-year-old woman able to sell out arenas in minutes, command hundreds of dollars a ticket and endure decades in a business where fame is fleeting.
It's not the controversy du jour that makes audiences appreciate Madonna, though her antics certainly keep things amusing. It's not the cone bras, not the girl-on-girl kiss with Britney, nor the blasphemous use of religious symbols.
What fuels her fame, rather, is what she represents: A powerful woman, a lady fearless of upsetting the powers that be.
At face value, the out-there actions do not drive Madonna's success. What makes her so monumental, is that, beneath it all, she is a woman with the -- ahem -- cojones to act more like men are expected to, taking charge and acting boldly.
Projecting this power separates Madonna, making her an anomaly in a field of female performers more concerned with fitting into the mold than breaking it.
Some say the crown of thorns and mock crucifixion, the writhing on stage in a wedding gown while singing about virginity are gimmickry. Whether sincere or simply a public relations ploy, this much can be said: She sticks to her guns. The same sentiments presented years ago, in her documentary, Truth or Dare, and in the infamous Like A Prayer video, are still delivered by the Material Girl today.
Sunday night, she continued to stand for sexual empowerment, and against discrimination, in acts that, respectively, had Madonna riding a male dancer like a pony and buff male dancers holding hands and embracing. She paired images of African children, statistics about the AIDS pandemic and scripture on a screen above where she hung in mock crucifixion, singing her 1986 haunting ballad, Live To Tell.
"It's boring not to take risks, right?" Madonna asked the Hartford audience mid-set.
Minutes later, in perhaps the most revelatory moment of the night, Madonna gave the world the finger. With her hand thrust out, and middle finger extended, the Material Girl turned slowly, deliberately and panoramically so all in the audience could see her gesture.
There she was, a woman telling the world what it could do.
Madonna promised a disco-centric show for her current concert tour, and that's exactly what she delivered Sunday night at the Hartford Civic Center.
It was a club-friendly two-hour set, packed with the throbbing beats and ethereal, trance-like vocals that have filled her past few albums. But the music was almost incidental - it could have been piped in. This show was about production values, and though Madonna was the star, the stage was the true focal point.
It was huge, for one thing, and it sprouted runways leading off to satellite stages out in front and to each side. Madonna was careful to use all the space she had, sending a vast crew of dancers out as her emissaries to the crowd while she roamed among them, as if supervising the equestrian-themed bondage on Future Lovers, or the roller-rink skate-fest that led into Music.
Yet she wasn't always the center of attention, thanks in part to a series of technological marvels that were impossible to ignore: The giant disco ball that descended from the rafters, with Madonna inside, to start the show, for example. Or the huge glittering merry-go-round saddle she rode on Like A Virgin as video screens showed X-rays from her own horse-related mishap last year (evidence, perhaps, that Madge has a sense of humor?). Or the huge mirrored cross to which she was strapped on another older song, Live To Tell.
Although the last bit has caused a stir elsewhere, it was more funny than controversial - the microphone affixed to the cross made the whole thing resemble a press conference from Calvary as imagined by Monty Python.
Stepping quite literally out of the spotlight made it easy for Madonna to disappear for costume changes. She wore black to start, she wore white to finish, and in between she sported earth tones for the desert-techno of Isaac, which featured a musician by that name blowing a curved horn and adding backing vocals in a Yemeni dialect of Arabic.
She also showed off her guitar playing in the middle of the set, emerging in tight black pants and a high-collared black leather jacket with a black guitar to front a band dressed entirely in white and playing white instruments. Ah, such visual contrast.
The best musical moment came in another bit of contrast at the end of the show, when the beat behind a re-imagined techno version of her '80s hit Lucky Star slowly morphed into Hung Up, the hypnotic hit single from last year's Confessions On A Dance Floor. The transition was smart, and subtle, and seemed to fit well with something she had said to the crowd earlier in the show.
"It's boring to not take risks, isn't it?" she asked before Substitute for Love. "It's boring to play it safe, isn't it?"
They were rhetorical questions, but if anyone is qualified to answer them, it's Madonna.
The "discofied" cross that drew some religious groups' ire dazzled. The dominatrix-like act on a saddle elicited hoots. And the petite, toned woman at the center of it all commanded of thousands before her: Look at me.
Madonna's Confessions tour hit Hartford's sweltering Civic Center like a torrential summer rainstorm Sunday night, and her adoring audience lapped up every bit.
For about two hours, Madge kept her audience engaged, providing visual accompaniment as only she can to a list of hits, both recent and classic. It was the first of two Hartford shows for the 47-year-old, who looked all of 30. The second show -- tonight at 8 -- was added after tickets to the first sold out in a matter of hours.
Though nothing less has come to be expected of the Material Girl, she once again proved herself not just a singer but an entertainer extraordinaire.
Only icons can deliver a show like this, when audiences know almost every word of every song. When the energy level remains so high that people stand or dance throughout. For this, fans were willing to dole out up to $352 each to see the spectacle.
And what a spectacle it was.
The show opened moments earlier with man-horses running around in bondage-like bridles.
Amanda Whitman and Aaron Johnston drove from New Brunswick, Canada, to see the show. The couple paid several hundred dollars for their floor seats.
"It's one of those things like, who knows when she'll tour again?'' said Johnston.
Her voice was at least at recording quality throughout, which is to say sufficiently capable. But people don't come out forher pipes alone.
Though the four-month Confessions world tour coincides with Madonna's latest release, Confessions On A Dance Floor," the evening was hardly all leotards and leg warmers. Video montages paired images of the Pope with images of a dumbfounded-looking President Bush. A nod to her Kabbalist beliefs came when a shofar blowing heralded Isaac, a song that stirred controversy among rabbis who believed Madonna was trying to profit by singing about a holy rabbi, which she denied in published reports.
Through seven costume changes, Madonna went from Jesus proxy to the mindless times of the disco days.
It's what keeps her interesting, and us interested: that chameleon capability and dare-to-go-there attitude that allows her to be everything from Saturday Night Fever dancer to preacher of peace.
Tour reviewers give Madonna good notices
Source: Courant - Hartford - 25 June 2006
Madonna's Confessions tour, playing Sunday and Monday in Hartford, has been widely reviewed. Here's a taste:
The Edmonton Journal's Jane Stevenson reported about Wednesday's concert in Montreal: "Madonna was a vision of kinky equestrian style...[her] next appearance [was] in a crucifixion scene atop a mirrored cross wearing a crown of thorns while singing Live To Tell. A clock above her counted to 12 million: the number of children in Africa who will be left orphans because of AIDS. It was powerful and provocative but not offensive."
A week earlier, Chicago Tribune music critic Greg Kot reported,"the production values were pricey and mostly impeccable, with a couple of would-be here's-where-your-380-bucks-went eye-poppers: a ribald S&M routine with a riding crop and a rotating saddle, and a somewhat underwhelming rendering of Live To Tell on a mirrored cross...But the true visual center of the show was the singer herself...she was a physical marvel. She's developed into a more sensual and elegant performer than ever; remarkable, really, for a 47-year-old woman who seems to develop more stamina and suppleness as she matures....musically the concert was hit and miss... [but] she was never less than watchable."
When Madonna first appeared on stage at Montreal's Bell Centre on Wednesday night, it was clear that this tour marked one of those key moments in her career arc. Her arrival on the charts in the early eighties was marked by critical derision (a Time magazine critic once declared that Madonna was a fad that no one would remember in a decade). Since then, there have been celebrity relationships (among them with Sean Penn and Warren Beatty), and brazen proclamations of libidinous bravado and religious transformation.
There have been mishaps -- a famously tortured acting career, for example. But for the most part, Madonna's music has consistently delivered. A few years ago, she faced some particularly nasty reviews that suggested the Material Girl had run out of material, and that the pop goddess was redundant.
But really, should anyone ever count this woman out? Not every track on every album is spun from gold, of course, but she is still an extremely savvy and clever performer, pop star and singer. Her latest album, Confessions On A Dance Floor, is a brilliant bit of career revival, full of spunky glam, ghetto chic and stimulating videos that have been among Madonna's hallmarks.
The first night of the only two Canadian performances of her Confessions tour was an example of the artist at her best: energetic, naughty, brazenly kitschy and wildly entertaining. She arrived, ingeniously, in a massive disco ball that descended from the heavens and opened like a blooming flower. Call it the damn-the-critics tour: Madonna seemed hell bent on engaging in some age-defying calisthenics, and, oddly enough, began the evening with a lengthy reference to her horse-riding accident of last year. This, she made entirely clear, was going to hold her back about as much as those occasionally bitchy reviews.
Draped in a series of skin-tight outfits by Jean Paul Gaultier (a couple of them appeared to have been sprayed on), Madonna's body provides a point of fascination. While defying her critics, she also defies age: Why bother with a midlife crisis when there are no signs of crisis? (The list of factoids given to the press about the Confessions tour includes: "Foundation used on Madonna's skin: 0.") There were the expected and much-talked-about political statements: the depiction of a tragic gangland shooting; a reminder that one million children have been orphaned by AIDS in Africa; nods to her massive gay following (two male dancers embrace during one number, to Madonna's approval); and the obligatory trashing of Bush and Blair.
But Madonna is at her best when she moves beyond literal-minded political statements and plays with cultural iconography. She performed a rendition of Live To Tell while strapped to a massive mirror-tiled cross, adorned with a crown of thorns (fitting in Montreal, a city that has its own lit-up cross). Madonna seemed less intent on reminding us about her own suffering than about pointing to the religious overtones of contemporary celebrity culture (a point made equally well by David Bowie during his 1987 Glass Spider tour). Another sublime moment arrived when she sang her signature song, Like A Virgin. For this, a metal rod conveniently popped out of one section of the stage, allowing Madonna to pole dance, showgirl style.
But the play list was telling: This is not an artist who is comfortable settling for a greatest-hits retrospective. Madonna is confident that her best work is current, not past. More than half of the songs performed were from her new album, culminating in a marvellously tacky disco medley, punctuated by Hung Up, the ludicrously catchy ABBA-sampled hit. By contrast, on some of her older hits -- notably Lucky Star -- she sang with far less enthusiasm.
Madonna seemed intent on proving something with her Confessions tour: that she's still beholden to her worshipping fans (Montreal's two nights sold out in under two hours -- a record), that she still knows how to have fun (despite parenthood and the religious conversion) and that she remains culturally germane. To accomplish that, she needed to captivate, to provide exhilaration, to nod to her past while maintaining the aura of an artist whose best is before her.
Madonna madness gripped Montreal on Wednesday as fans paid up to $600 to see the pop star on stage during the only Canadian stop of her current world tour.
Fans lined up hours before the doors opened at the Bell Centre, where the singer descended onto the stage in a giant crystal ball just before 9 p.m. in the first of two back-to-back concerts in the city. Earlier in the day, they paralyzed a section of downtown Montreal as they staked out the hotel where the pop star was staying.
Police had to shut down a section of historic Old Montreal due to the number of fans congregated outside the St. James Hotel in hopes of catching a glimpse.
Madonna smiled but didn't otherwise address the mob of fans as she walked a red carpet from the hotel door to a waiting limousine around 3:30 p.m.
The 15,000 fans who bought tickets to the show saw a lot more.
The Material Girl pleased the crowd with a few words in French as she ran through a repertoire of her new hits as well as classics, such as Like A Virgin.
Fans came from as far as Mexico, Florida and Calgary to take in the show.
The music superstar, who last performed in Montreal 13 years ago, was scheduled to perform a second show Thursday nights at Montreal's Bell Centre.
Some 36,000 tickets to the two shows, costing as much as $360 at the box office, sold out in 40 minutes. Scalpers reaped as much as $600 per ticket.
Madonna is scheduled to perform 54 such sold-out concerts around the globe.
In addition to her own formidable private security, Montreal police also escorted the 47-year-old singer from the airport to her hotel and from there to the Bell Centre.
No less than 24 trailer trucks pulled into town with the massive amount of equipment needed to mount the show. It took technicians 15 hours to set-up.
At previous concerts on the tour, Madonna has been accompanied on stage by 22 dancers. Approximately 600 costumes were used in the spectacle and the singer herself made at least seven costume changes.
City police reported no incidents after the show ended around 11 p.m.
More than five million copies of Madonna's latest CD, Confessions On A Dance Floor, have sold since it was released in November.
No A/C, late start puts crowd in sultry mood— but the diva delivers
Madonna made her fans sweat, literally, as she opened her four-night stand Wednesday at the United Center. This was both bad and good.
Bad, because she made concertgoers who paid as much as $380 a ticket (plus service charges) wait 75 minutes past the starting time of 7:30 p.m. before taking the stage. And though there was no official comment from tour promoters or the singer's camp, the air-conditioning was undoubtedly shut off - apparently at the finicky Madonna's request. Before a note was played, fans already were perspiring like they'd just had a workout with the diva's dance choreographer.
For the rest of the show, the sweat was earned, and the earlier slights receded into the back beat of a relentless four-to-the-floor kick-drum. This was Retro Madonna, the first tour in memory where the singer looked back instead of pushing her music and presentation forward. And this meant a return to her dance-club roots, with nods to those quintessential '70s icons ABBA (referenced in Hung Up), Donna Summer (Future Lovers) and "Saturday Night Fever"-era John Travolta, with a white-suited Madonna mashing up the Tramps' "Disco Inferno" and her own Music.
The two-hour show was split into four segments on a multi-tiered stage that shot three runways into the audience, layered high-definition video screens and hatched a giant mirror ball, from which the singer emerged in top-hatted horsewoman's regalia. As usual, the production values were pricey and mostly impeccable, with a couple of would-be here's-where-your-380-bucks-went eye-poppers: a ribald S&M routine with a riding crop and a rotating saddle, and a somewhat underwhelming rendering of Live To Tell on a mirrored cross, complete with a crown of thorns. Let's face it, now that everyone from Kanye West to Madonna way back in the '80s has flirted with this particular brand of sacrilege, crucifixion just isn't what it used to be in the Shock and Awe department.
But the true visual center of the show was the singer herself. Whether in tandem with her young, athletic retinue of dancers or sharing the spotlight only with a chair, she was a physical marvel. She's developed into a more sensual and elegant performer than ever; remarkable, really, for a 47-year-old woman who seems to develop more stamina and suppleness as she matures. Though musically the concert was hit and miss, in part because it was so heavily weighted with songs from her latest album, Confessions On A Dance floor, she was never less than watchable.
Though Madonna's voice still isn't anything special, it was more than adequate for the task at hand: burnishing those big choruses, especially when supported by piped-in backing vocals, and dishing attitude by the truckload.
She toughened up I Love New York with her electric rhythm-guitar playing, a feature that surfaced on her previous tour to less impressive effect. Here she took some shots at a certain Texan while playing the chords from the Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog."
When certain audience members displeased her with their lack of enthusiasm, she called them out: "Show some effort!"
Even this moment of apparent spontaneity, played for laughs, was choreographed; she's been singling out some unfortunate fans at every tour stop.
Nothing in Madonna's world, at least on stage, is less than expertly managed. And it gave most of the show the air of a somewhat joyless Big Production; like being taken for a ride by a ritzy escort service.
A good time may have been had by all, but no real connection was made.
The one exception arrived during the show's most self-serious segment, in which Madonna took on everything from child abuse to AIDs in Africa with the kind of broad-stroke panache that might've made even Bono blush.
Yet when two male dancers played out a tortured ballet during Forbidden Love, the intent was unmistakable, and moving. Madonna has been a gay icon since she emerged in the New York City clubs more than 20 years ago, and with gay rights once again under attack, her gesture did not go unnoticed. As Madonna extended a hand of solidarity to the dancers, a blast of appreciative cheers filled the arena.
She will always be a diva, but she's never forgotten the community that made her one in the first place.
The "Queen of Pop" is back in Chicago.
Madonna brought her latest, and perhaps most controversial, show to the United Center Wednesday night.
It was the first of four shows here.
Ticket prices ranged from $55-$350 - and that's just face value.
"Her concert's always worth it. She puts on a spectacular show, so it's awesome," said Robert Staton.
Some tickets have been rumored to go for up to $500. But Madonna fans say it is a small price to pay to see her in concert.
"Everytime we come it's something different, something new, something awesome," said said Stephanie Hornan. "Even if you don't like her music, her shows are absolutely incredible."
Devoted fans came from near and far. Samyr Soares and a friend came all the way from Brazil.
"I'm very excited because I was Madonna fan since I was 10 years old," said Soares.
The Material Girl launched her Confessions concert tour last month in L.A. Fans heard several remixes of her hits from the past decade as well as some new material.
Madonna has been stirring up controversy throughout the tour. During the show, she is lowered on a cross, wearing a crown of thorns. That performance came just four songs into her Chicago show.
But less than 12 hours after the first show of her entire tour, the Catholic League expressed its discontent with the concert stunt.
"Knock off the Christ-bashing," Catholic League president Bill Donohue said in a statement last month. "It's just pathetic."
"If you're coming to a Madonna show, you're not coming to see her stand with a microphone. You should be prepared for the controversy," said Riley York before Wednesday's concert.
Madonna reportedly asked for air conditioners to be set at warmer temperatures at her concert venues, prompting angry protests from concert-goers. Her publicist, however, denies that Madonna asked the United Center to turn up the temperature.
Madonna may be 47 and the mother of two, but on Thursday night, she was the hottest, wildest woman in Arizona.
Showing off her well-honed physique, an array of costumes ranging from naughty to amusing, the energy of an aerobics instructor and some choice expletives aimed at the president and the audience, the superstar left no doubt that her Confessions tour is the summer's biggest concert spectacle.
"I'm gonna tell you... about love. Let's forget your life, your problems," her image purred on huge video screens to open the show. She then descended in a giant disco ball covered with $2 million in crystals onto the stage at Glendale Arena for the first of two near-sellout shows. (The second is on Saturday.)
Dressed in a stylized riding outfit, complete with horse hair flowing from the top of her hat and a crop, during the new Future Lovers, Madonna exuded the kind of gold-plated star power that only a rare few musicians - the Jaggers, Bonos and Chers of the world - possess.
She looked fabulous in black as she worked a stage extending into the middle of the arena, and wasted no time in pushing the artistic envelope, mounting one of her male dancers, who was outfitted with a saddle, bridle and bit. Film of her in various stages of undress and hanging out in a stable ran behind her.
The equestrian theme was one of four in an evening that was clearly planned out down to the last second. The precise execution by Madonna and her 15 dancers was undeniably impressive, but as the show wore on, a hint of spontaneity would have been welcome.
Worshiping at Madonna's artistic altar, or as was the case Thursday, at her towering, mirrored cross, came with a price. With the singer demanding minimal air-conditioning on her tour - reportedly for the sake of her vocal cords - this was by far the most uncomfortable concert staged at the arena since it opened in early 2004.
Temperatures in the floor seating area reached 87 degrees by the end of the nearly two-hour show. That's more than 10 degrees above the comfort zone sought by most major arenas.
But most of the fans, who ranged from teenagers to 40-somethings, seemed to shrug off the sweat and stay on their feet for nearly the entire evening.
Backed by a four-piece Euro-pop-flavored band and three singers, Madonna played most of her new dance-themed album, Confessions On A Dance Floor and dropped in a few classics such as Lucky Star and Like A Virgin.
Nearly everything, except a few ballads, got channeled as a dance song, which worked fine most of the night but seemed a bit forced in a few spots.
Highlights from the new album included a crisp take on the instant dance classic Get Together, which included Madonna writhing on one of three catwalks and then standing up to pump her body as she sang, "I'll make you feel better." A pulsating take on the new Sorry, with Madonna playfully flipping off the audience, also showcased the strength of her new material, all of which was written or co-written by the singer.
She kept the classics from her '80s beginnings to a minimum, but 1984's Like A Virgin got star treatment early on. As images of horse-jumping events and X-rays of the injuries she suffered when she fell off her mount in 2005 flashed on the video screens, Madonna climbed onto a saddle attached to a stripper pole and gave the whole apparatus a sexy workout.
As with her past six tours, this show was heavily choreographed. Madonna seemed to get a little more vocal help through piped-in harmony tracks than on the past outings, when she impresssed by shouldering all the vocal duties while dancing up a storm - unlike the once-pretender to her throne, the queen of lip-syncing, Britney Spears.
She strapped on a black Gibson Les Paul, which, of course matched her outfit - one of several worn throughout the night - to pound out the new I Love New York. The words got modified to (one assumes) a half-joking, "I don't like Phoenix, but I like New York."
As an animated outline of the Big Apple emerged behind her on the video screens, Madonna added, "If you don't like my attitude, you can (expletive) off." She then suggested that naysayers could travel to Texas and perform a sex act on President Bush.
That second part came off as a gratuitous gesture from a woman who knows how to manipulate the media and make headlines with the best of them.
Her use of rapid-fire slides of Bush, Richard Nixon, Saddam Hussein, Adolf Hitler, Chairman Mao, Osama bin Landen and flag-waving American patriots somehow worked better during the angry new Like It Or Not, which ended with a video warning to two-faced politicians: "The audience is listening."
Madonna's much-publicized use of the mirrored crucifix and a crown of thorns during the bittersweet Live To Tell didn't seem so shocking as early reports from the road made it sound. She used the imagery to flash a message about 12 million kids being orphaned by AIDS in Africa and then stood by the cross as she sang another bittersweet song, the new Forbidden Love.
It may have been the heat or the endless drone of synthesizers and processed guitar, but by the time Madonna made it to her tributes to ABBA (Erotica, in a striped leotard, a la Agnetha Faltskog) and the film "Saturday Night Fever" (Music, dressed like John Travolta) things were feeling slightly mechanical.
But she wrapped the show up shrewdly, with the infectious new single Hung Up, then left without an encore.
It felt strange in June in Arizona to emerge from a modern arena into 90-degree heat (but with a nice breeze) and feel refreshed.
Even before Madonna took the stage Thursday night to put on one of the more impressive shows to roll through the Valley in some time, there was an entirely different show going on outside Glendale Arena as the pop idol's fans lined up in the heat.
So diverse are the performer's fans that in a single entry line that snaked its way hundreds of feet into the steaming parking lot, one could see mohawks, Madonnabees with jelly bracelets, whole families, drag queens, ravers, senior citizens, fishnet stockings, corsets, body glitter, leisure suits, feather boas, sequins, plenty of cleavage, Madonna-esque painted-on moles, tops that read "Material Girl," muscle shirts that read "Material Boy" and even a dude in a straw cowboy hat.
But as great as the spectacle was outside, it was nothing close to the spectacle Madonna put on inside the packed-to-the-rafters arena.
It had been 21 years since Madonna made her last Valley appearance, and her fans were ready.
"I became a fan when her True Blue album came out," said Christine Kilbridge, 31, of Scottsdale. "My older brother had her Like a Virgin album before that, although I was just surprised that she had her picture taken in her underwear!"
Always pushing the envelope, many fans feel that her gift for stirring up controversy has been as important for Madonna's career longevity as have her catchy pop songs.
"She is the queen bee of controversy," said Sheila Ricci, 30, of Scottsdale, who first got into Madonna in junior high, striking a pose to Madonna's Vogue. "She just keeps reinventing the wheel."
With anticipation at a fever pitch, the lights finally winked out at 8:30 p.m. and the huge video screens came alive with an artsy western scene showing horses romping on the plains. A huge mirror-plated disco ball descended from the ceiling, landing on the long runway jutting into the crowd, and out popped Madonna wearing a skin-tight black riding outfit and wielding a riding crop as she and her bevy of ripped male and female dancers acted out a choreographed bondage scene to the throbbing beat of Future Lovers.
The arena was hot, and not just from the sexed-up stage show.
"I have a request," Madonna said at one point during the sweltering show. "Lets heat this place up! I thought Arizona was supposed to be hot! I'm still dry, and usually at this point in the show I'm dripping wet!"
The sweat in the arena was flowing, from both the fans and Madonna's athletic dancers, who glistened under the hot lights, but the heat turned the arena into a pulsating dance club and the fans danced and pranced in the aisles with Madonna's every stage move.
The most striking image of the night was the performance that has angered some religious leaders across the country, where Madonna hangs suspended upon a disco-mirrored cross as she sings her haunting '80s ballad Live To Tell after a video montage preaching anti-violence.
Being that the singer came of age in the infant days of music videos in the early '80s, every tune, from Jump to Ray Of Light to the closer Hung Up, was a singular performance unto themselves as Madonna went through a series of costume changes, and the video screens pumped out images ranging from flower petals to X-rays to swirling psychedelia and even images of horse racing accidents, thematically representing each tune.
Visually stunning, with Madonna in strong voice and impeccable shape for a woman nearing 50, the show delivered on all sensory levels, and fans were not disappointed.
"That was incredible," said Susan Johnson, 32, of Scottsdale after the show. "I've never seen a show like that, ever."
As expected, Madonna turned up the heat in Glendale on Thursday night.
The pop icon played her first show in Phoenix since her 1985 Virgin Tour to an almost-sellout crowd of about 14,000 at Glendale Arena, with a second show scheduled for Saturday.
As the temperature dropped from highs in the low 100s outside the arena, the temperature inside the venue climbed, from 75 degrees at 8:15 p.m. to 87 degrees by 10:20 p.m., near the show's end. advertisement
"Let's heat things up... let's take our clothes off," Madonna told the crowd.
It was a different story before the show. Despite reports that the arena could be as much as 10 to 15 degrees hotter than the normal "comfort zone" of 70 to 75 degrees, fans waiting to get in were more concerned with spending two hours watching Madonna perform.
"By the time the show starts, no one is going to be paying attention to how hot it is," said Keith Broxterman, 38, of Scottsdale.
Fan April Henry, 35, of Phoenix said she didn't dress any differently for the show.
Anthony Caruso, 33, of Scottsdale, chose to wear a T-shirt and shorts instead of jeans because he "read in the paper that it would be warm."
Madonna opened the show by descending in a giant disco ball covered with $2 million in crystals onto the stage.
She started with Future Lovers from her new dance-themed album, Confessions On A Dance Floor. Backed by a four-piece band and three backup singers, she spent much of the two-hour concert performing songs from her latest CD.
The 47-year-old superstar employed 15 talented dancers in tight choreography and teased the crowd by dancing onto catwalks stretching out on the arena floor.
Several costume changes included an equestrian outfit, an all-white disco suit paying tribute to the film Saturday Night Fever and an ABBA-inspired leotard.
As she waited outside the arena before the show, Marge Neus, 28, of Albuquerque, said that the great thing about Madonna is "that you either love her or you hate her."
"That's rare these days in the music industry. She has a message, and she makes people feel emotion."
Pam and Ken Darschewski of Gilbert paid about $100 per ticket to take their two daughters, Kendahl, 9, and Emma, 7, to the show.
"She's so versatile," Pam said of Madonna. "She's able to change, and she keeps things interesting. She's even written children's books."
Pam, a fan since the early 1980s, said she missed Madonna when she played Arizona State University's Activity Center (now Wells Fargo Arena) in 1985.
"There's probably no one else I'd spend that kind of money to see. It cost an arm and a leg and a kidney," she said.
Other fans waiting to get in were in costume in honor of Madonna.
Los Angeles resident Eamon McGowan, 33, was dressed in a disco outfit, like the one Madonna would wear during her performance.
He has seen her perform nine times.
"I've been a fan since I was 11 years old. I saw the video for Material Girl and thought, 'Oh my God, is that the same person?' She'd changed so much. If that woman can make that kind of transformation, she must be something special."
As the only pop mega-show this summer -- Britney Spears is pregnant again, Christina Aguilera is going retro to revive her career, and Justin Timberlake is reportedly taking voice lessons -- Madonna did what was expected Tuesday night and delivered a multi-dimensional concert with healthy doses of shock and awe.
You have to give Madge credit -- the 47-year-old mother of two still has it, looking good and sounding good at the packed show in San Jose's HP Pavilion. She performs there again at 8 tonight.
With bulging biceps, a 24-inch waist, and a behind that women half her age would envy, Madonna commanded the stage for two hours.
The self-proclaimed dancing queen changed seven times (from jockey in black to disco star in white, and multiple leotards -- how many women would willingly wear a white leotard? Maybe only Madonna).
Visually, the concert was stunning, with a curtain on stage that doubled as a movie screen -- flashing pictures of President George W. Bush with photos of dictators like Saddam Hussein and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il -- a mechanical horse with a stripper pole that she saddled during a rendition of Like A Virgin, and the larger than life disco ball that lowered onto stage with her inside. The ball was embellished with $2 million worth of Swarovski crystals.
And of course, there was the already infamous crucifixion segment with Madonna suspended from a giant illuminated cross, wearing a crown of thorns, singing Live To Tell. While visually stunning, the depiction wasn't anything new in the music world. Many still recall rapper Kanye West wearing a crown of thorns on Rolling Stone magazine in early February.
At any rate, Madonna had to out-do her last tour which displayed images of the crucifixion, had T-shirts with the line "Kabbalists Do It Better,'' and dancers in rabbi robes and burqas that covered their heads but exposed their legs.
The bulk of the music Tuesday night concentrated on new material from her latest album, Confessions On A Dance Floor. And like her album, most of her concert was upbeat. She remixed some of her classics disco-style, with Music done up as "Saturday Night Fever,'' and Erotica and La Isla Bonita in that white leotard. (She reportedly will soon be releasing an album of remixes.)
She slowed down during the middle of the concert with a stripped-down acoustic version of Drowned World/Substitute For Love and a duet on Paradise (Not For Me), with Yitzhak Sinwani of the London Kabbalah Centre. Sinwani also joined with her on the controversial song Isaac, which some argue tries to cash in on the name of the founder of one form of Kabbalah, which is a no-no.
Much of Madonna's pop-concert longevity can be attributed to her dancers whose break-dancing, roller-skating and urban gymnastics wowed the audience.
Although, she rarely strayed from the script, Madonna did say San Jose was much more fun than Las Vegas. And the crowd seemed to believe her. From the beginning, the audience partied in her honor and stood up and danced for most of the show.
Madonna has transformed from pop icon to mom and back, challenging lines of good taste and longevity in an unforgiving genre. But she continues to reinvent herself. Let's hope she still has more to confess.
Disco, most assuredly, is not dead. Not anymore.
But too much of a good thing was exactly what killed disco the first time. That's something that Madonna, judging from her show Tuesday night in San Jose, apparently didn't learn.
The problem with disco was never a lack of fun. Nearly 30 years later, it can still be a hoot. All one had to do was watch the dancing crowd loving Madonna at San Jose's HP Pavilion on Tuesday night.
No, the problem with disco was that it got so fun, there was just way, way WAY too much of it.
Which takes us to Madonna's Confessions tour, which pulled into HP Pavilion Tuesday night for the first of two shows. A Madonna concert is usually one curveball after another; a big, well-planned production peppered with thoughtful moments. The mix of material is usually enough for old and new fans alike. There's enough tongue-in-cheek humor to soften the indulgences in ego. It's usually an excellent concert by someone who's almost never accused of being boring.
Tuesday got boring, ironically because Madonna was working so hard to not be boring. Tuesday wasn't a concert. It was a loud, throbbing disco party, with Madonna as the centerpiece in the pink-purple Olivia Newton John "Let's Get Physical" leotard. Maybe boring isn't the right word. Maybe irritating is a better description.
Yes, we were warned. Madonna's newest record Confessions On A Dance Floor is most assuredly not a pop record. It's a well-crafted dance record by someone who knows well-crafted dance records. But, and I could be wrong, when people shell out hundreds of dollars to see the Queen of American Pop/Dance Music in an arena, shouldn't they get a cross-section of 23 years of memories, instead of one long mix-tape where the beat never changes? Even the rare old song she performed brimmed with a massive beat, at times obscuring the song itself.
Even with a disco theme -- forgetting for a second the first half of the show, when Madonna hit the crowd over the head with every world problem of the last five centuries -- the show was far more disjointed than your typical Madonna effort. It was just strange, watching her tackle everything -- starving children, the KKK, natural disasters, the Middle East -- with a throbbing disco beat. It wasn't done in the smart, pop-art way of which she's more than capable. At one point she even flashed images of Richard Nixon at the crowd. If there was a message there, it was obscured by sensory overload.
For two hours she mostly rolled through the dance-heavy material of the past decade. Emerging from a giant disco ball, the 47-year-old came out in tight equestrian gear, occasionally using a horse whip on male dancers with horse bridles in their mouths. By second song Get Together, the big bass dance-fuzz was so heavy, it was hard to hear the vocals -- kind of like that mini-truck at the stop light with the stereo that sounds like a passing 747.
There were good moments. During Like A Virgin, Madonna climbed a mechanical saddle and did ... well, Madonna stuff to it (she may be 47 but find me a 27-year old who looks that good in riding gear). A large narrow contraption of monkey bars lowered from the rafters during Jump, so Madonna's shirtless boy-toy dancers could swing around. A bit later came the much-hyped scene angering some Christian groups on this tour. Wearing a crown of thorns, Madonna set herself on a large glittering cross to sing Live To Tell. On one hand it was kind of fun just for the shock value. On the other, the stunt aspect and bad sound nearly obliterated the effect of a song that's so much better when standing quietly alone. Her voice was barely audible. It got way overblown when video images of starving children (this from a pop star selling $90 sweat jackets in the lobby) started rolling. It reeked of being disingenuous, a feeling that continued when she jammed every religious symbol she could think of onto the video screens for Forbidden Love.
The message came off about as deep as a bumper sticker. Later, when her dancers donned what looked like desert garb, I couldn't help but think of a dance number in Mel Brooks' "History of the World."
But the fans ate it up, dancing for two hours straight. In that regard, the show worked. Things got better on the usually superb Ray Of Light and well-crafted Substitute For Love, but even those sounded hurried. La Isla Bonita was jumbled and rushed. The big dance number and colorful backdrops couldn't hide that she was strangling the song into a hyper-disco bore. When the beat takes precedence over the dynamics, good songs suffocate -- it was a problem Madonna had with her older material all night.
She did manage to ratchet up the party near show's end, doing Lucky Star, dropping balloons and cranking up the noise. The effort was obvious, especially for a woman nearing 50 who was running circles around singers half her age (even if there were more piped-in vocals then in recent years). And, yes, she warned us that she really likes disco right now. But, if anything, she was trying to too hard to prove she can still run in place for two hours. More variety and a few pauses to properly recognize the career that got Madonna where she is today would've been more effective.
Her Madgesty is receiving visitors and they're coming in their hundreds of thousands. Last week, Madonna kicked off her 53-date world tour with a show at the Los Angeles Forum, the latest chapter in the singer's ceaseless quest to remain the first, the last, the everything of modern pop.
The two gay men tottering towards the venue in drag - one wears a sparkling foil headpiece, white high-heeled boots and a Pucci dress - flick V signs at a passing pick-up truck full of wolf-whistling jocks with a defiance the material girl herself would be proud of.
They get what they've come for, and a little bit they might feel they could have done without. In a thrilling but uneven show, Madonna gets most things right. The few occasions where the momentum sags will no doubt be tightened up. During the acoustic sections, you can hear the audience deflate as one. They'd heard her promise - "I'm going to turn the world into one big dance floor" - and they wanted to hold her to it.
Famously perfectionist, the singer will have noticed these niggles, not least when her beturbaned and arguably superfluous backing singer, Isaac Sinwanhy, accompanied her on Paradise (Not For Me) and sang horribly sharp.
Madonna's last outing, in 2003, a greatest-hits package launched after the release of her album American Life, was called the Re-Invention Tour: an implicit acknowledgment that that record's lacklustre sales had created a need for some sort of metamorphosis. She promptly delivered, with a show whose wow factor and box-office-busting statistics pulled off a trick she has managed whenever brand Madonna has looked like nearing its sell-by date.
This time, though, the circumstances are different. The album Confessions On A Dance Floor took both the singer and her disciples back to basics. The Madonna we'd first fallen for - all come-and-get-me dance moves and let's-party lyrics - was back. The album has sold seven million copies to date.
So, when she materialised at the Forum, she was basking in adulation, not attempting to win it back. Emerging from, naturally, a giant $US2 million ($2.6 million) Swarovski-crystal glitter ball to sing the Confessions track Future Lovers, wearing equestrian gear complete with top hat and riding crop, she whipped the male dancers writhing around her in a display of rampant, unapologetic sexuality. Later, she rose from beneath the stage attached to a vast mirrored crucifix, wearing a crown of thorns: how Madonna is that? Religious, irreligious, excessive, camp, provocative, as if to say, top that if you can.
The British leg of the tour sold out in 24 hours: tickets for some dates were snapped up in just 10 minutes. What will those fans be getting? Given that this is Madonna, the eternal chameleon, that's an important question. So myriad have been her incarnations - virgin, slut, church-baiting temptress, actor, children's author, mother, Kabbalah evangelist, pint-supping, tweed-capped, shotgun-toting country missus - that her return to her disco roots last year was as confusing as it was reassuring.
On the one hand, Confessions found her doing what she is best at, and doing it brilliantly. On the other, there was no escaping the fact that the album is a retread.
The latter point highlights an interesting contradiction, one the opening night only emphasised: that, no matter the platinum discs, Madonna as a recording artist is not the principal attraction. Certainly, millions of people buy her albums, yet many arguably enjoy her recorded music with a side order of irony, and few evaluate her career chiefly in terms of the music she makes. It's her life, and the personas she adopts on and off stage, that maintain our fascination.
One of the biggest cheers of the night comes when the video screens do a rapid rewind through her countless image changes. The film that opens the concerts portrays her as a stable girl, getting down with the fillies in a bizarre, fetishistic montage that looks like a commercial designed by Francis Bacon. Later, during Like A Virgin, the screens show X-rays of her bones, broken in the famous riding accident. And not for nothing does the semicircular screen above the stage resemble a stock-market display in New York's Times Square: Madonna has her own unique index, and its price is currently sky high.
The show, co-designed by Jean-Paul Gaultier, with music direction by Stuart Price, is divided into four sections: Equestrian (songs include Get Together and Live To Tell), Bedouin (Sorry, Like It Or Not), Never Mind the Bollocks (Drowned World, Ray Of Light) and Disco (Music, La Isla Bonita).
Aware as ever that controversy counts for everything, Madonna screens Dubya-ridiculing backdrops, and shouts "You can suck George Bush's dick" during I Love New York, though it's not clear who she has in mind for the task.
She ends with Hung Up, crawling suggestively along the catwalk that protrudes into the audience. She is magnificent, feral, ageing disgracefully - and the Forum, if not the world, duly becomes a dance floor.
Back in November the MGM Grand Garden Arena staged concerts by three monumental rock figures U2, Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones. All entertained in their own distinctive fashion, but none quite shouted "Vegas" like the artist who filled the MGM on Saturday and Sunday nights.
Making effective use of 15 dancers, four musicians, three backup singers, a half-dozen wardrobe changes and a multileveled set that featured several LED screens, a pair of dancing platforms flanking the stage and a giant mirrored disco ball, Madonna was uniquely at home on the Vegas stage. The dancers - an athletic lot that could perform with any Cirque production in the city - were particularly impressive.
And the crowd - including a person sitting a few rows in front of me who was either New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson or someone who could sit in for Richardson on "Lou Dobbs Tonight" - stood almost the entire night and went nuts for the remarkably flexible 47-year-old pop icon.
The shows on Madonna's Confessions tour were not tailored specifically to Vegas but did have a Sin City flavor, particularly when she slipped into a white Elvislike cape encrusted with flashing lights and "Dancing Queen" scripted across the shoulders in purple sequins.
Madonna managed a few Vegas references, including, "Good evening, winners and losers," to start the show. While introducing Isaac Sinwahny, a vocalist and accomplished shofar (a ram's horn usually played during Rosh Hashana and at the end of Yom Kippur), for Drowned and Paradise (Not For Me), she said, "This is Isaac, I found him at a crap table."
The oft-reported mock crucifixion, in which Madonna was perched on a mirrored cross during Live To Tell fell neatly into place with the rest of the shenanigans; a personal favorite was the S&M-styled merry-go-round effect of Madonna riding in circles on a black saddle while singing Like A Virgin. She also played a bit of guitar, and didn't miss a note (and she did seem to be actually singing) or a step during the tightly choreographed 2-hour show.
In fact, it was a performance that wouldn't need to change an element to work here, five nights a week (dark Mondays and Tuesdays).
A colorful phantasmagoria, Madonna's Confessions tour opened in Los Angeles Sunday and presented the 47-year-old as a dancing machine with a rather simple need, a beat. Confessions On A Dance Floor, Madonna's dance-oriented album from last year, fills more than half of the 90-minute, encoreless evening. Stripped down as it is, Madge and her creative team pump up every song to larger than life through images on video screens, brilliant lighting and lively movement on the mainstage. A wide ramp cuts down the center of the arena to a smaller stage, which becomes a playground for the dancers and Madonna, who play the entire evening at fever pitch.
Madonna has always allowed her designers to go hog wild, yet here the team has created a cohesive whole, making the entire night engaging regardless of whether she's singing hits or lesser-known Confessions material. She sings with the muscularity of her well-toned body, even turning the album track Sorry into a tour de force from vocals alone. The visuals plus the material should prevent her from having to follow Confessions with an Act of Contrition tour in which she kowtows to nostalgia to sate her fans' demands for her pre-Vogue standards.
She arrived -- 50 minutes after the printed start time of 8 p.m. -- at the center-arena stage, climbing out of a giant disco ball that has descended from the ceiling, driving home the point that this is a dance show. The Donna Summer/Giorgio Moroder hit "I Feel Love" was the second song performed, a harbinger of the night, just in case the glittering ball was too subtle -- this is music about love and sex, feeling good and enjoying the visceral excitement of music.
Positioned as her re-entry into the dance music arena, Confessions On A Dance Floor is no groundbreaking work by any stretch. If anything, it's a bit retroretro: The timbre of the beats, vocal tweaks and synth sounds bear the sheen of 1985-95, especially Louie Vega productions and Depeche Mode. When Ray Of Light is performed, its depth beyond most of the Confessions songs is almost instantaneously obvious.
While most tunes are performed as recorded, Music gets a startling reworking. Number starts with a loop of the intro to "Disco Inferno" as the stage is bathed in deep red. Dancers become roller-skating daredevils as the Music riff starts to sprout within "Inferno" yet never takes over; Madonna enters and sings the tune straight, allowing Music's "I wanna dance with my baby" lyrics to settle in as if she were offering a salute to Studio 54's heyday. Despite its excess, it gels convincingly.
Tune feeds into the final four -- Erotica, which is presented with five couples dancing mild-mannered steps lifted from a Broadway ballroom scene; La Isla Bonita, done with on-the-nose visuals; Lucky Star, with some early off-key vocals that indicated there are live elements in a show abounding with electronically triggered sounds; and Hung Up, the best single on Confessions, a dance hit that never quite caught on at the radio.
The Forum, which was sweltering, did Madonna's voice no favors. She often was shouting, and the reverb added by sound technicians fought with the building's notoriously bad acoustics. (Sound did improve as the evening wore on).
The ramp and center stage -- devices that acts such as the Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi and U2 use to get closer to more audience members -- don't allow Madonna to produce intimate moments. Even when she sat on a stool on the mainstage and strapped on an acoustic guitar to sing the 1998 miss Drowned World, the result was as big as a dance track. Proximity, rather than intimacy, is what she delivers; her audience eats it up.
Being who she is, some of the show is bound to raise some eyebrows: The opening montage, set in a stable, borders on bestial porn; she strings together videos on AIDS in Africa, gangs and child abuse in a Clinton Foundation PSA that's totally out of character with the rest of the program; and she emerges for a segment crucified on a metallic cross, complete with a crown of thorns. And as if she can't go anywhere without dragging religion into the picture, a quote from the New Testament book of Matthew closes one video seg and a blowing of the shofar opens a ballad -- but looking for a connection within this music seems futile.
Madonna performs June 28-29 and July 2-3 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
FORGET THE crucifix. No, really. It has already become the visual image of Madonna's spectacular (and spectacularly ambitious) Confessions concert. But there is more to Madonna's work than meets the eye. The "blasphemous" sequence, in which she sings Live To Tell suspended on a cross, is accompanied by desperate images and dire statistics about children dying of AIDS in Africa. Why the cross? Don't ask Madonna, who'll only tell you her work must speak for itself and that she believes in the intelligence and imagination of her audience.
In spite of the crucifix controversy, this show contains some of the best set pieces of Madonna's career. Music is transformed into an homage to 1970s disco in general and John Travolta in his white-suited Saturday Night Fever persona in particular. This incredible number, with her entrance from the ceiling in a giant glitter ball, is worth the exorbitant price of admission. Like A Virgin is performed in her dominatrix equestrian outfit, playfully gyrating like a 20-year-old on an oversized saddle. And Ray Of Light and I Love New York display Madonna's impressive guitar licks and her ability to command the stage as a rock-chick extraordinaire. The sinewy, sometimes androgynous singer/dancer channels Iggy Pop, in her angry, defiant Let It Will Be and then switches moods instantly with a haunting Drowned World. Both songs question fame, reflecting Madonna's continuing search for peace within this maelstrom of her own making.
There are the head-scratching moments, numbers that don't come off (Erotica) and cringe-inducing profanity directed at the president. (Really, at almost 48, there's no need for Madonna to engage in juvenile pandering.)
Even if you are not especially a Madonna fan, I defy anybody to watch this woman work for two hours onstage and come away unimpressed. (She is greatly assisted by her incredible troupe of dancers, of whom Daniel "Cloud" Campus and Leroy "Hypnosis" Barnes are standouts. But every single one of her cast is brilliant!)
Madonna is determined to tattoo her vision onto her audience and make them think whether they want to or not. She is equally passionate that her fans get the very best of her, doing what they want to see her do. She sings (live) she dances like time has stopped and provides a visual feast. She and director Jamie King are over-fond of the giant visuals that back Madonna and can overwhelm her, but these are often beautiful and for the fans in the nosebleed seats, compensation for watching their idol from a vantage point that reduces her to the size of a postage stamp.
One of the happiest people at Madonna's concert was pal Rosie O'Donnell, loaded down with camera equipment. It was her first time out with a digital camera; she usually prefers old-fashioned film - "I love that darkroom smell!" Rosie compared notes with celeb lensman Kevin Mazur, much loved for his talent and good manners. Rosie has long documented Madonna's concerts. "I send her scrapbooks. I figure when we're both 80 we'll be in rocking chairs, going, 'Ah, remember the Confessions tour, honey?'"
Maybe. But I have a feeling Madonna will be on her Madonna 80: Ready, Willing and Still Able tour.
Less than 12 hours after Madonna crucified herself on a mirrored cross, the Catholic League expressed its discontent with the concert stunt.
The controversial diva wore a crown of thorns and sang while hanging from a cross during Sunday night's opener of her Confessions world tour at The Forum in Inglewood.
"Knock off the Christ-bashing," Catholic League President Bill Donohue said in a statement Monday. "It's just pathetic."
Though Donohue said that Madonna "has been spicing up her act with misappropriated Christian imagery for a long time," he thought that her faith in Kabbalah might inspire new respect for religion.
"I guess you really can't teach an old pop star new tricks," he said of the singer who will be on tour through Sept. 4. "Poor Madonna keeps trying to shock. But all she succeeds in doing is coming across as a boring bigot."
A message left with Madonna's spokeswoman was not immediately returned.
Madonna is known for her theatrical, action-packed shows, and Sunday night's sold-out opener of her Confessions world tour was no exception.
More than a dozen dancers — who had as many costume changes as the Material Girl herself — provided ample eye candy. The enormous T-shaped Forum stage featured moving platforms that carried her four-piece band and three backup singers.
A jungle-gym contraption lowered from the ceiling became a play place for Cirque du Soleil-style gymnasts, while multiple massive video screens flashed images of war, world leaders, nature and, of course, Madonna.
The production was so tightly choreographed, it left little room for spontaneity. Even when Madonna flipped the crowd the bird, it felt scripted, not subversive.
With so much flash and dazzle, it was like watching a made-for-TV performance.
Wearing jodhpurs and a top hat and carrying a jeweled riding crop, the singer emerged from a giant disco ball covered with $2 million worth of Swarovski crystals. (Maybe that's why the tickets cost up to $350.)
Male dancers were the horses, wearing leather straps on their heads and bits in their mouths. Madonna mounted one and tugged on his reins as she sang the opening song, Future Lovers, from last year's Confessions On A Dance Floor.
She dedicated much of the show to the album, playing nine of its 12 tracks. Selections from her other nine records were sprinkled in between.
For Like A Virgin, Madonna climbed onto a kinky version of a carousel horse. It looked like a cross between a saddle and a motorcycle seat, black with silver studs. It raised and lowered and moved in a circle while Madonna gyrated atop it.
"The show has just begun," she declared before disappearing for one of the night's half-dozen costume changes. Moving video screens obscured the stage and old-school breakdancing kept fans' eyes busy.
Next, a mirrored cross carrying the singer rose slowly from the stage floor. She wore purple pants, a red blouse and a crown of thorns. Her feet rested on a tiny platform and silver cuffs held her arms in place. As she sang Live To Tell, from 1986's True Blue, numbers ticked away on a screen above the stage. They represented the 12 million children orphaned by AIDS in Africa.
It was the first of the show's two overtly political displays. Just before Madonna hoisted a Les Paul guitar to accompany herself on I Love New York, images of world leaders — from Richard Nixon to Saddam Hussein to George W. Bush — flashed on a screen beneath bold red letters that read "Don't Speak."
The singer looked happiest when she was dancing, microphone at her side. It was the only time she smiled.
Despite the aerobic performance, her voice remained strong. At times, though, it was hard to tell where her singing stopped and the reverb began.
One of the night's most interesting elements came from guest vocalist Isaac Sinwanhy. Wearing a robe and turban, he did a solo on the shofar, a ram's horn traditionally blown during the Jewish high holidays. He then joined Madonna to harmonize with the famous Kabbalist on Drowned and Paradise (Not For Me).
The most lively and festive numbers came at the disco-flavored end of the show. A dozen dancers on roller skates emerged from beneath the stage to perform "Xanadu"-worthy tricks while Madonna, wearing a sleeker version of John Travolta's "Saturday Night Fever" white suit, sang Music.
She kept the energy high as she performed new, disco-enhanced arrangements of the 20-year-old La Isla Bonita and 1992's Erotica. Gold mylar balloons fell from the sky as she implored the crowd to sing along with her latest single, Hung Up.
"Don't make me stop this car," the Material Mom joked when the audience didn't sing to her satisfaction. Then she spat, "Come on, you lazy (rhymes with suckers), SING!"
They did. And with the same flash and dazzle that characterized the show, it was over.
Madonna kicked off her Confessions Tour Sunday night at The Forum in Los Angeles. USA TODAY's Edna Gundersen was there to give you the inside scoop.
The music: The beat-crazy energy seldom flags in a highly polished two-hour show subdivided into Equestrian, Bedouin, Never Mind the Bullocks and Disco sections, though it's the heady pulse of dance music, fortified by a sharp band, that dominates throughout. The rhythm-driven bonanza plucks nine of its 22 songs from Madonna's sweaty Confessions On A Dance Floor album, and the new tunes hold up well live, especially Sorry, Jump and I Love New York. Latter-day hits eclipse classics, with the shimmery Ray Of Light and boisterous Music easily outshining a tinny Lucky Star. Madonna is as fit vocally as physically, effortlessly nailing tender passages or a demanding upper register after strenuous bump-and-grind workouts.
The set: The visual orgy includes a giant disco ball that peels open like a lotus, hidden trapdoors, a saddle bobbing on a pole (yes, she rides it), a flashing catwalk that leads to a lighted dance floor at the center of the arena, sweeping tilted ramps for dance escapades and huge screens flashing cutting-edge videos of, well, mostly more Madonna. The visuals dramatically enhance the sonics, except in two cases of gratuitous excess — when horrific horse accidents crop up during Like A Virgin and when Madonna strikes a mock crucifixion pose on a geometric cross while singing Live To Tell, spoiling one of her most intimate and haunting ballads.
Fashion and choreography: Madonna looks fab in Jean-Paul Gaultier get-ups, from bondage riding duds to glam-punk black, all designed to flaunt a designer physique. The dance troupe dazzles with krumping, acrobatics, roller skate rumbles and goosestep rhumbas.
The merch: For fans who pay up to $350 for tickets, the $85 long-sleeve black shirt is a bargain. Pink Ts with a glittery 'M' go for $80, and baseball caps fetch $35. Kids on a tight allowance can opt for the $10 sticker sheet. The hot seller on opening night: $30 photo-packed programs.
The crowd: Mostly boomers, teens, gays, Hispanics. Opening night devotees sported tiaras, go-go boots, rubber dresses, black corsets and bejeweled belts. And those were the guys. Madonna wanna-bods squeezed size 14 forms into size 4 hip-hugger minis.
The inside scoop: Salma Hayek, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rosie O'Donnell and Nicole Richie were spotted at Sunday's launch. Only friends and family were admitted to Saturday night's secret run-through, staged for a cozy gathering of 3,000. Every crewmember was allowed to invite 15 pals. On Sunday, Madonna's rehearsal left several people steamed at the curb. They were upset not about being left outside but because Madonna was inside after crossing picket lines. The stagehands are in a dispute with the venue's management. Actually, it's a wonder the scandalized singer got in at all. The Forum is owned by The Faithful Central Bible Church.
What do you get when you mix a mock crucifixion, Kabbalah, political diatribes and a plea for AIDS relief with a giant crystal-covered disco ball?
Why, the first night of Madonna's Confessions tour, of course.
The 47-year-old pop icon jumpstarted the North American leg of her tour with a bada-bang Sunday night at the Forum in Los Angeles, dazzling the sold-out crowd with million-dollar set pieces, seven costume changes and her yoga-buffed bod.
To gild the lily, Salma Hayek, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rosie O'Donnell and Nicole Richie were also spotted getting into the groove during the show.
About 50 minutes after the concert's designated starting time, a mirrored disco ball encrusted with $2 million-worth of Swarovski crystals was lowered onto the stage and out popped Madge, wearing S&M-themed equestrian gear like a second skin. Carrying a jeweled riding crop and surrounded by male dancers with leather straps and bits in their mouths reminiscent of Pulp Fiction, Madonna straddled one of her "horses" and opened the show with Future Lovers, from her latest chart-topper, Confessions On A Dance Floor.
Nine of the evening's 22 songs came from Confessions, including Sorry, Jump and I Love New York, while the rest were a combination of classics like La Isla Bonita and Lucky Star (loved by people old enough to actually be able to afford the $350 ticket prices) and newer old hits like Music and Ray of Light.
Maintaining a laudable amount of energy, Madonna grooved her way through the night, stopping only to change Jean Paul Gaultier-designed clothes, pick at a Les Paul guitar, make a crude joke in reference to President George W. Bush, and, finally, head off into the night, sans encore.
During the lady of the hour's brief forays offstage to change, video montages depicting members of the Bush administration and British Prime Minister Tony Blair interspersed with shots of Hitler, Osama bin Laden and Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe kept the adoring crowd entertained, er, enraged, er? uncomfortable.
Gone are Madonna's days of suiting up in cone-shaped lingerie for a taboo-busting boudoir romp during the crowd favorite Like A Virgin. Looking back, the Truth or Dare days when she scandalized the local police for simulating masturbation onstage seem almost quaint.
Nowadays we've got the married mother of two perched atop a kinked-up carousel horse--minus the horse--on a saddle that looked more like a Hell's Angel's idea of black leather heaven. The non-animal bobbed up and down while the diva gyrated in time with Like A Virgin. In the background, images of the broken bones Madonna suffered in a horse-riding accident last year flashed on huge video screens.
Hidden trapdoors, ramps and a flashing catwalk crisscrossed the stage to accommodate the band and 22 backup dancers and singers employed by Madonna's latest extravaganza.
Of course, the Material Girl did more than confess on the dance floor last night. Reaching out to her Kabbalah crew, she welcomed vocalist Isaac Sinwahy to harmonize with her on Drowned and play the shofar, a horn traditionally blown during the Jewish high holy days.
She also managed to antagonize anyone not already busy boycotting The Da Vinci Code with the crown of thorns she donned and the 20-foot-high mirrored cross she perched on during her '80s-era ballad Live To Tell.
With silver cuffs holding her arms in place, Madonna sang while images of third-world poverty and numbers representing the 12 million children orphaned by AIDS in Africa ticked by on a screen.
The Church of England has already denounced Madonna's "offending" performance, asking Monday whether the songstress was "prepared to take on everything else that goes with wearing a crown of thorns?"
"And why would someone with so much talent seem to feel the need to promote herself by offending so many people?" a church spokesman said.
"Knock off the Christ-bashing," Catholic League President Bill Donohue said in a statement Monday. "It's just pathetic."
This isn't the first time Madonna has crossed the church, so to speak. In 1990 the Pope called for a boycott of the pop star's Blond Ambition tour because of her saucy Like A Virgin performances. A few years prior to that, the Vatican had condemned the video for Like A Prayer, which features burning crosses and images of a black Jesus figure.
Madonna's latest blasphemy doesn't reach Britain until July.
Billboard has predicted that the 51-date Confessions tour could gross in the $200 million range. Cher, queen of the "farewell tour," currently holds the record with $192.5 million, but that was earned in the course of 273 shows.
To remember the night of 1,000 images, concert-goers can pop for a variety of souvenir goods, from $10 sheets of stickers to $85 long-sleeve tees.
We're holding out for the $2 million disco ball.
Yes, she played Jesus in his crown of thorns. And James Brown in his cape. And John Travolta in his white suit. Did I mention the glam sequence in which she donned nearly the exact costume the legendary that Bryan Ferry wore in his early Roxy Music publicity shots and played electric guitar, effectively turning herself into a rock god? Opening her Confessions tour Sunday at the Forum, Madonna, still as hot for the Big Gesture as she was when she sullied a wedding gown on MTV in 1984, struck one indelibly male pose after another, as if to absorb the power of them all.
In the nearly two-hour show's most obviously controversial sequence, the 47-year-old was positioned on a giant steel mesh cross, singing her poignant ballad Live To Tell while pictures of suffering children swirled about her. What was so fascinating wasn't the message of compassion this outspoken children's advocate attached to her heretical stance; it was the way she held it, arms outstretched and face serious, for the entire song, until the shock wore off and it seemed less like blasphemy than an ardent attempt to understand what makes such an image so compelling.
If the dizzyingly elaborate Confessions revue said anything in particular, it was that images -- Madonna's stock in trade -- have a way of veering out of control and gaining new meanings. The script was well-organized, its tightly produced segments fleshing out a set list favoring songs from her recent Confessions On A Dance Floor album. But with 22 dancers, a set so full of screens that some were embedded in the floor, costumes that fell off to become other costumes, and video images of kaleidoscopes, mutating cells, and demonically possessed talking heads (including George W. Bush, at whom the avowed liberal hurled a choice obscenity during I Love New York), no single story line could possibly have held.
From Madonna's entrance within a giant exploding disco ball to her last hurrah in a satin cape adorned with flashing lights, every element of this spectacle achieved a state of astonishing mutation. The governing idea was the remix, the DJ's way of making songs new, which also defines the disco-kissed Confessions album. Actual remixes and reworkings provided musical highlights, as recent songs (such as Let It Will Be, here turned almost bluesy) and old favorites (a hard rock Ray Of Light,) expanded within novel settings. But as usual with Madonna, music was only a vehicle: to get bodies dancing, and perhaps more importantly, to communicate her vision of a world in which only dreams can be trusted.
Madonna's dreams, this time, involve trying to connect with those unlike her, from animals to male guitar gods. The show's first section eroticized her love of horses in Like A Virgin (and, with MRI images of her injuries, poked fun at her well-publicized 2005 riding accident); its high point had the still-agile singer acrobatically mounting a combo saddle/stripper's pole.
The second and most serious section reflected Madonna's spiritually motivated fascination with the Middle East, with soulful singing from her Yemeni collaborator, Yitzhak Sinwani, beautifying the song Isaac, and images of bubbling oil adding a political tinge to the raucous Sorry. The third segment, which featured Madonna's raw guitar riffing, paid homage to rock.
Throughout the night, Madonna worked hard, not just to stay on pitch and dance well, but also to connect emotionally to her material. These subversive roles were a stretch, and she didn't always seem happy. Her still-sharp eye for trends sometimes heightened the entertainment value; the dance sequence for the inspirational Jump, for example, involved "parkor," a form of street acrobatics whose practitioners leap unpredictably across roofs and up doorways. But even such moments felt oddly serious; a sense of dislocation was inseparable from the fun.
In the end, Madonna turned the party into a disco; a Bob Fosse-esque orgy sequence and a shower of gold balloons capped the night. This is her standard utopia, the dream that never turns into a nightmare, and she took refuge in it. Not surprisingly, the finale was the least gripping part of the show. Safety has never been a position that Madonna's taken to very well.
A better title for Madonna's Confessions tour might be the Go to Confession Tour, as you feel like you need to by the time the show is over.
As we've come to expect from Madonna, her latest tour, which she kicked off Sunday at the Forum, is so provocative that it's hard to count the ways.
Let's see, there was the whole hanging on a cross, wearing a crown of thorns thing. The riding the rhinestone-studded, black leather carousel like she's the main attraction at the erotic shop across town thing. And, of course, that nasty George Bush comment thing, which she brought back from her Coachella show last month.
The show started off nice and sweet with images of horses on the screens and Madonna in full equestrian attire descending from the ceiling in a one-ton disco ball. A closer look at that outfit, however, revealed she's going for the dominatrix look and that whip wasn't meant for a horse.
As Madonna sang Future Lovers, mixing in a little of Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" for good measure, her leather-strapped male dancers slithered around her like a lost scene from "Eyes Wide Shut." Get Together offered more of the same, but nothing could have prepared the capacity crowd for what would follow — and we're not talking about her own X-rays on the screens.
Bringing Like a Virgin out of the vaults, Madonna introduced the song by asking the audience if they wanted to go for ride. She then saddled up on a carousel-like set piece and rode it like no carousel should be ridden.
The moves sent the room into a frenzy and caused one of the only sing-a-longs of the set, which featured 10 Confessions On A Dancefloor tracks and, unlike the Re-Invention Tour that launched in the same venue almost two years ago, only a few old favorites.
As is the case with all of her tours, however, Madonna gives you a lot to watch. Her fourth tune, Jump, might have featured the most impressive eye candy of all. Between the jungle gym that descended onto the runway and the crew of perfectly-toned tumblers racing around, it was like the Olympic gymnastics freestyles finals on Red Bull.
For her next tune, Madonna made one of her seven costume changes and returned to the center of the stage a la Jesus Christ on the cross (if that cross were built in 2006 ... by Marilyn Manson), singing Live to Tell. Like Kanye West on the cover of Rolling Stone, it was a fascinating image, whether or not you think it's immoral.
The middle of the set was mostly a showcase of Confessions, including a stirring rendition of Isaac featuring the song's namesake guest voice and a video montage for Sorry that managed to knock most of the world's leaders. "Don't say forgive me," Madonna sang as pictures of the war in Iraq flashed with shots of President Bush.
In I Love New York, during which Madonna played a black guitar surround by her six-piece band suddenly covered head-to-toe in white, the singer not only added "but not you guys" after the "Los Angeles is for people who sleep" line, but changed the "Just go to Texas/ Isn't that where they golf" lyric to a derogatory Bush remark.
Aside from those references, though, Madonna kept her political comments to a minimum. In fact, she kept all her comments to a minimum, only encouraging them to dance when the time was right, like Ray Of Light.
After delivering the back-to-back ballads Drowned World and Paradise (Not For Me), Madonna got back to her business of catering to the dance floor and her band launched into a version of Music that mashed with "Disco Inferno."
While dancers whisked around her on roller skates, Madonna donned a white suit and danced down the runway to the small stage in the middle of the arena, where she did her best "Saturday Night Fever"-era John Travolta routine, complete with the "hitchhike" (you know, thumbs to the side).
For the Confessions single, Madonna returned to center stage for the same provocative (told you there were many) performance she gave at the Grammys, only this one included a few new twists.
And as the curtain (or in this case, a giant curved screen) came up and the lights came on — no encore for the second straight tour — a message flashed across the screen: Have You Confessed?
The Confessions Tour returns to the Forum on Tuesday and Wednesday before moving Las Vegas for the weekend.
Madonna's Confessions Tour has kicked off in Los Angeles, with literally something for everyone.
The singer emerged last night from a giant mirror ball suspended over the audience, wearing black leather and lace riding gear.
Her show also includes five video screens, a giant mirrored cross, a Bedouin blowing a ram's horn, gymnastics, rollerblading and a disco inferno section. There are verbal and visual digs at George Bush, pleas for help for African children orphaned by AIDS, and lots of her hits.
Madonna's Confessions tour will visit North American cities until late July. In August, she'll play concerts in London and Paris.
Madonna launched her first world tour in two years on Sunday, delighting an enthusiastic Los Angeles crowd by hanging herself from a cross, insulting President George W. Bush, and dusting off some of the sexy moves that have sustained her career for more than 20 years.
The Confessions tour will keep her on the road for two months in North America, and then resume on July 30 in Wales for a five-week stadium swing through eight European cities. Shows in Japan are also on tap for mid-September.
The 47-year-old dance diva spent two hours churning out most of the tunes from her new album, Confessions On A Dancefloor, as well as a few old hits such as Like A Virgin, Ray Of Light and Lucky Star.
The audience at the Los Angeles Forum included Madonna's Kabbalah guru Rabbi Yehuda Berg, socialite Nicole Richie, and gay icon Rosie O'Donnell, who upgraded herself to a premium seat on the floor and left her spouse alone in the stands.
The meticulously choreographed Vegas-style routine began 50 minutes late when a giant mirror ball was lowered from the ceiling to the end of a catwalk stretching deep into the floor. Out popped Madonna, in S&M-styled riding gear and whip, singing the new tune Future Lovers as four bare-breasted male dancers writhed around with ball gags in their mouths.
MADONNA, HITLER & BUSH
Later on, she donned a crown of thorns and suspended herself from a giant mirrored cross to deliver the ballad Live To Tell. Video screens showed images of third-world poverty and reeled off grim statistics.
During one of her half-dozen costume changes, another video montage juxtaposed images of Bush, members of his administration and British Prime Minister Tony Blair with footage of Adolf Hitler, Osama bin Laden, and Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe. Midway through the new song I Love New York, she deviated from the script and made a crude reference to Bush and oral sex.
Beyond that, she barely spoke to the audience, largely focusing on keeping control of a busy nightclub-style stage that boasted 15 dancers, four musicians and three backing vocalists. For the most part, she joined in the tricky choreography, her voice evidently not affected by the aerobic workout. She did pause for a few songs during which she appeared to play a shiny Gibson Les Paul guitar.
A disco segment near the end, where she dressed in a "Saturday Night Fever"-style white suit to perform Music thrilled the crowd, as did the Like A Virgin routine, when she climbed aboard a carousel-style black leather saddle.
There was no encore, and the lights came up as soon as she had completed a medley of Lucky Star and latest hit single Hung Up while sporting an illuminated white cape with "Dancing Queen" embroidered on the back.
Billboard magazine has forecast ticket sales could reach the $200 million range, making it the most successful tour by a female artist. Cher holds the record with $192.5 million from 273 shows on a "farewell" world tour that began in June 2002 and lasted almost three years, according to Billboard.
Madonna, on the other hand, is scheduled to play fewer than 60 dates on this tour. Similarly, her $125 million-grossing Re-Invention tour in 2004 and the $75 million Drowned trek in 2001 were also relatively brief.
What catapults her to the top of the leagues is her ticket price, topping out at $380 (including Ticketmaster fees) in most U.S. venues. However, it did not stop her from adding dates to accommodate demand.
An onstage roller-disco complete with a fleet of satin-jacketed rollergirls and -boys. A shofar (Jewish horn) solo and traditional Hebrew incantation by a turban-swaddled man named Isaac, followed by a Fosse-style chair dance and some ghetto-blaster dry-humping. A politicized video montage starring Adolf Hitler, Dick Cheney, Tony Blair, Osama bin Laden, Richard Nixon, George Bush, and starving African children. A futuristic mechanical bull equipped with oddly gynecological-looking steel stirrups. And no less than seven costume changes, including three leotards, one unitard, a Saturday Night Fever Tony Manero leisure suit, a crown of thorns, and an electric cape emblazoned with the rightful title of "Dancing Queen."
All of this may sound like the makings of Cirque Du Soleil, the Eurovision Song Contest, Live 8, a lost weekend in Vegas, and an evening at either the Kabbalah Centre or Coyote Ugly rolled into one. But of course, it was just the opening night of Madonna's much-hyped Confessions tour in Los Angeles.
Proving that music does indeed make the people come together, Madonna debuted her new show-of-shows before an adoring mixed audience of drag queens, moms, grandmas, club kids, and yuppies at L.A.'s Forum on Sunday, May 21 (her first of three sold-out nights at the 16,000-capacity venue). She launched her set with a sultry homage to the Donna Summer/Giorgio Moroder disco anthem "I Feel Love" while dressed in equestrian fetish-wear and brandishing a whip (a nod to both her recent horsey W photo spread and the 2005 horse-riding accident from which she has triumphantly recovered), and from that moment on, she was off and galloping, taking the audience on a truly wild ride.
She showed she could still be shocking after all these years by singing Live To Tell while suspended, Christ-like, from a mirror-paneled crucifix; demonstrated her basic but unexpectedly solid guitar-playing skills during I Love New York (while looking like a supremely badass rock star in a patent-leather motorcycle jacket and glammy feather boa); revealed some bull-riding moves that would make Debra Winger green with envy; and was basically a walking (make that strutting) advertisement for power yoga as she flaunted her finely muscled, mind-bogglingly age-resistant physique in shiny, second-skin Spandex throughout.
Despite the surprising and disappointing lack of an encore (what, no Like A Prayer? no Borderline? no Material Girl, even?), during her breathless two-hour set the Divine Miz M justified not only her audience's love, but her somewhat exorbitant $350 ticket price as well. It can safely be said that those 16,000 fans got their money's worth, and then some.↑ Back to top of page