by Cory Moss
So how does Madonna reinvent herself on her Re-Invention Tour? it's nearly impossible to count the ways.
Actually, "re-inflame" might be the better word, as seemingly every second of her extravagant two-hour performance features something rousing, whether in the elaborate sets, the stunning choreography, the massive video screens or the music itself.
One minute she's provocatively vogueing with her male dancers while homoerotic images flash behind her, the next she's in fatigues, twirling a rifle to the sounds of explosions and helicopters. In the blink of an eye she goes from being strapped in an electric chair to pulling up her kilt to spell the word "FREEDOM" with glitter letters on her and her dancers" underpants.
'There's a lot of mixed messages," Madonna admitted Monday backstage at the sold-out Great Western Forum, where she launched the tour. "It would take me hours to explain them. Come back and see the show again."
At 5 for a decent seat (plus to for parking, to for a T-shirt and to for a drink), that's a luxury few can afford, but There's certainly enough to the show that seeing it several times would make for different experiences. Like the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy with more sex.
Monday's show was divided into five segments, beginning with what resembled a Renaissance-era ball, until Madonna and her dancers walked on their hands and feet the arched-back way (ouch!) during a breakdown in the opening number, "Vogue."
The band, tucked away in the back corners for most of the show, seamlessly transitioned from "Nobody Knows Me" to "Frozen" before a giant catwalk lowered from the ceiling and a circular section of the stage turned to reveal stacks of TVs.
Dancers dressed as soldiers, as well as nuns and other religious figures, joined Madge for a rendition of "American Life" made extra stark by images of war flashing on the various screens.
Livening up the mood, Madonna asked, "Come on, boys, do you believe in love?" as she launched into "Express Yourself." After donning a guitar for "Burning Up," she segued into an almost hard-rock version of "Material Girl."
While Madonna exited for her third costume change, the stage turned again to reveal a circuslike atmosphere complete with a half-pipe and mohawked skateboarder. Various dancers, from a breakdancer to a tap dancer, strutted their stuff to the music of "Hollywood," setting the tone for lighthearted, showgirl-like performances of "Hanky Panky" and "Deeper and Deeper."
With Madonna still in her sexy corset, the mood suddenly turned for "Die Another Day," which included imagery of an old man on his deathbed and ended with Madonna singing on an electric chair as it raised high above the stage.
'That's my favorite part," Madonna said later. "I like the idea of being restrained. I'm singing about all the things I could have had, but my ego got in the way and I destroyed all my happiness."
Swings dropped from the ceiling and three acrobatic dancers got their slither on for the next transition, which found Madonna in a black Stella McCartney suit to sing "Nothing Fails" and a funked-up "don't Tell Me."
'That was just a warm-up," she announced. "I don't want to see anyone sitting down the rest of the show. I'm giving my all and that's what I want back."
With that, she launched into "Like a Prayer," accentuated by footage of a gospel choir. Images of Jesus and Mary faded away only to be replaced by impoverished kids. To accompany the heartbreaking photos, Madonna covered John Lennon's "Imagine."
'I wanted to make a statement," Madonna said after the show. "I feel like that song is the ultimate peace song....And it was important to have the stuff going on behind me, the pictures, and really hit home that children are involved in all this chaos and destruction. I don't think people remember that all the time."
As she sang the words "We can live as one," Madonna held up one finger and was lowered beneath the stage for her final costume change.
A bagpipe player and a drumline, all decked out in kilts, took the stage playing a beat that morphed into "Into the Groove." As Missy Elliott (also in Scottish attire) appeared on the screens to rap her part of the remix, Madonna and her dancers used wooden posts to enhance their hopscotch-style routine.
After donning a "Kabbalahists Do It Better" T-shirt for "Papa don't Preach" (a play off the "Italians Do It Better" shirt she wore in the 1986 video), she slowed it down with "Crazy for You." "This is for all my fans who've stuck by me the last 20 years," she said.
The stage made one last turn, this time revealing lighted staircases surrounding a DJ, who mixed and scratched through "Music" while Madonna and her dancers transformed the arena into a steamy nightclub.
For the finale, the catwalk lowered again and Madonna danced to the front, singing "Holiday" as confetti exploded from all corners of the building, covering the enthusiastic audience.
Christina Aguilera, who had watched quietly from her seat most of the show, even cheered. And why not? All that excitement and she didn't even have to make out with Madonna.
Tue May 25, 5:47 AM ET
By Sue Zeidler
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Madonna kicked off her worldwide "Re-Invention" tour on Monday with an extravagant and politically charged show that featured the diva singing in Army fatigues against a video backdrop of a war-torn nation.
Madonna opened the show wearing a jewel-encrusted corset but changed into combat gear when she sang "American Life" backed up by the sounds of dropping bombs.
On stage, dancers dressed like soldiers did push-ups and calisthenics as helicopters and infernos blazed on the video screens behind them.
The 45-year-old Material Girl did not disappoint her longtime fans, many of whom paid upward of 0 per ticket, by relying on many of her old hits like "Holiday" and "Vogue" punctuated by spectacular choreography.
"I knew there would be a lot of politics and religion tonight. it's kind of like she's grown up, but she's still hot," said Dee Dee Kennedy, 36, a saleswoman for Kettel One Vodka, who saw Madonna 20 years ago when she was a college student.
Kennedy, who paid about 0 for her seat, also bought tickets for another Los Angeles show as well as one in Las Vegas this weekend.
Skirting her trademark cone-bra bustiers, Madonna aimed to shock the crowd with video shots of nudity and apocalyptic imagery. In one number, male dancers pranced around in plaid skirts.
Spirituality and her passion for Kabbalah, an ancient practice of Jewish mysticism, also took center stage with untranslated Hebrew text often displayed in the background of her performances.
Another high point for many concertgoers was Madonna's rendition of John Lennon's "Imagine," which was accompanied by a video of sick and injured children from around the world.
An estimated 750,000 people are expected to see 39 shows scheduled for the U.S. and Canadian leg of her tour.
We are all excited and Madonna.com will be there back stage to give you all the highlights! Stay tuned to this site for our review from the opening night and press reviews from every city!
While waiting in anticipation, here are some interesting facts and figures about the tour:
750,000 Fans will see her show
110 People will travel on the road with the tour
58 Minutes for Madonna to get hair and makeup completed before show
56 security guards backstage
55 Tons of above ground equipment including sound, lights, videos and speakers
40 Tons is the weight of the stage
30 Trunks will carry wardrobe of entire touring company
25 Cases of Kaballah Water provided backstage nightly (backstage beverage of choice)
18 Semi Trucks will carry equipment including special 'Turntable" stage
18 Dressing Rooms in each venue for touring entourage
12 Tons of sound equipment in air
8 Minutes for Madonna to do warmup on Pilates stretch ball
6 Madison Square Garden Shows sold out in one day
5 Costume changes
4 Wembley Arena Shows sold out in one day
3 Toronto Shows sold out in one day
3 Ricola cough drops consumed by Madonna prior to start of show
2 Background vocalists
1 Full truck to house Madonna's wardrobe and makeup
1 Large cup of Throat Coat Honey Lemon Tea consumed by Madonna prior to start of show
1 Children's Play room backstage
1 Bagpipe player