May 25, 2004
May 25, 2004 --
"I'm GONNA avoid the cliche. . ."
So goes the lyric from Madonna's "Die Another Day," one of her more recent songs and one she performs in her "re-Invention" tour. This kicked off last night in Hollywood at the Forum. That sentiment is not only the hallmark of most of her career, but it is the vital component that lifts her current concert spectacle thrillingly above a mere "greatest hits" concert package.
The following is a report from my man on the scene, Denis Ferrara, a Madonna fan for several decades and astute critic observer who was in Los Angeles.
"Does she present those familiar tunes 'Vogue," 'Get Into the Groove," 'Crazy for You," 'Papa don't Preach." You bet, she even belts a song she once swore she hated and would never sing again 'Material Girl." But if you were expecting her to don a scarlet strapless gown and shimmy a la Marilyn, you don't know your Madonna.
"She has taken some of her vintage pop history and made it 'shiny and new . . . like a virgin." (Sorry, she doesn't re-invent that one this time.) The arrangements are forcefully driven or sensually slowed down who knew her 'Deeper and Deeper" dance hit had such erotic/romance resonance?
"Madonna presents herself as a vital, joyfully relevant and committed artist. She is giving her fans a taste of the past, washed with her refusal to compromise or to condescend. Or even to pretend for the sake of entertainment that she hasn't changed. She has changed. And she hopes you have too, or will. In other words, although there are no naked pregnant dancing girls or 'plenty of lesbian love," as has been erroneously reported, the envelope still gets pushed. Madonna and director Jamie King offer dazzling video images as Madonna performs beautiful, disturbing, over-the-top, political, mystical, mysterious, religious. During "Mother/Father" the Catholic images presented will wow even Mel Gibson unless he objects to the lack of violence. Kaballah, the spiritual philosophy that has so influenced Madonna, comes in for some recognition, but she does not belabor her beliefs. If controversy erupts, it will be because of how some of these images are interpreted, not because of anything Madonna says or does onstage.
"There's no crotch-grabbing, pointed bosoms or pointless profanity from the star. In powerful voice, with much improved guitar skills, her athletic dance style denying the years, she needs nothing up her sleeve. She is still an artist who wants to provoke, to spark an idea, to amuse and engage. She seems, however, to have put Shock for so long her random companion to bed. She never really needed him.
"Unlike 2001's 'Drowned World" tour, which was dark, often hostile, 're-Invention" returns Madonna to the light. She looks as if she is having a good time. 'Like a Prayer" is an invocation of divine inspiration, 'Papa don't Preach" is rendered as a joyous celebration of nature, with Madonna girlishly whirling in a long plaid kilt and a white wife-beater T, 'Hanky Panky" is simply giddy fun. Her cover of John Lennon's 'Imagine" backed with the show's most moving visuals is profound and resonant.
"Costuming is elegant and not fussy, except for a few leggy show-girly get-ups. And even Madonna wanted a few more sequins, but Cher's two-year farewell tour depleted the world supply. "Madonna performed for friends and family at Sunday's final rehearsal. There was some celeb glitz with the presence of Demi Moore and Ashton Kutchner. Lots of children, lots of Kaballah pals. After the show, she called one of her spiritual advisers up on stage to give his blessing. He offered a homey tribute to everybody's dedication, power and faith, promising that the best was yet to be. This was nice, but not enough for Madonna. 'Ooh, give us a blessing, please?" she asked winsomely. And so he did.
"Coming off after singing 22 songs live, and dancing like a mad thing, Madonna looked remarkably fresh, if damp from exertion. Her body is petite, toned, but not as muscular as it appears under the dramatic stage lighting. Complimented, she said, 'I hope you liked it. It came from the heart." And then she inquired, with a kind of childlike hopelessness, 'When it was over, did you feel uplifted?" assured, she shrugged delicately, beamed and said, 'OK then, I've done my job." "
And Denis, you did your job for all those Madonna fans out there!