June 07, 2004
If there ever was a concert in recent memory that came close to being worth 0 for a top-tier face-value ticket, Madonna's "Re-Invention" tour show Sunday night at HP Pavilion in San Jose would be it.
The high-energy performance, visually and aurally, was everything one would expect from someone of Madonna's legendary stature. In the nearly two-hour show, the Material Girl belted out 23 songs, from her biggest hits , "Holiday", "Vogue" and "Papa don't Preach" to "American Life" which is still searching for a spot on her hit-filled list. Madonna, who performs in San Jose again tonight and Wednesday, changed costumes six times, going from soldier in camouflage to a Scottish dancer in a kilt. Conspicuously missing from this show, however, were that famous cone-capped bra and the megahit "Like a Virgin". The crowd, made up mostly of women in their 30s and men who aren't afraid of wearing pink, looked as if they had followed Madonna since her "Virgin" years, reciting with ease the choruses to the songs. They wore jeans and T-shirts with individual lettering on them that spelled out "Material Girl" and "Madge" in honor of their idol.
Madonna, 45, commanded the stage, giving a polished and deliberate performance. Every detail was taken into account, from the five huge video screens to the tempo of her songs, which were sometimes slowed down to give her time to breathe.
Singles like "Frozen" and "Nothing Fails" were sung at the microphone stand, sometimes with a guitar in hand, while others, like "don't Tell Me" and "Music", she sang while dancing. Her voice held up nicely for many of the songs, with the exception of the slow-tempo "Crazy for You", which started out a little too sharp.
The Kabbalah-following fitness junkie looked physically solid, with her biceps bulging, as usual. Her body rivaled those of her dancers, who probably were decades younger. But the dancers were an important highlight of the show: From yoga-like stances to break dancing and tap dancing, they displayed incredible versatility. Some doubled as vocal backup, drummers and even as a skateboarder.
And it wouldn't be a Madonna concert if she didn't inject some sexually charged behavior or delve into other controversial topics, like religion. At one point, as she stepped over a dancer as he lay, she paused suggestively, to approving cheers from the crowds. Religious overtones made way throughout the concert, from images of the crucifixion of Christ to T-shirts proclaiming "Kabbalists Do It Better". As always, nothing was sacred when it comes to Madonna. She didn't stop at just plastering the cross on screen: Dancers frolicked in rabbi robes, and wore burqas that covered their heads and upper bodies but exposed their legs. Other political statements were woven into the show. Dancers in bondage strapped her to an electric chair while she sang a haunting version of "Lament" from the musical "Evita".
And as Madonna covered John Lennon's inspiring "Imagine", screens behind her flashed images of sick, starving and impoverished children.
While her video for "American Life" usually concludes with the image of a chummy President Bush and Saddam Hussein, it ended this time with Israeli and Palestinian boys arm in arm.The theme on this night was obvious: On her and her dancers" boxer bottoms as they flashed the audience were letters that spelled out P-E-A-C-E. Despite the tour being named "Re-Invention," Madonna's performanceseemed more of a well-polished look back at her lengthy career than a re-creation of a pop icon. But that's fine for this diva, who has made a career of confronting topics often banned at the dinner table, sex and religion among them. And since she did all of that again Sunday night, one can only wonder how she'll address her favorite topics during her next tour.