Madonna thrills fans with over - the - top theatrical concert in Toronto (tour spoiler)

July 19, 2004
Angela Pacienza

TORONTO (CP) - The original Material Girl strutted, writhed and wriggled Sunday, showing her fans she still had the goods to compete with performers half her age.

 Madonna's concert, the first of three in Toronto, was an over - the - top theatrical production complete with costume changes, choreographed dance numbers and an ever - changing stage. After an awkward, avant - guarde video display where she appeared to turn into a wolf, the 45 - year - old singer opened with Vogue, her tribute to New York club life.

 Dressed in a glittery corset, black short - shorts and knee - high boots, Madonna sashayed from one end of the stage to the next with the help of a moving sidewalk - a conveyer - belt built into the entire front section of the stage.

 Aptly - titled the Re - Invention Tour, the set went through several incarnations, at times appearing as a Renaissance painting, a war field, a circus, a traditional concert stage with a full band in the centre and finally, a dance club.

 Moving parts included a V - shaped catwalk that dropped down on top of the floor seats, giving Madonna greater access to fans at the back end of the Air Canada Centre.

 It's been 11 years since Madonna's strutted on a Canadian stage and fans showed they've been patiently waiting with thunderous applause throughout the show.

 "It's good to be back, Toronto," she told more than 16,000 fans who paid up to 0 - considerably more than the top - ticket price of for her 1993 stop.

 "Just because I've changed my ways doesn't mean I don't still like to have fun."

 She briefly mentioned a run - in with Toronto police in 1990, when officers investigated reports of lewd acts during her concert.

 "I'm a good girl," she purred.

 The Material Girl has re - invented herself dozens of times since she left her Michigan working - class home in the late 1970s. Her most memorable persona was the sex - crazed diva, a harbinger of the current generation of pop music tarts.

 She offered the crowd some of that sauciness on Sunday with suggestive dance moves - although the show was relatively tame compared to her former self. Instead of sexual provacativeness, she filled the two - hour set with religious iconography.

 An illustration of Jesus was her backdrop for Mother and Father. She wore a T - shirt with the words Kabbalists Do It Better during Papa Don't Preach.

 Madonna's calmed down considerably in recent years, with her current role of demure mother, children's book author and spiritual practitioner. The show seemed structured to show off Madonna's new maturity, urging people to think about government, religion and world events, rather than push the usual buttons with simulated sex scenes.

 Her fans didn't seem to mind and said they continue to support her chameleon career.

 Carla Filoso drove from Ottawa for the show.

 "She's probably the most influential artist of our time," gushed the 24 - year - old, who spent 0 on her floor seat ticket. "She's re - invented herself about 100 times."
Natalie Michaud thought the '80s icon was worth buying a ticket from a U.S. scalper for 0 US. On top of that price, the 25 - year - old psychology student flew from Grand Falls, N.B. with her boyfriend for the show.

 "I grew up with her. I love her," she gushed from her floor seat.

 Madonna didn't disappoint, working her way through the maze of past hits with confident ease, even finding inventive, modern ways to interpret her '80s songs.

 Express Yourself saw her treat a rifle like a baton, twirling it round and round and giving the song a more political slant. Burning Up, a syrupy pop ditty from her first record, became a bold, new wave rock song.

 Wielding an electric guitar, Madonna belted out her signature song, Material Girl to some of the loudest screams of the night.

 Other hits included Frozen, Into the Groove and Crazy for You.

 Madonna, who found time earlier in the day to stop in at the city's Kabbalah Centre, proved herself a versatile performer, putting on a Vegas - style show that left the audience panting right until the red - and - white confetti sprayed overtop during the finale, her song Holiday - the singer's first Top 40 hit back in 1983.

 With a huge library of songs to choose from, Madonna seemed to have picked one to represent her many image makeovers.

 Lament, from Evita, showed a bit of the sophisticated lady. Like a Prayer was her first religious foray. Hanky Panky, from the film Dick Tracy, reminded fans of Madonna's many attempts to conquer acting.

 Her button - pusher attitude was let loose during American Life, with dancers dressed like soldiers attacking others dressed as religious figures including a nun and a rabbi.

 She performs again Monday and Wednesday. The three Toronto shows are her only stops in Canada. Her tour ends in Lisbon in mid - September.

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