Madonna's theatrics wow Philly fans (tour review - spoiler)

July 08, 2004

 I savored a new recipe over the holiday weekend, and I'd like to share it with you.
 Take Cirque du Soleil, mix it with a little "Moulin Rogue," the X - Games and old - time Burlesque shows, add a dash of animosity toward our government and a whole heaping helping of Broadway, and you've got the best stage performer in the world today.

Let me start off by saying that what I shared with the 20,000 members of the Madonna Nation Monday night at the Wachovia Center was not a concert.

No, my friends, it doesn't take much to figure out why the pop diva dubbed this the "Reinvention Tour." it's not because she reinvented herself, although she is a much more tame performer now as a 45 - year - old mother than she was in her days as a provocative sex symbol, but instead because she has forever changed the concert experience.

What we were treated to was a full - tilt, non - stop, three - ring circus extravaganza that had your mouth agape, your heart pumping, and your eyes fighting with themselves as to where to look next.

My first observation in recollecting the evening's festivities is that I learned three things as fact.

1. Despite criticisms to the contrary, Madonna can sing, and sing with verve, with passion, and with a deft talent that never misses a note, even while she maintains pinpoint accuracy on all the dance numbers.

2. Not only can she sing and dance, but she can play the guitar as well, as was evidenced in several numbers when she played the instrument that she taught herself to play a mere four years ago.

3. The choreography of the entire show was perfect. And I mean perfect. So perfect that I was stunned at its precision. As a veteran theater - goer who has seen hundreds of musicals and dance routines, I can honestly say that what I saw on the stage this past weekend was better than all the rest combined.

There was so much to see that I Can't describe it all here, but what stood out was the brilliant white tuxedoed - tap dancer; the red - top hat - wearing breakdancer, who windmilled around the stage doing things that didn't seem physically possible; the mohawk - wearing skate boarder who careened up and down a half - pipe; the Scottish bagpiper, who danced with Madonna as he flawlessly played away on his instrument; and the three trapeze artists who undulated in perfect synchronicity while dangerously flying out over the audience.

The costumes of the Maddonistas were equally eye - popping, ranging from army fatigues to Scottish kilts (and the audience did see what they were wearing underneath), to a flapper - esque '20s show girl look, to an anti - war eclectic ensemble that saw a nun, a few Middle Easterners, a few soldiers, a Confucius look - alike, and a bishop all being disrobed by some men with guns.

As for the music, the fans couldn't have had a better treat. After years of blowing off her older music, Madonna reverted to her '80s roots and gave the fans great renditions of her classics.

She opened with a stylized yet fun rendition of "Vogue" and finished with a confetti - laden, party atmosphere with "Holiday."

In between she wowed the crowd with a remastered "Material Girl" and classics like "Into the Groove," "Papa Don't Preach" and "Express Yourself."

She sneaked in a couple of songs from her latest album, "Nobody Knows Me," and "American Life."

She made her anti - Bush commentary, begging the crowd to register to vote and not let the president lead the country astray.

She immediately followed that statement with a wistful, and fun rendition of John Lennon's "Imagine" which inspired older fans in the crowd to unleash the cigarette lighters.

But perhaps her two best songs of the night were the dance - heavy (and I mean the crowd, including yours truly) "Music" and the showstopping "Like a Prayer."

The one disappointment was the lack of an encore - which I know is a Madonna staple, but hey, when you charge folks 0 a ducat, I think you owe them at least one return trip to the stage.

Nevertheless, that was only one small blip on a huge radar screen that announces to the world that the original pop diva has plenty left in the tank, and remains the greatest entertainer on the planet.

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