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Madonna comes home Material Girl greets fans with attitude, power and pop panache

AUBURN HILLS -- Changing personas with more ease than most people change TV channels, Madonna surfed through myriad guises during her concerts this past weekend at the Palace of Auburn Hills, letting her starstruck audience marvel as each mask dropped only to be replaced by another.
It was a stellar performance by the Bay City native who was raised in Rochester Hills and had come back to wow her home state with the year's most talked-about concert tour.
Armed with a squadron of dancers sporting costumes and haircuts that would make a comic book character faint, a rock band as impressive as it was faceless, two peerless background singers and a wilder fashion sense than any one woman should have, the former Material Girl, now a 43-year-old mother of two, provided an experience blinding in its intensity, but wholly unenlightening about the woman delivering it all.
But did it matter? Madonna's appeal has come down to one essential attitude after all these years: Power. She has the power to do anything she wants as long as she does it well, which she inevitably does. If she wants to mount a tour that ignores most of her history -- the only '80s songs included were "La Isla Bonita" and "Holiday" near the end -- she can. If she wants to come out and inexplicably sing "What It Feels Like For a Girl" in Spanish, she can. If she wants to play guitar on stage, even though there are at least 14 million better guitar players in the world, then she can.
And if she wants to talk to the audience in a Dolly Parton twang and sing while sitting on a bale of hay, believe it or not, she can.
She's Madonna. And Madonna can do anything, except reveal who Madonna is. She's putting on a show, not spilling her guts.
And what an elaborate show it was, far more spectacle than music concert. Broken into four parts, the Drowned World Tour extravaganza offered Madonna as kilt-wearing punk rocker, as geisha girl, as cowgirl and finally as Latin dance machine. Each incarnation delivered five or six songs, mostly off her two most recent albums, Ray of Light and Music.
Understand, this wasn't just some woman standing onstage singing. We're talking about a phalanx of small video screens hovering overhead at all times, plus a series of gargantuan ones incorporated into the stage set. Stairs leading up to platforms, entire sections of the stage that would sink and rise again filled with dancers or the lady herself.
At the beginning, during "Impressive Instant," her dancers attacked the stage like some alien Star Wars gnats with flashlight eyes, and ended up writhing around inside long black mesh tubes. And that wasn't even one of the weirder numbers.
But the rolling fog, staggering lights, masterful animation and video, precision timing and superb sound were merely background to the performer herself. While this wasn't the aerobic endurance test her previous concert tours may have been, it was plenty active enough to put most women half her age in a hospital.
But this wasn't an exercise video, it was an exercise in charisma, and folks, the girl from Michigan definitely still has it.
You could tell by the concert programs going for $25, the T-shirts starting at $40, the jackets on sale for $250. You could tell by the tickets, the best seats reportedly being resold for more than $1500. And you could tell by the fans themselves, dressed in Boy Toy T-shirts, lace gloves, cone bras and -- the current look -- cowboy hats. There were probably more black high heels and tight T-shirts per capita -- on men as well as women -- in the Palace this weekend than anywhere else on earth.
But mostly you could tell it from the crowd's reaction, which was essentially hysterical whooping from the moment she walked onstage to the moment the video screens flashed "The End."
But it's not the end. For those who missed the shows, or missed the live broadcast on HBO Sunday night, it was announced that both nights were being shot for a future DVD. Madonna knows where to come when she wants nights for the world to remember. She comes home.

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