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Music icon remains more than a pop tart

WITH ticket prices that run more than $300 a piece for the best seats, Madonna has put her fans in a tough situation. Let's see, do you go see Madonna or do you send the kids to college?

For those who have chosen higher education, based partially on the Material Girl's disappointing showing in Oakland back in 2001, re-thinking that decision might be in order.

Madonna delivered big time Sunday night at the HP Pavilion in San Jose with a show that was vastly superior to her last Bay Area outing in just about every way.

She returns to the Shark Tank tonight and Wednesday and, notably, the promoters have just released a block of great seats for both nights. That means, if you've got the money, you can still get up close and personal with a true pop-music icon.

Madonna has dubbed this latest outing as "The Re-Invention Tour." That's about as redundant a title imaginable. It would be like Eric Clapton going out on "The Electric Guitar Tour" or Jimmy Buffett hosting "The Tequila-Friendly Tour."

Above all else, even through controversy and hit singles, Ms. Ciccone has always been about reinventing herself. Since launching her career with her self-titled debut in 1983, this media-savvy musician has rolled through styles and personas like a pair of dice on a craps table. She makes David Bowie look stagnant.

Currently, she is "re-inventing" her catalog of classic pop hits. That already gives this tour a leg up on her last outing, where she basically ignored her best-known material.

For starters, this is a catalog that really doesn't need reinventing. With a few exceptions, Madonna's music stands tall next to most of what can be heard on Top-40 radio.

Thus it was with some caution that listeners turned out to fill the Pavilion to capacity Sunday night.

We definitely did not want to hear inferior versions of the hits. That would be worse than not hearing them at all.

So it is a pleasure to report that these revised songs were just as enjoyable as -- and, often, even better than -- the originals.

Following a convoluted video segment, the two huge screens that blocked the front of the stage parted as the star rose by platform a good 8 feet in the air. Two male dancers descended to her level from the rafters and the contagious club beat of "Vogue" took the house by storm.

Wearing the first of five outfits, this one featuring tall black leather boots, fishnet stockings, tiny black shorts and a glittery corset, the blond and ambitious singer pranced about the stage like a lioness about to go in for the kill.

The choreography was sensational and, unlike in 2001, it often tied in perfectly with the music.

The staging was as good as the music. The set included a V-shaped walkway that was lowered into the crowd to allow Madonna and her dancers to bring the music to the people.

The show offered a nonstop rush of visuals and sounds, from superb breakdancing and skateboarding on a half-pipe to circus-like scenes and intimate acoustic-guitar-friendly settings.

She mixed the familiar hits perfectly with tracks from her latest studio effort, 2003's underrated "American Life."

She played the new material straight, saving the tweaks and twists for the older songs.

For example, she grabbed the electric guitar to rough up "Burning Up." She changed the dance track originally recorded for her debut record into a rowdy rocker that would have suited Pat Benatar.

The arrangement for "Material Girl" was similar to, yet just different enough from, the one found on 1984's "Like a Virgin." Her voice still managed to carry the carefree squeak of her younger days but it was backed by a swirling'80s new wave-groove that really brought the song to life.

"Hanky Panky," featured on the "Dick Tracy" soundtrack, was deliriously fun and playfully naughty as she upped the flapper feel and wrung out the burlesque vibe.

However, she did make some major missteps. She didn't make any new friends among those who like their music and politics served on separate platters.

She donned a particularly stylish G.I.'s outfit and danced with a rifle while images of young victims of hunger and war were shown on the back screens. The sound of helicopters could be heard as P.O.W.s gyrated in cells on stage during "American Life."

Whatever obvious messages she was trying to convey -- war is bad and harming small children is worse -- came across as heavy-handed and, to put it bluntly, two-faced, given the context.

How can she go from the ultimate ode to wealth with "Material Girl" to singing John Lennon's "Imagine"? How does she sing Lennon's line "imagine no possessions" and justify charging $300-plus for a ticket?

Not likely.She's just being Madonna, a living, breathing contradiction that likes to have her multi-layered cake and eat it, too.

You can write music critic Jim Harrington at Dit e-mailadres wordt beveiligd tegen spambots. JavaScript dient ingeschakeld te zijn om het te bekijken.

Aanvullende informatie

  • Bron: Alameda time star online, Jim Harrington
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