LOS ANGELES – Madonna came to rock, not to shock, and preach a little as she launched her Re-Invention tour.
Her first road trip in three years began Monday night at The Forum in Los Angeles. She has three dates at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, July 18, 19 and 21, that sold out in 80 minutes.
Despite early breathless reports about the shocking nature of Madge’s latest trek around the world, only one element proved to be true. And it was pretty tame at that.
A simulated execution had Madonna strapped in to an electric chair while she sang Lament from the Evita soundtrack. But when the supposed deep fry came, only strobe lights went off at her feet, and there was no writhing around on Madonna’s part and she quickly disappeared into the floor of the stage.
The 45-year-old pop chameleon delivered a glamorous and fun, if slightly preachy, show with just the right mix of new songs and older hits. She included the frothy Material Girl, a song she swore she’d never sing again, but with a twist this time.
“And we are living in a material world and I am a material girl,” she sang, before yelling: “But not really!”
True to her rebellious nature, Madonna also incorporated political and religious messages into her hour-and-50-minute set. The most notable anti-war commentary was some Bush bashing during the military-themed title track from her latest album, American Life, which ended with video imagery of Bush and Saddam Hussein look-a-likes sharing a cigar.
There was even a fashion show featuring her dancers in what sounds like a bad bar joke — two nuns, a rabbi, a priest, etc., on a catwalk that was brought down from the ceiling.
And later, just as the concert ended, an audio recording of Bush speaking was played, to a loud chorus of boos from the sold-out audience.
Video of explosions and young victims of war were shown both during American Life and Madonna’s cover of John Lennon’s Imagine. It ended with these words on the video screens: “Spirituality for kids: Make things happen.”
But it wasn’t all preachy, all the time. After opening with the religious spoken word monologue, The Beast Within, Madonna’s 1990 uber-hit Vogue got the crowd of 15,000 on their feet and dancing and singing along.
Dressed in a pale pink sparkly corset, tiny black shorts and thigh-high black leather boots, she first appeared splayed on a platform rising out of the floor of her technically awesome stage.
With large, moving LED video screens, a conveyor belt-like strip at the front of the stage, and first-class lighting, not to mention nine incredible dancers and a seven-piece band, it was pretty much a feast for the eyes, if not always the ears.
Madonna isn’t the world’s greatest singer, but is known for her “body is a temple” philosophy and dancing abilities, and she also sported some mighty impressive arms, not unlike Linda Hamilton’s in The Terminator, that were hard to ignore. (The right forearm was wrapped in a nude bandage. She also later wore a black tensor bandage around her left knee.)
Certainly, Madonna’s husband, British film-maker Guy Ritchie, seemed riveted as he stood in the audience just to the right of the stage, smiling and cheering his wife on while a documentary crew hovered nearby. There were, in fact, cameras everywhere, including one on a crane capturing some impressively fluid shots that were broadcast back on the video screens.
A couple of dozen concertgoers were pretty excited to be placed on small pits on either side of the stage, effectively becoming part of the show.
Musically speaking, contemporary songs Frozen and Don’t Tell Me proved to be the highlights, while old chestnuts Express Yourself, Like A Prayer, Papa Don’t Preach (complete with Madonna and her dancers/singers dressed in T-shirts that said “Kabbalists do it better,” in reference to her study of Kabbala, a kind of Jewish mysticism), Crazy For You and Holiday were definite crowd pleasers.
But the most pleasant surprises of the night were her previously limp Bond movie theme Die Another Day, which came off much more energized in concert via a sexy, tango treatment, and Get Into The Groove, which featured Madonna in a kilt — accompanied by a bagpiper and drummers. (More on Madonna )
The Beast Within (spoken word)
Nobody Knows Me
Deeper And Deeper
Die Another Day
Don’t Tell Me
Like A Prayer
Mother And Father
Get Into The Groove
Papa Don’t Preach
Crazy For You
Source: Toronto Sun, Jane Stevenson