Over the course of her two-decade career, Madonna has accomplished many things: She has been a champion button-pusher, a fashion trendsetter and a provocative performance artist.
The 45-year-old singer has also recorded some extraordinary music (along with a fair amount of pop fluff). But judging from her spectacle-laden performance at the United Center on Sunday, that’s the accomplishment she cares about least.
The dance diva’s skimpy 105-minute show — the first of four in Chicago — certainly gave her fans a lot of high-tech, whiz-bang gimmickry for their hard-earned dollars. (The top ticket price: $317.50.) But the music was essentially an afterthought.
Judged against the standards of, say, the Cirque du Soleil, a modern Broadway production or the videos-come-to-life concerts by Madonna offspring such as Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, it was a heck of a show. But call me old-fashioned: I went for the music. And in this department, the Reinvention Tour needed serious reanimating.
After starting 40 minutes late and turning off the arena’s air-conditioning in order to preserve her platinum pipes, Madonna played a mere 24 songs — that’s counting the ponderous “I am a prophet” faux-Biblical introduction — and she wasn’t even onstage for three of those.
Yes, the set list spanned her career, and she overcame her longstanding reluctance to play her older hits. But several of these were delivered in arrangements that were so bizarre that they played like parodies. That is, unless you agree that bagpipes and martial drummers were always lacking in 1984′s “Into the Groove.”
(What was with the Scottish kilts and the odd choice of sonic filigree? Maddy and British director Guy Ritchie were married in a Scottish castle and like to vacation in the highlands — that’s the only fact that I could find to explain this strange detour, one of several in the show that made no sense to anyone besides the singer’s self-indulgent choreographers, set designers and wardrobe artists.)
“Vogue” was reimagined as a soundtrack for the court of Marie Antoinette; 1983′s “Burning Up” got some incongruous, generic heavy-metal guitar and “Lament” from the musical “Evita” served only to underscore that Madonna was poorly suited to perform in musicals like “Evita.” (And no, the set piece that found her strapped into an electric chair wasn’t enough to distract from her melodramatic crooning.)
The singer also played six songs from last year’s abysmal techno-folkie flop, “American Life.” Contrary to what some critics have said, the material fared no better in concert than it does on the flat and uninspired recording. Madonna continued to overuse the electronic vocoder effect on her voice (perhaps to mask the insipid lyrics), the sultry come-ons of her “Erotica” era were still sorely missed and the show came to a screeching halt with the dumb and stilted rap in the middle of the maudlin “Mother and Father.”
Musically, however, the nadir was an anemic, histrionic and soulless electronic reading of John Lennon’s “Imagine” set to a barrage of video images of children from around the globe plagued by the ravages of hunger and war. (War and hunger = bad! Imagine no possessions = good! That is, after you’ve gone into hock buying concert tickets.)
As a political commentator, Madonna made Bart Simpson seem as sophisticated as Noam Chomsky. And her attempts to enlighten us about her arcane spiritual belief system didn’t fare much better –though she mysteriously traded in her “Kabalists Do It Better” T-shirt for one that read, “Italians Do It Better.”
Imagine no facile preaching from Madonna. It’s easy if you try. Or have you really forgotten the Material Girl who fellated a water bottle in “Truth or Dare” and acted out pretty much every risque fantasy imaginable in her dirty-picture book Sex ?
In the end, if you removed all of the spectacle — the half-pipe skateboard ramp, the bagpipers, the fake explosions, the dancers’ military drills, the descending catwalk and the multiple video screens — you had an aging singer with an impressive catalog and a voice that (at least on the dance numbers) is arguably stronger than it’s ever been.
Sadly, Madonna lacked enough faith in these assets to rely on them being enough to entertain us. Instead, she beat us over the heads with yet another dizzying and superfluous MTV-style visual assault.
The most radical reinvention that Madonna could have chosen at this point in her career was to simply emphasize the music. (You know, that stuff that “makes the people come together/Music makes the bourgeoisie and the rebels/ Think of yesterday.”)
Believe it or not, Maddy, it’s your music that will endure when all the rest is gone, after the last bagpiper has hung up his kilt and the skateboarder no longer has enough hair to grow a Mohawk.
source : suntimes.com
Over the course of her two-decade career, Madonna has accomplished many things: She has been a champion button-pusher, a fashion trendsetter and a provocative performance artist.
The Michigan home where Madonna was raised is up for sale for only $300,000 dollars. The house was once priced in the millions on Ebay, thanks to some pranksters but realtors put a stop to that. The four-bedroom home is located in Rochester Hills, a suburb of Detroit .
source : wabc
The irony of Madonna calling her current jaunt the “Re-invention Tour” is rich — the singer has spent her entire career reinventing herself.
Pop’s wiliest female chameleon followed in the footsteps of Andy Warhol and David Bowie as a deft appropriator of underground ideas who has always excelled at taking those notions into the mainstream. For 20 years, she has changed with each new album and tour, expertly staying one step ahead of the times and the trends.
Now, at age 45, Madonna is at a difficult crossroads: How does she remain relevant and seem fresh and exciting when her primary role as a sexy dance diva and sultry provocateur has long since been usurped by a new generation of younger, chirpier and even more risque sirens?
Chicago fans will have the opportunity to witness her latest transmogrification when she performs at the United Center tonight and tomorrow and again on Wednesday and Thursday — that is, if they can afford the steep ticket price, which is $317.50 with Ticketmaster “convenience fees” for much of the arena. (Scattered seats remain; call 312-559-1212 or visit www.ticketmaster.com.)
Maddy has been laying the groundwork for a shift in perceptions about her public persona for some time now. Over the last decade, she successfully emerged as a brilliant businesswoman, serving as the nominal head of Maverick Records (the label that gave us Alanis Morissette, the Deftones and the Prodigy, among others), though the company was recently bought out by the Warner Music Group.
Her film career has been more of a mixed bag. (Anybody remember “Swept Away”? How about “Shanghai Surprise”? Didn’t think so.) But on the personal front, she at long last settled down with her director husband, Guy Ritchie, embracing the role of mother and branching out as an author of children’s books. And she has made a big deal out of her spiritual reawakening via her study of Kabbalah, a form of Jewish mysticism.
Madonna hasn’t fared nearly as well when it comes to reinventing her music. Her last concert jaunt, the 2001 Drowned World Tour, found her awkwardly avoiding the hits from the first two-thirds of her career, leaving some fans grumbling and drawing criticism for seeming “distant and removed” onstage (as if she was ever a particularly engaging and personable performer — she has always seemed to be acting out scenes from her videos rather than living in the moment on stage).
The singer’s last new album, 2003′s “American Life” — her 14th studio effort overall — was a soggy commercial and critical disappointment. She turned away from the playful techno sounds that powered 1998′s “Ray of Light” and 2000′s “Music” in favor of more static electronic backings, way too much acoustic guitar and some very stilted rapping. And for once she seemed oddly out of touch with the pop zeitgeist.
“I don’t know who I am — I don’t know who I’m supposed to be,” she crooned in “X-Static Process,” and that statement seemed to sum up her general artistic confusion.
The former Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone of Bay City, Mich., tries to resuscitate “American Life” by performing six songs from that disc on the Re-invention Tour, and reviewers have claimed that the material holds up better in concert than it did on album. But even more surprising is what’s missing from the show: Namely, the sex.
Like Prince, another controversial, enigmatic and genre-crossing superstar who first made his mark in the ’80s, Madonna has excised most of the R-rated material from her current stage show. There are no conical bras, no acted-out S/M routines and no lascivious voguing (just a lot of tamer posing and some fake yoga moves).
Publicly, Maddy is crediting the change in tone to her spiritual reawakening, just as Prince has cited his conversion as a Jehovah’s Witness. But shrewd performer that she is, she also knows that despite those killer abs, she no longer has the pinup-girl appeal of a Britney Spears or a Christina Aguilera. Tawdry striptease shenanigans would not only appear a bit unseemly now, but maybe even a little ridiculous.
Not that the Re-invention Tour is ultra-serious — far from it.
Among the gaudy spectacles that Madonna offers this time around are a mohawked skateboarder riding a half-pipe ramp set up in the middle of the stage; a V-shaped catwalk that descends from the ceiling of the arena; 10 dancers; five costume changes; three trapeze artists who swing, sway and contort high above the crowd; one tap dancer in white tails and top hat; a troupe of kilt-wearing bagpipers and an apparently striking vignette in which the star is strapped into an electric chair. (Alas, it isn’t really plugged in, and no one pulls the switch.)
What does any of this have to do with anything? Nada, nothing, not a darn thing! But it sure is fun to look at — gosh, golly, gee-whiz!
“Madonna has created a new performance hybrid, one that lifts and blends elements of Broadway, Cirque du Soleil, Rock the Vote rallies, art installations, extreme sporting events, church sermons, disco dances and gun-spinning military drills,” reviewer David Segal wrote in The Washington Post.
That sounds like some kind of an accomplishment. But is it really worth $317.50? And what about the music — isn’t that supposed to be why we care?
Well, yes and no. Madonna’s fans have always attended her concerts as much for her fashion trend-setting, her excessive, “just like the videos” eye candy and her hot-topic button-pushing as for her always-just-passable singing.
Madonna has returned to performing many of her older tunes, and she remakes them with new, relatively stripped-down backings from a lean and mean six-piece band (plus two backing singers) and the huskier vocals that have long since replaced the helium warble of her early years. These MTV staples are interesting primarily because we haven’t heard them for so long, as well as for the fact that she’s added some incongruous touches like the bagpipes and martial drums that now color “Into the Groove.”
Less promising is a mid-evening acoustic set, which consists of “Don’t Tell Me,” “Like a Prayer,” a dreadful rap during “Mother Father” and a misguided cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” which is set to a barrage of images of war-ravaged children flashed on the four giant video screens. Which brings us to the button-pushing.
When “American Life” was released last year, Madonna was forced to pull the video for the title track and first single from circulation only days before it was set to premiere on MTV and VH1. Shot by director Jonas Akerlund (who had worked with the Smashing Pumpkins and the Prodigy) before the start of the war in Iraq, it found the star tromping along a fashion runway with dancers dressed in military fatigues.
These scenes were intercut with images of war, and one of several alternate endings found the diva tossing a hand grenade at a look-alike for President Bush. The video was attacked by the press, and Madonna withdrew the clip after the networks implied they wouldn’t air it. It was a rare example of controversy working against the artist rather than for her, as it did with her run-in with the Catholic Church over the clip for “Like a Prayer.”
Nowadays, though, Bush-bashing and anti-war sentiments are all the rage — witness the success of “Fahrenheit 9/11″ by director Michael Moore, who sat front and center during one of Madonna’s recent shows at New York’s Madison Square Garden — and the Re-invention Tour is full of video montages of bombed-out villages, not to mention an image of a Dubya look-alike buddying up to a stand-in for Saddam Hussein.
Madonna’s politicking isn’t particularly sophisticated — it’s accompanied by a dance number in which the troupe is clad in camouflage gear and carrying fake rifles — and the most direct commentary that she makes on the subject is the simplistic statement, “Stop all wars!”
As a dictate from the Queen of Pop goes, this isn’t nearly as much fun as “Express yourself” or “Give it up, do as I say” (from “Erotica”). But this is the new, serious and spiritual Madonna. And if you do
n’t really like this year’s model, you probably shouldn’t fret.
She’ll be back to reinvent herself yet again in another year or two.
Just what the heck is Kabbalah?
Throughout the Re-invention Tour, the video screens frequently flash Hebrew letters that are never translated. Madonna wears a symbolic red string around her wrist; she sings the last few songs wearing a T-shirt that reads “Kabbalists Do It Better,” and she’d like us to call her “Esther,” please.
What the heck is she going on about now?
Welcome to the world of Kabbalah — which Madonna, who was raised as a Roman-Catholic, calls her new “punk-rock, anti-establishment” religion.
Kabbalah — which is alternately spelled Cabala, Caballa, Kabala, Kaballa, and Qaballah, thanks to the vagaries of translating Hebrew — is generally interpreted to mean “to receive” or “to accept,” but it is often used synonymously with “tradition.” It refers to a collection of mystical Jewish writings involving symbolical interpretations of Hebrew Scriptures.
Believers hold that these teachings — which involve the nature of divinity, the creation, the origin and fate of the soul and the role of human beings on earth — have been passed on as oral tradition from the mouths of the prophets since the creation of man. But most religious scholars hold that the bulk of them date from the medieval era.
Kabbalah has been trendy among Hollywood types since the mid-’90s. Roseanne has called it “the last hope for the world,” and other adherents have included Elizabeth Taylor, Barbra Streisand and actress Sandra Bernhard (even though women were discouraged from studying the religion until the last century).
“I’m a little bit irritated that people think that it’s like some celebrity bandwagon that I’ve jumped on, or that, say, somebody like Demi [Moore] has jumped on,” Madonna recently said in an interview with ABC-TV’s “20/20.” “We don’t take it lightly.
“Paris Hilton did come to the Kabbalah Centre once, because her parents brought her,” she continued. “They wanted to help her and they were desperate and they brought her there and she had a meeting and she left, and suddenly, Paris Hilton studies Kabbalah. I mean, that’s what happens, and people … they don’t know the whole story.”
In the no-longer-Material Girl’s case, the whole story includes the fact that she was inspired by the religion to change her name in order to draw on a “new source of energy.” Hence the new moniker Esther, from the Biblical tale of a woman of limited means who went on to become queen of Persia and save the Jewish from annihilation.
Oddly enough, there is no mention in the Scriptures of Queen Esther ever having worn a T-shirt proclaiming, “Persians Do It Better.”
source : suntimes.com
When Madonna takes the stage this week in Chicago for her Re-Invention tour, it’s a safe bet that most of the fans in the audience will recognize the greatest hits she performs, know the words and sing along to them.
Then there are her uberfans.
A group apart, these fans are united in their love of all things Madonna. They’re the ones who pay big bucks for up-close concert seats, dress up like her and scream their hearts out the moment she comes out for the start of the show. Not only do they know the words to every song, but they also can pinpoint exactly what they were doing in their lives when that particular song was released.
From the teased hair and “Boy Toy” jewelry to the red Kabbalah string bracelet and motherhood, these superfans have stayed true blue to their Material Girl through her 20-year career. It doesn’t matter if her latest album sells 10 million or 2 million copies, or if her movies bomb. To them, Madonna can do no wrong.
“Each time, she’s more fabulous,” said Michelle Flores, 29, at Berlin nightclub in Boystown for a monthly Madonna theme night. “I’ve followed her since the beginning, and the trends she sets are just incredible.”
Flores plans to imitate one of Madonna’s looks – her cone-shaped bustier – when she goes to the Chicago show. Unable to afford couture, Flores and her mother have fashioned a look-alike top out of chicken wire and fabric.
source : redeyechicago.com
The engine of Madonna’s 21-year career is reinvention. Look back and her lineage of videos and concert tours is lined with shifting selves — from disco boy-toy all the way up to children’s book author.
By naming her current tour “Re-Invention,” the 45-year-old is not so much trying anything new as she is, for the first time, collecting all her former selves and seeing if they can co-exist together.
Some call it nostalgia, but Madonna has never been that obvious. At the United Center Sunday, the first of four sold-out nights, she tried to make sense out of everything she’s done in the past, but in the exhilarating collage, she demonstrated some previous lives live up to the present and a few do not. Some reinvention was musical and on these songs, Madonna and her eight-piece band and core of dancers celebrated their durability. “Into the Groove,” an early hit, was remixed with a more complex beat, rapping interludes from a recorded Missy Elliott and, strangely, a live bagpiper and drum corps. “Like a Prayer,” part of her disco folk set, swelled with spiritual uplift with the help of a recorded gospel choir.
Unlike her dark and condensed “Drowned World” tour in 2001, this outing joyfully interchanged past with present. The best moments blurred images and toyed with mixed messages.
She and her dancers performed “Express Yourself,” an infectious dance pop statement of individuality, dressed in military gear and twirling rifles. For “Burning Up,” her earliest dance hit, and “Material Girl,” Madonna posed as a serious guitar rocker, hitting chords and transforming the songs’ adolescent whine into adult certitude.
The flow of imagery had its chinks when Madonna revisited weaker material — notably “Hanky Panky,” a vaudeville jazz send-up from “Dick Tracy.” And no matter what you think of Andrew Lloyd Webber, his material (“Lament”) doesn’t sound good being sung when the singer is strapped to a fake electric chair.
Unlike the past, the show was not designed to provoke but was filled with more moments where she tried to present herself as a serious songwriter.
She slipped into that mode during the show’s third act, a short acoustic set that ended with a cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” The choice may have been in protest, since Clear Channel Entertainment, her tour’s producer and promoter, is the same company that banned the song from its 1,200 radio stations after Sept. 11.But since she was singing in front of a backdrop of televised starving children, it’s more likely she was using the song to signal her altruism. Her shrill rendition didn’t do that. Instead, it felt like another reinvention, just that this one was empty and presumptuous.
source : dailyherald.com