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The Confessions Tour (CD/DVD) – Scripps News Review

Late last June, Madonna slid out a relatively unheralded (for her) but impressive live CD/DVD combo, “I’m Going to Tell You a Secret.” The release featured strong performances captured from her 2004 Reinvention Tour, which was staged to promote her 2003 CD “American Life.” The Jonas Akerlund-directed DVD also documented her process of putting the show together with side looks at her personal life _ a la 1991’s “Truth or Dare.”

The main thing wrong with “I’m Going to Tell You a Secret” was its timing: When it came out, Madonna had already embarked on her next tour to promote her 2005 release “Confessions on a Dance Floor” _ a considerably better collection of songs than “American Life” had to offer. And last year’s tour proved to be the all-time top-grossing tour by a female artist.

So now out comes “The Confessions Tour,” a live CD/DVD combo that fills in the blanks left by “I’m Going to Tell You a Secret.”

The Akerlund-directed two-hour DVD catches Madonna performing at London’s Wembley Arena last August, a vivid spectacle that found her riding a saddle, playing guitar (albeit rhythm guitar), running around like a deranged runway model and holding court over dancers behaving like horses.

The show is keyed to movement and complicated visual effects, dramatic mood shifts to accompany costume changes and such displays as a giant, mirrored cross from which Madonna hangs to sing “Live to Tell,” a sight NBC refused to broadcast last fall when the network aired her concert.

There’s so much going on that it’s easy to miss the best part of the show: Madonna delivering fine live vocals to some of the greatest songs of her career. That’s why the CD is handy, blocking out the DVD’s distracting images so fans can concentrate on the music at the heart of Madonna’s success.

Although the CD is an edited-down version of the DVD, both include a few well-recast oldies (“Like a Virgin,” “Erotica,” “Music”) but mostly feature her brilliant new dance songs, including the surreal “Future Lovers” (fused here with a rendition of “I Feel Love”), a pumped-up “Jump” and the bouncy “Sorry.” Both discs build in intensity to the show’s finale, a propulsive version of “Hung Up.”

London went wild.

Rating (five possible): 4